Columbia Journalism School

Cross Registration Spring 2016

Registration Information for Non-Journalism Students

Graduate students from other Columbia Divisions/Schools looking to register for Fall 2015 classes at the Journalism School must follow the steps outlined below . All classes listed below are 3 point courses and detailed information including course description have been listed. 

Cross-registration will be open on January 11, at 10am and it will close Friday, January 29, at 10am.

To cross register, students must submit this form:




Art of the Profile 

6 points

Paula Span

Wednesday, 1:30-4:30 p.m.

There’s a reason one of the most successful magazines launched in the past 40 years is called People. You’ll learn and practice the specialized interviewing, reporting and writing skills used to portray individuals. We’ll read and discuss some of the best classic and contemporary profiles, of subjects from Ty Cobb to a sex-toys saleswoman. We’ll talk a lot about structure. I’ll take a machete (at first) or a scalpel (later on) to every sentence you write. Some gifted current practitioners will tell us how they do it. I’ll schedule two to three individual conferences with each student to review your stories. We’ll discover how to leverage readers’ intrinsic interest in other people to inform them about things they think they don’t want to know.


China Seminar

6 points

Howard French

Monday, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

This course aims to deepen students' understanding of China and sharpen the ways we think and write about the country as journalists. The class involves intensive and eclectic reading about China, including works of reportage, political science, history and literature. It also requires that students read current coverage of China from a variety of important Western and (in translation) Chinese media. A portion of each class will be set aside for a running comparative examination of this coverage. Written assignments will include both critical assessments of current coverage and student-reported analysis of current events.


Covering the 2016 Presidential Race

6 points

Thomas Edsall

Thursday, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

This course will follow the 2016 presidential election with a focus on reporting the issues driving the contest. Among the subjects to be explored are: 1) the changing composition of the two parties; 2) the evolution of social/cultural issues, from reproductive rights, to gay marriage, to the role of religion in the public square; 3) race, as the original issue driving polarization and its centrality in defining liberal and conservative ideologies;4) the widening gulf between Democrats and Republicans, between left and right; 5) the roots of the anti-spending, anti-tax movement; 6) how demography has the potential to shape political outcomes; 7) the drive to demonize the opposition, especially the demonization of Hillary Clinton and/or the Koch brothers; 8) the nationalization of politics, the swing vote, and the end of ticket splitting; 9) the fight over voting rights in the aftermath of key Supreme Court decisions; and 10) the emergence of a new system of campaign finance in the wake of Citizens United and related decisions.

Underpinning the focus on issues will be an examination of what the function of political competition is: a central function is the distribution of resources -- tangible or intangible. Resources can range from paving contracts (tangible) to zoning permits (tangible), to the creation of a multicultural curriculum in the public schools (intangible); to decisions about which holidays will be officially observed (intangible). The role of government in distributing these and other resources impacts every aspect of society. Resource competition can be seen in debates over taxes, school choice, bilingual education, voter ID requirements, parking regulations, architectural and engineering contracts, subway routes, construction permits, rent control guidelines, automobile emissions, immigration law, and in – domestically and internationally -- the regulation of the use of force.


Covering Campaign Finance

6 points

Ben Lesser

Wednesday, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Campaign finance journalism involves much more than simply reporting how much each candidate raised. It means digging deep to find the motivations behind the individuals and organizations supporting a particular political party or candidate. It can also mean  identifying candidates using campaign cash as a slush fund to enrich family member and live the high life. More broadly, it means looking beyond campaign finance filings and connecting the dots in order to uncover patterns, networks and relationships that provide insights on the influence of money on politics.  This course will provide the foundation of knowledge and skills that will enable  students to write interesting, thoughtful, and impactful stories on the money that fuels election campaigns and political life in this country. 


Human Rights Reporting  

6 points

Lonnie Isabel

Human rights stories develop on a massive stage, often with millions caught in the sweep of war, natural catastrophe, starvation, sectarianism and intractable conflict. And what constitutes the rights of all humans and what is a violation have been in virulent debate since the advent of civilization and diplomacy. But human rights abuses, regardless of their prevalence worldwide, happen to one person, one family at a time, tragically altering lives and perhaps history itself.

For journalists, human rights reporting has presented a chance to examine a society, a country, a regime by how it treats its most vulnerable, most powerless and most hated. In journalism history, some of the powerful and celebrated stories have been about human rights.

In this course, we will look closely at some of the best current and past human rights reporting. We will study the apparatus of human rights enforcement internationally, and through case studies look at how the process of intervention and investigation works or doesn’t. We will do our own stories, some with the UN as a base and others on human rights challenges domestically.

We’ll look at the role of NGOS, including those doing their own reporting on human rights, the plethora of relief agencies, and the geopolitical role of the United States as a traditional--some say hypocritical--leader in addressing human rights abuses. Our assignments will be original stories on human rights, including a profile of a human rights worker or activist under siege from a government or non-governmental player; a story about refugees; and a story about human rights of women and/or children.


The Journalist as Historian

6 points

Gershom Gorenberg

Tuesdays, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

A good work of history reads like a novel in which all the details are facts. In this course, students will learn to frame a piece of history as a story, uncover sources, and transform evidence into an accurate, exciting narrative that casts the past and present in a new light. By the end of the semester, students will have the foundation for a book project: a polished example of historical writing and a chapter outline.

We will discuss how to find and use sources including archives, memoirs, court records, newspaper reports, and popular culture. To build a repertoire of techniques for long-form writing, we will read and analyze examples of fine historical writing, and will discuss how to uncover a plot line and character development in actual events. We will also look at the relationship between facts, politics and the writer's personal perspective, and at the impact of new writing on existing narratives. In short, this workshop will prepare writers to change history. 


Narrative Writing

6 points

Kevin Coyne

Wednesday, 7 p.m. -9 p.m.

All of the best stories in journalism, whether as short as a column or as long as a book, share the same basic narrative principles, and the aim of this course is to master those principles -- to study them in the work of others, and apply them to your own. The first class sessions are spent in an overview of the narrative form, discussing how to recognize, report, structure and write stories that move confidently through time, place, character and event. The remaining weeks proceed through a series of more specific narrative strategies and tactics: using dialogue, choosing and depicting characters, compressing and expanding time, managing transitions, providing historical context, establishing a voice. Beyond the regular readings, the main requirement is to find one good story idea and then write it and rewrite it, as a short narrative first (800 words) and then as longer one (2,500-3,000), gradually working your way deeper into the narrative form as the semester progresses.


Tactical Technology for Reporting

6 points 

Susan McGregor

Tuesdays, 6pm - 9pm

In the past fifteen years, digital technologies – from the Internet to the Internet of things - have drastically reshaped the operations of industry and the exercising of individual rights. Essential accountability reporting – on everything from politics to privacy, crime to commerce – relies on a critical understanding of the digital technologies that now permeate public and private life, and also requires a familiarity with how to use technology to report on the issues these technologies generate. Through hands-on exercises and guest lectures from leading reporters, students will learn both the technical skills and essential reporting approaches for working with sources and source material related to digital technology across a range of topic areas. Students will also complete a series of in-depth reporting assignments that take technology coverage beyond the consumer/gadget sphere: a technology “profile,” an explanatory piece on a current piece of cyber or technology news, and follow-up pieces on larger technology news stories. In addition to their individual assignments, the class as a whole will work on a larger piece of journalism, likely exploring the origins and aftermath of a major data breach, such as the OPM, HomeDepot or Primera incidents. Through work with experts, original sources, documents and victims, this piece will explore not only how major data breaches happen, but also on the subsequent fallout for individual victims and the public at large.

For the most part, spots in J-School classes are assigned to non-Journalism graduate students on a space available basis (with top priority given to IMC SIPA students).

To request cross registration in a Journalism School course, please complete the form.

The form will be active as of Monday, January 11, at 10am.

Please note that this is only a REQUEST and we cannot guarantee your request will be accommodated.

Cross registration request forms are processed on a first come, first served basis.

If your form is submitted correctly you will receive a request confirmation e-mail within 24 hours. Please remember to include the after your UNI.

You will NOT receive an e-mail from my office saying that your request was granted or not granted.

To learn if your request was granted, you must keep checking your class schedule on the web using All requests remain on file during the cross registration period (January 11 - January 29 at 10:00 a.m.).

You do not need to submit multiple forms for the same cross registration request. If I am able to grant requests I do it as soon as possible but sometimes it takes days for a space to open in a class. Sometimes the space never opens up.

Please remember that you are submitting a cross registration REQUEST. There is no guarantee that I will be able to approve your request. Until you see a change reflected on your class schedule on STUDENT SERVICES ONLINE (, your request has not been approved.

If you have more than one course for which you want to be considered, please submit a separate form for each class.

Also, please be certain that you are not requesting a class that conflicts with any of your other classes.

Direct any questions to Melanie Huff at


Select the academic degree that interests you: