The seminar in a chosen concentration, taken in both the fall and the spring semesters, is the most intensive part of the M.A. degree.
Arts & Culture
This seminar aims to develop historical knowledge, analytical understanding, and nimble thinking about arts and culture across a range of disciplines. Through a combination of extensive reading, case studies, site visits and teaching collaborations with scholars, artists, and other leaders in the arts, students consider the formal and emotional force of the arts as well as the ways they function as commodities in a global marketplace. Students also learn about policy and economic issues: private and public funding models, intellectual property law, and trade agreements. Students will develop the skills, analytical habits of mind and flexibility to cover a wide range of stories, and work on becoming cultural reporters and critics in the fullest sense.
Respected experts from Columbia and elsewhere are often brought in to guest-teach in the M.A. classes. Recent guests have included Jane Ginsburg, an expert on intellectual property at Columbia Law School; Frances Negron-Muntaner from Columbia’s English department; Andreas Huyssen, a comparative literature professor and an expert on the Frankfurt School; Shakespearian James Shapiro; anthropology professor Page West; and art dealer Louis Salerno.
Business & Economics
The fall term stresses three attributes of excellent economics reporting: a firm grasp of basic economic theory and institutions; hands-on knowledge of data for measuring economic performance and assessing the validity of economic arguments; and the ability to find and report compelling stories. The primary objective is to teach students simple, fast and effective ways to break down complicated problems, locate relevant data, and compensate for inherent biases. The spring term provides students with the analytical skills to conceive and execute stories about the business sector. Academic subjects are not taught in the abstract, but in the context of recent and current news and developments. Students learn basic skills in accounting, corporate finance, securities law, securities analysis and portfolio management, while keeping the course firmly rooted in the journalistic process. Recent guest lecturers have included economists Bruce Greenwald and Ed McKelvey.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program in Health and Science Journalism
This seminar covers everything from quarks and black holes to the quirks of the human genome; from Galileo’s funding troubles to NASA’s travails. When we study the contemporary debate over global warming, or evolution, we start back before the fever began. Students learn to see science in the widest perspective and to write about it with all the tools of narrative nonfiction. Most applicants are experienced journalists who have demonstrated the potential to become leading science writers. The field of science writing is changing explosively, and this course is designed to make our students the very fittest to survive in it, adapt to its transformations, and shape its future.
Recent guest lecturers have included physicist and author Brian Greene; Daniel Kevles, a historian of science and the Stanley Woodward Professor of History at Yale University; Frances Champagne, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Columbia; and Dr. Marc Dickstein, attending anesthesiologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
This seminar offers a concentrated introduction to what a journalist needs to know about politics. It will provide an historical context for the main political systems and institutions, as well as a series of tools that reporters can use to analyze and understand stories and situations they may confront. This concentration is appropriate for candidates who want to be foreign correspondents, legal reporters, education reporters, city hall reporters, and political reporters. Across all of these domains, certain themes and issues recur, and this course is therefore organized around seven such themes: power; identity and nationalism; mobilization; collective action and social conflict; rights; institutions; the distribution of resources; and bargaining and negotiation. Student assignments will include exploring the manifestation of these forces in the greater New York area.
Recent guest lecturers have included political strategist Howard Wolfson; former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake; and Cornell behavioral economist Robert Frank.