Columbia Journalism School

Newly Approved Courses

These courses will be taught for the first time during the Spring 2009 term.

Brooklyn Ink 2.0
Michael Shapiro

This workshop will continue the daily publication of www.thebrooklynink.com, a Web site launched in the fall of ’07 and enhanced in the fall of ‘08. Students are given considerable latitude in deciding how best to bring Brooklyn alive for the site’s readers. The site is built around reporting, and students are encouraged to draw upon the many different ways to tell their stories: narratives, slide shows, audio, video, graphics, and blogs. The site is a work in progress and experimentation is a priority. Students will be deeply involved in producing and marketing the site - though not commercially - to hone their entrepreneurial skills. Enrollment is open to students of all concentrations.

The Documentary Seminar
June Cross

This seminar teaches long-form visual storytelling, and is a prerequisite for those who want to complete a third-year master's project. Non-video masters' students may be admitted as space allows. Masters' students will work in teams, and by the end of the semester will pitch a five- to seven-minute trailer for their proposed projects, along with a one-pager that succinctly "sells" their story, to a team of commissioning editors. Non-video masters' students will write a 2,500-word report on a story using cinematic techniques. Masters' teams will be assigned to a broadcast faculty advisor in the fall '09 term, and complete their master's projects in either the summer or fall of '09, after completing the course.

How Rough is the First Rough Draft of History?
Kati Marton

Without knowledge and understanding of the past, there can be no understanding of the present. This course will connect present-day reporting to recent history, and underscore the impact events of the 20th century continue to exert on today’s unfolding narrative, most significantly in the Middle East. This course will aim to draw lessons from the shortcomings of past generations of reporters whose coverage failed to provide sufficient background, context or perspective. Students will write “the first rough draft of history” of key events that shaped the present - e.g., the formation of Iraq from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, the Holocaust, and the birth of Communist Cuba - using credible contemporaneous narratives, and analyze how the original reporting compares with history’s fuller, more dispassionate version.

Making Publics
Todd Gitlin

Communications theorists have long debated the nature of publics in democratic societies and their relation to journalism. Do communications precede, or follow, democratic institutions? What power do communications have over public opinion, and vice versa? Who sets agendas? Who are the gatekeepers, and how are they chosen, secured and defended? This Ph.D. seminar will explore such questions with an eye toward how the proliferation of new communication technologies is transforming the landscape. The course will investigate classical (Dewey, Lippmann, Habermas) and contemporary (Castells, Latour, Benkler) models of publics, as well as research on the emergence of particular networks that generate (and retard) controversy. Coursework will include one presentation to summarize a week’s readings, and a 20-page final paper that draws on original research.

Reporting China: Coming to Grips with One of the World’s Most Dynamic Societies
Howard French

China is the world’s most populous nation, and soon will be the world’s largest economy. It is a society in the throes of enormous, mutating change; a place of intense contradictions and stark divides. This course will familiarize students with the major factors driving change in China, and examine the ways journalists write about them. Students will sample a wide variety of important recent books about China and engage in a running conversation about current journalism. The course has no language requirement, but facility in spoken and written Chinese is a plus. Students will produce three written assignments: a reported news analysis of an important current event in China; a comparative examination of Chinese and Western coverage of a current event in China; and an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Western coverage of China.

Tools of the Modern Newsroom
Tom Torok

This new elective will familiarize students with the latest software being used to acquire, manage, interpret, and analyze electronic information, and to present this information in print, Web, television, and radio. Each class session will include a demonstration/discussion and lab. Demonstration topics include: Working with Text, or How to Interview Dumb Documents; Intelligent Web Presentations; Research Methods; Mapping and Other Visualizations; Scripting; Analytics; and How to Improve Your Skills (and Your Resume) After Graduation. Labs will be designed to give students proficiency in common tools, and to solve problems related to acquiring and analyzing electronic information.

Web Elective for M.A. Students and Knight-Bagehot Fellows
Dean Nicholas Lemann

This course will be similar to Web workshop courses in the M.S. program. The class will be divided into groups of four to six members. Each group will create two journalistic Web sites during the semester—one during the first five weeks, another during the last ten weeks. Each assignment will entail taking on a substantively complicated issue, doing first-hand reporting about it, and producing a result that is attractive, interesting and aimed at a general audience. Each assignment is to be designed and executed with the Web in mind, so each group will use a mix of text, audio, video, mapping, etc. The group has to show the ability to get and explain technical and expert material. The class will culminate, twice, with final presentations of each group’s projects. These ought to be finished enough that students could show them to potential employers.

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