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Journalism School Launches New Master's Degree

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism will inaugurate an innovative, one-year master of arts program this fall to offer intensive subject-area training in a number of broad academic disciplines. Drawing on the University's extensive resources and expertise, the program will provide future and mid-level journalists with an enhanced ability to understand complex 21 st-century issues, as well as a specialization in one of four areas: arts and culture journalism, business and economics journalism, political journalism, or science and medical journalism.

The new M.A. program grows out of an extensive two-year review of the future of journalism education led by Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. It is the first new professional degree offered by the School of Journalism since the introduction of its renowned master of science program 70 years ago, and the new curriculum represents a significant enhancement of the school's already-strong array of programs.

President Bollinger said: "This new degree is in keeping with the vision of the school's founder, Joseph Pulitzer, who believed that the journalism profession must constantly evolve and adapt to its changing roles in society. Given today's rapid scientific discoveries and global transformation, it is important to equip journalists with the specialized knowledge needed to comprehend complex subjects and to report on them with accuracy, clarity and insight."

Columbia 's existing one-year M.S. degree concentrates on teaching the skills needed to be a first-rate general assignment reporter in a variety of media and has a global reputation for excellence. The new M.A. is offered as an optional second year for graduates of the M.S. program. It is also open to non-graduates who can show mastery of journalistic fundamentals through professional accomplishment or an advanced degree in journalism comparable to the Columbia M.S.

The first-year class of the M.A. program, which will graduate in May 2006, will consist of 25 students pursuing one of the four main areas of study. The program will grow to approximately 60 students over the next few years. (The current size of the full-time M.S. class is about 200 students.)

"We hope to educate reporters and editors who can bring real subject-matter understanding to the stories they will write on difficult topics," said Nicholas Lemann, Henry R. Luce Professor and dean of the Journalism School. "The program will draw deeply on the expertise that resides throughout the University, bringing that expertise into the Journalism School and relating it to our profession's mission and craft."

Students in the M.A. program will take five courses per term:

  • "The History of Journalism," taught by faculty of the Journalism School;
  • "Evidence and Inference," taught by Dean Lemann with the participation of experts from the faculty at Columbia and from other institutions;
  • A "seminar in discipline" in each of the four major subject areas, with leading faculty from the Journalism School in collaboration with faculty members from elsewhere at Columbia and other institutions;
  • A master's thesis that will be advised jointly by a professor from the Journalism School and one from another school or department in the University, depending on the subject of the thesis;
  • One course per term in another Columbia school or department.

The first two courses will give students advanced information-gathering and assessment skills, and will provide them with a broader context from which they can think critically about the practice of journalism and its role in society. The next three courses offer subject-area expertise and concentration. Thus, a science journalist would take the "seminar in discipline" in science, and then specialize, for example, as a medical reporter by writing a thesis on a medical topic, advised by a professor in the College of Physicians & Surgeons or the Mailman School of Public Health. The student would also take courses in those schools and departments or related courses elsewhere at the University.

A number of distinguished scholars from around Columbia have agreed to teach in the program in a variety of roles.

The M.A. degree is granted by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The program has been approved by the Journalism School faculty, the GSAS Executive Committee, the Faculty Senate and the State of New York. Deadline for applications for the first year is April 1. Admissions to the program will be "need blind," with full need-based financial aid provided, at least for the first few years of the program. The program will be administered by Evan Cornog, associate dean for planning at the Journalism School.

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Published: Mar 25, 2005
Last modified: Mar 25, 2005

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