Columbia Journalism School

Technology Guide


2015-16 Technology Guide

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

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 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 not mandatory. Depending on the courses you take, you will learn these and other skills here.

The School’s equipment room keeps, for student use, dozens of video and still cameras, radio recording kits, etc. — enough to service our many 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 amounts of cameras, audio recorders and portable storage media that would be needed to cover every contingency for more than 300 students’ personal interests. Much of the equipment we have is earmarked for use within specific classes, but some gear is available to the general student body.  Because of the limited supply, equipment may not be available for students pursuing their own projects or looking for equipment outside of class sessions.

Students may checkout equipment for up to 3 days at a time, and may renew the equipment in person based on 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 the items that fit your 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: One thing we do NOT do is to serve as a repair shop. You will be responsible for the maintenance and servicing of your own equipment.

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



The Journalism School is equipped with six 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

minimum specifications:

            Operating System:  Apple OS 10.9 or Windows 7

            Microsoft Office 2007

            Wi-Fi Connectivity

            USB 2.0, 3.0 and/or FireWire 800 Connectivity and/or Thunderbolt

            4GB RAM or 8+ GB for students enrolled in digital media, photo, documentary and broadcast classes who wish to use their own equipment.


For most students, a laptop (Mac or Windows) with wireless connectivity and Microsoft Office should meet your needs.  For students involved in multimedia applications, we recommend using a Mac. Macs come with a variety of basic video, audio and photo editing tools. Macs are also capable of running Windows through either Apple’s Boot Camp solution 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, audio and photos 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. Learn about student discounts when purchasing a computer.


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 minimum specifications:

            FireWire 800 or USB 3.0 (Thunderbolt is supported in some labs),

            500GB is size (1TB or more recommended for students enrolled in digital media and broadcast classes)

            and a speed of 7200 RPM. 


We recommend the G-Technology G-Drive. It offers good value for the price, durability, does not require a power supply, and supports USB3, 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 a 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.


Apple’s iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) and the various Android smartphones available are great devices for organizing one’s schedule, remaining in contact, tools for research, as well as for basic mobile photo, video and audio capture. 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 all students for no more than 3 days at a time. Students taking a photojournalism class or photo skills class can checkout the camera for the duration of the class as long as they pay the associated fee.  The school provides Canon Rebel T2i and a limited supply of T4i DSLRs, which are available to any students enrolled at the J-School. The T2i and T4i are advanced cameras with full manual controls and removable lenses.

Because of the limited quantity of SLR cameras available during peak times, students might have difficulty gaining access to SLR cameras. If you think you will regularly need a digital SLR camera, you might want to consider purchasing your own.

For students interested in purchasing their own digital cameras, here are some guidelines:

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

            At least 10 megapixels

            Offers full manual controls

            Records to removable flash media

Students using their own cameras for photojournalism classes may still checkout photo tripods and related support gear at no additional charge.

Here are some recommendations for students looking to purchase their own camera:

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.


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-12 or Zoom H4n units.  The LS12 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 >>


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 at a variety of frame rates. Fees apply for camera checkouts in certain courses. Here is a great tutorial on our new Canon EOS C100 video cameras >>


In addition to the training that you will receive, two online tutorial portals are available to you:

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


2) Our Digital Media Associates maintain an excellent repository of tutorials for all your digital media needs


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





Select the academic degree that interests you: