Earth & Environmental Science Journalism

Journalism Courses in E&ESJ Curriculum

Note: This is not a full listing of courses offered by the School of Journalism. Refer to the paper catalog, Graduate School of Journalism, for complete course listings.

Courses here are listed in order by number. To see courses organized according to E&ESJ curriculum, return to E&ESJ Course of Study.

J6001x: Reporting & Writing (RW I) (6 credits)

Core course in reporting and writing on which much of the students' work is built. Using metropolitan new York as a laboratory, students cover a variety of news events. Street reporting is supplemented by weekly deadline writing exercises under the supervision of the faculty and by home assignments designed to familiarize students with material they will encounter in professional work.

Subject area competence is stressed. Weekly sessions explore such topics as criminal justice, politics, science and health, and others. Weekly seminars review student work and examine the craft.

The working unit is a section of 16 students under the direction of two instructors, one an adjunct instructor from the city's working press. Sections meet on Mondays for seminars and for deadline writing drills, during which students perform under deadline conditions, with on-the-spot supervision. Instructors give students at least one street assignment on their second full day of class each week, which is devoted to "street" reporting. In the latter half of the term, instructors ask students to execute several long pieces of reporting and writing that require two or three weeks' work; students receive from two to four such assignments during the term.

Seeks to blend instruction in the craft and in the substance of journalism so that, on completion of the course, students are accurate, clear, and complete in their writing, can meet a deadline, understand how to gather and to verify material, report in a fair and balanced manner, and have an understanding of several subject areas that are essential to reporting.

Students are expected to keep current with the news by reading newspapers and watching newscasts. They should know about the city of New York and about the reporting and writing techniques they will use to cover the city.

J6002y: Advanced Reporting and Writing Seminar (6 credits)


A continuation of J6001x. The disciplines of reporting and writing are structured around specialized subject areas or style techniques. Requires two full days each week. The faculty permits some students to take graduate-level courses offered elsewhere in the university as, in effect, half of a seminar, with the other half to be supervised by a member of the journalism faculty. Students choose one section from 16 options. Earth & Environmental Science Journalism students typically take:

Section 7. Science Reporting and Writing.

Marguerite Holloway.

Covering science -- including medicine and the environment -- is an important part of any journalist's beat. This course familiarizes students with today's major science stories, as well as with the philosophical issues raised by scientific and medical research, including bioethics. Students develop the requisite skills and source base to write critically about any aspect of science or the environment, from statistics on cancer clusters to biodiversity or cosmology. The emphasis is on getting out into the field and reporting. Trips include visits to the Institute for Economic Botany at the New York Botanical Gardens and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

J6010x: Specialized Reporting and Writing Electives (3 credits).

Required. Various professors

As the title indicates, these seminars focus on specific news beats, such as crime or the environment, or on specific media, such as magazine or television reporting and writing. Each seminar usually includes a day of reporting and writing and at least one two-hour class session. Specialization is continued and expanded in the spring term in the two-day Advanced Reporting and Writing Seminar (J6002y). Earth & Environmental Science Journalism students take either:

Environment reporting.

Marguerite Holloway.

Covering the environment is an increasingly complex and important beat. Students taking this class will become familiar with some of the major environmental stories--from local problems of air pollution and national concerns over environmental racism, to the role of trade in international conservation strategies. They will also become knowledgeable about the legislation that governs this beat, the complexities of risk assessment, and the challenges of striking a responsible balance, of finding sources other than those on the fringe.

Science Narratives.

Jonathan Weiner.

The universe is made of stories, not atoms, a poet once said; and the universe always needs more storytellers. This is a course for students who want to write long pieces about science using the tools of narrative journalism. In the first assignment (which can be started before class begins), students arrange permission to hang around an interesting lab or field site in New York. In the course of the semester, students will write a series of short sketches based on their reporting: first a physical portrait of the lab; then an exposition of the science going on there; then a scene the student has heard and noted down as a fly-on-the-wall reporter; and a character sketch of someone in the lab. Finally each student will weave these sketches into one story. The goal is a clear, accurate, evocative, feature-length piece of about 2,000 words. Along the way, for models and inspiration, the class will read some of the finest literature of science, from Lucretius to McPhee.

J6011y: Media Workshop (6 credits)

Required. Various professors.

Media workshops include a number of options: broadcast (TV -- Nightly News, Documentary, Magazine Production, and Radio), newspaper (Bronx Beat, Columbia News Service), magazine (Producing a Magazine, Magazine Writing, Literary Journalism) and New Media. Students devote at least two days each week, Thursday and Friday, to the workshop.

Students choose one section from the following workshop options:

J6037x: Journalism, the law and society (2 credits)

Required. Professors Abrams, Blasi, and Lewis.

Examines the current and historic conflicts between journalists and jurists over fundamental First Amendment issues such as libel, privacy, prior restraint against publishing the news, protection of sources, the right to gather news, and national security. Broadcast regulations, including the Fairness Doctrine, and questions of equal time and access also are explored. Readings include texts of landmark cases. Two special sessions concentrate on practical aspects of libel and invasion of privacy. Note: International Division students do not take this course; instead, they are required to take New York as a Foreign Country (J6063x).

J6040x (Fall) and J6041y (Spring): Masters' Project (2 credits each)

Required. Various professors

The student's major effort of the Journalism year. Is not a master's thesis in the traditional academic sense, but rather an in-depth exploration of a topic as a journalist would pursue it. May be executed in either print or broadcast (radio or television) forms, although 90 percent are done in print. Students work on radio and print projects individually. The student receives guidance from an assigned instructor who offers advice in selecting a topic, fixing its focus, and working through an approach; in conducting the research and doing the reporting and interviewing; and in organizing, writing, rewriting (and recording and re-recording, where appropriate), and polishing the various versions. Broadcast majors desiring to undertake a video project present their proposals to the broadcast faculty for possible approval in competition with other students; approximately 10 video projects are approved each year. Students usually work in teams of two to three to complete the video project. Includes individual or team counseling and seminars in research, reporting, and writing.

J6075x: Critical issues in journalism (2 credits)

Required. Professors Carey and Isaacs

Explores the social role of journalism and the journalist from legal, historical, ethical, and economic perspectives. While it coves some of the same issues raised in Journalism, the Law and Society (J6037x), they are examined more from an ethical and professional point of view. Course topics cover such themes as the ethical reverberations in using and being used by sources of news; the debate between lawyers and journalists over codifying standards of journalistic ethics; ethical considerations in the setting of the news agenda; yellow journalism then and now; implications of corporate giantism in media ownership on journalism; the ethical perils of "beat" reporting; the implications of "negative" journalism; and the growing role and impact of technological change.

J6099y. Internship (1 credit)

Optional. Dean Padwe

A student who undertakes an internship at a media organization can earn an additional academic credit if the work consists of serious journalistic enterprise. At the conclusion of the internship, the student must submit a written description of what he or she has accomplished and learned in the internship, and an official of the media company must send a separate letter corroborating that and evaluating the student's performance.

Earth & Environmental Science Journalism students have interned at Scientific American and Natural History.

J6102x: Skills of the Journalist (1 credit per unit - These are 7-week mini-courses.)

Required. Instructors to be assigned

Computer-Assisted Reporting, plus the Internet

This course will survey new techniques to find, manage and validate information from a variety of sources, including the Internet and government CD-ROMs, for daily, in-depth and investigative stories. Students will learn powerful tools to assess and interpret complex information and to report their findings in a compelling, easy-to-understand manner.

Writing, Reporting and Mixing for Radio

Students become familiar with radio news writing and reporting. Students write news reports using audio they gather as reporters in the field and produce them using the digital audio laboratory. Note: not open to broadcast concentrators, who receive radio skills training in RWI.

Television News Production

Non-broadcast majors get an introduction to video journalism and explore the editorial and production processes of TV. The course includes screenings, discussion sessions and exercises. Note: not open to broadcast concentrators, who receive television skills training in RWI.

Broadcast New Writing

Students are introduced to the techniques of writing for television news, public affairs and long-form programs. Note: required of broadcast concentrators, closed to others.

New Media

Students learn the basics of New Media, including hypertext markup language (HTML), Adobe Photoshop, and other elements of emerging media. Note: not open to New Media concentrators, who receive new media skills training in "Issues in Online News." New media students should enroll in Photojournalism Skills.


Students learn the basics of photography, using Photoshop, scanners and printers to produce short photo essays on non-fiction topics.

Journalism School Electives (3 credits, spring semester)

All students are required to take an elective for at least three credits at the graduate level -- either inside or outside the school. Most Journalism electives meet once a week for lectures and/or seminar discussions, and require reading as well as written assignments.

Students can select from among the following options for spring electives offered by the School of Journalism:

Updated January 13, 2012