Columbia Journalism School


Spring semester offers four new classes

November 16, 2011

Four exciting new classes have been added to the Journalism School’s Spring roster.
The Data Journalism workshop will provide students with hands-on skills in the area of data journalism and information visualization. The course will be project-based, with students working in teams to develop actual data journalism stories and the information visualizations that go with them. Students will be introduced to a wide variety of retrieval and analysis tools, but approaches taught may vary with the requirements of each project. Issues of scope, feasibility and maintainability will also be addressed. It will be taught by Prof. Susan McGregor.
A Digital Long-Form workshop will focus on the elements of this new type of journalism. One of the workshop’s aims will be to learn how to structure longer stories and how to weave in multimedia. It will teach what kinds of multimedia can be used and how and where they should be used. The length of digital long form means that features that are heavy on story-telling work better than the sort of “trend features” that run in some magazines.
“This is one of the differences between digital long form and ordinary magazine pieces -- great writing is all the more necessary in ‘digital long,’ said Prof. Alissa Quart, who will teach the class.
The course will consider how to structure digital long pieces to best suit the form. Pieces will be highly narrative, with a strong central character or characters. Stories may feature a heavy audio component (interview clips, music) and heavily reported memoirs and even graphic non-fiction novels.
The New York World workshop will immerse students in the practice of accountability journalism covering state and local government, and in the use of data analysis and digital journalism to engage audiences in civic stories, from corruption in government housing programs to the influence of private fundraising on school budgets to the arrest practices of the NYPD.
The class will be taught by S. Mitra Kalita and Amanda Hickman in connection with The New York World, a news project at Columbia Journalism School covering New York City and State. Students will receive input on their stories from New York World editors and reporters, and projects generated in the course will be considered for publication/broadcast and with partner news organizations.
Students will get an immersion in reporting on state and local government, including the use of public records, freedom of information laws, and data analysis to generate and report stories; navigation of budgets and other financial information relating to government activity; and cultivation of sources in and outside of government. They will also receive training in the use of datasets, databases and visualization tools to translate public information into accessible, high-impact news projects.
Investigating Health Care will focus on the importance of health care. Local reporters need to know how to cover the quality of care provided by hospitals and other health facilities, but also the finances of what may be their town’s largest employer. Explaining health care public records and data, how where we live shapes how healthy we are, and how our system compares to that of other countries will be covered.
“This course will help students conceptualize and craft daily stories, but the main project will be a collaborative investigation,” said instructor Charles Ornstein.
This course will primarily be investigative, dealing with data and public documents on health care financing, quality, policy, research fraud and lobbying. It will touch on myriad aspects of health reporting but with an investigative reporter’s sensibility.
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