Columbia Journalism School

Technology Guide

2013-14 Technology Guide

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Dear Class of ‘14:                                    

Greetings from the technology staff at the Journalism School. Our department will be working closely with you during your time here.

Our mission is to help you use technology and equipment in ways that are integrated with our academic courses and best suited to the curriculum. We are not primarily a technology school, so everything we provide is in the service of learning and doing journalism.

In conjunction with the faculty, we teach some technical skills while expecting you to be fast learners willing to, as they say, practice, practice, practice. Any technical skills (using digital cameras, image editing, web production, etc) that you can acquire before you arrive here will be useful, but are not mandatory. Depending on the courses you take, you will learn these and others here.

The School's equipment room keeps many dozens of video and still cameras, audio recording kits, etc. – enough to serve classes and projects simultaneously.  However, given the way the news business is changing and how many students and faculty use technology, we are unable to stock the vast number of cameras, recorders and portable storage media that would be needed to cover every contingency for more than 300 students’ personal interests. The equipment we have is earmarked for use within each class, which means there may not always be gear available for students pursuing their own projects or looking for equipment outside of class assignments.

Checkout lengths vary by equipment and availability.  In order to assure proper supplies of equipment for all students, on-time return is essential. 

Therefore, we recommend that you look through the attached equipment guidelines and, if possible, bring with you items that fit your needs and budget. This can be especially helpful for students planning to do more advanced photojournalism, whose classes require digital SLR cameras.

There are other advantages to bringing your own device: You won’t have to check it in or out of the equipment room. It’ll always be in the condition you last left it. And when you graduate, you’ll already equipment that you’re comfortable with. 

Please note: We do not serve as a repair shop. You will be responsible for maintenance and servicing of your own equipment.

We welcome your comments and feedback regarding this guide or any other equipment questions at:

Laptop Computer

The Journalism School is equipped with seven computer labs, plus private editing suites and computers located in the student lounge and elsewhere. Still, we recommend that you bring your own laptop so you can work in the field, at home, in spaces that don’t have computers inside the School, or on the often-sunny steps of the Journalism building.  Free wireless access is available throughout the Journalism School and Columbia campus.

Laptop computers should meet the following minimal specifications:

  • Operating System:  Apple OS 10.7 or Windows Vista

  • Microsoft Office 2007

  • Wi-Fi Connectivity

  • USB 2.0 and/or FireWire 800 Connectivity

  • 2GB RAM for Print and 4GB for Broadcast/ New Media

For students who don’t plan to delve heavily into video or other multimedia, a laptop (Mac or Windows) with wireless connectivity and Microsoft Office should meet your needs. For students involved in multimedia applications, we recommend an Apple Macintosh, which comes with a variety of basic video, audio and photo editing tools. Macs are also capable of running Microsoft Windows through either Boot Camp or virtualization software such as Parallels or VMWare’s Fusion.

If you plan to purchase a Mac, the MacBook Air with the 128GB flash storage option, or a base model MacBook Pro, will be sufficient for most students. The MacBook Pro is recommended for students interested in editing professional video on their laptops. Please note that the Journalism School has video, audio and photo editing software available in our computer labs; the purchase of specialty software is not required. 

External Hard Drive

Students create many text and media files during their time at the School.  While the Journalism School provides network and local storage for student data, students are ultimately responsible for securing their personal data.  Because of this, we strongly recommend that all students bring a portable, external hard drive. 

The drives should meet the following specifications:

  • FireWire 800 and USB 2.0

  • 250-500GB (1TB or more recommended for Digital Media/Broadcast concentrators)

  • 5400 or 7200 RPM (7200 recommended for Digital Media/Broadcast concentrators)

  •  ***Thunderbolt capability is available in most labs

We recommend the G-Technology G-Drive. It offers good value for the price, durability, does not require a power supply, and supports USB2, FireWire 400 & 800 connections. The drive comes in a variety of sizes and prices. Before you make a purchase, you should consider what type of work you plan on doing.  Students producing a lot of video may want to purchase a larger drive.  For students working on minimal amount of multimedia projects, a smaller capacity will be adequate.

Having a portable hard drive is a sound practice.  Not only does it allow you to transfer files among computers, it also provides a means of backup, which we strongly encourage.

Mobile Phones and Handheld Devices

With the advent of mobile computing, technology can easily follow us anywhere in compact form.  Apple’s iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) and the various Android smartphones available are great devices for organizing one’s schedule, remaining in contact, and as tools for research, as well as for basic photo, video and audio. While they are not required for J School programs, they are very helpful.


During the school year, students will use cameras to capture stills for their print and digital stories. Canon cameras are provided by the School's equipment room and are checked out to photojournalism students, usually for no more than 48 hours at a time. The school provides Canon 30D, Rebel T2i and a limited supply of T4i DSLRs, which are available to students enrolled in photojournalism courses or the seven-week photo skills classes. The 30D, T2i and T4i are advanced cameras with full manual controls and removable lenses.

There is a fee schedule that applies to those students enrolled in the following classes who would like to use a school DSLR camera rather than their own for the length of the class.  This fee will be applied as a at the time of registration

Fall 2013

(7-week) Photo Module (beginning or advanced) - $50

Spring 2014

(7-week) Photo Module - $50

(15-week) Photojournalism - $100

As noted above, we do encourage students planning to take photojournalism classes to purchase their own DSLR camera to take advantage of both the convenience and 24/7 access this would afford. They also avoid the above fees. And students with their own cameras can still check out equipment-room tripods and related support gear at no additional charge.

For students interested in purchasing their own digital cameras, we recommend you choose a device that:

  • Records in standard formats -- .jpg, .tiff, RAW (no proprietary software required)

  • Provides at least 10 megapixels

  • Offers full manual controls

  • Records to removable flash media

While the School uses Canon models, students can use any brand they are comfortable with. Here are some that we recommend:

Mirrorless cameras: Canon G15; Nikon V2; or Nikon Coolpix 7700

Mid-Level SLR:  Canon 60D, T3i, or T4i; or Nikon D5200

High-Level SLR: Canon 5D Mark II or Mark III; Nikon D600 or D800

Students who plan to do much DSLR video might consider getting audio equipment as well, though the school does have a good supply on hand. See below.


Students who expect to do a great deal of audio work may want to consider acquiring their own recorder. 

For students interested in purchasing their own recorder, we suggest that it:

- Record digitally, preferably to removable media (flash card)

- Be able to transfer audio files to the computer via USB

- Have external Mic input for plugging in a professional microphone either XLR, 1/4" or 1/8" adaptable to XLR

- Record or convert to standard audio format(.wav) without third-party software

Be wary of recorders that only record in WMA or other proprietary formats that require software conversion before being imported into Adobe Audition and other NLE Audio editors.

We recommend the Olympus LS-10s or Zoom H4n units.  The LS10s is similar to the recorder we provide to students, and the Zoom H4n adds XLR and 1/4" inputs.

A good source of information on audio recorders for journalists is at


The School will provide Canon EOS C100 cameras for video classes that require them, along with a full complement of support gear including tripods, lighting, and audio. These HD cameras are brand-new and state-of-the-art; they feature integrated audio recording, interchangeable lenses, and high-quality HD recording in 1080i and 720p at a variety of frame rates. 

The following fee schedule applies to rental of the C100 cameras.  This fee will be applied at time of registration.*

Fall 2013

(7-week) Video Module (beginning or advanced) - $175

Spring 2014

(7-week) Video Module - $175

(15-week) Video Storytelling - $275

(15-week) Multimedia Storytelling - $275

(15-week) Nightly News - $275

*It is possible the School will add another 15-week video class in the spring; if so, the fee schedule for that class would also be $275.

For a great tutorial on our new Canon EOS C100 video cameras, please use this link:

Online Technology Training

In addition to the training that you will receive as part of your course of study at the School, two online tutorial portals are available to you:

1) LyndaCampus: a very user-frendly training site that features more than 500 videos on a wide variety of technology topics. Topics include Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Final Cut Pro, operating systems and web programming. The training videos are available to all members of the J-School. To access the site, go to and log in with your Columbia UNI and password.  Lynda is also available on your smartphone or tablet of choice at

2) Our Digital Media Fellows maintain an excellent and constantly updated library of tutorials for most of your digital media needs, available here:


If you are looking to make purchases, Columbia University has discounts for students from vendors such as Apple and B&H.  Please visit the referenced websites for more information:




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