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Going to J-School, At Columbia University

A great reputation and perfect location in the world’s media capital, makes Columbia University in New York one of the most sought after journalism schools in the world.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   17-03-2011

A great reputation and perfect location in the world’s media capital, makes Columbia University in New York one of the most sought after journalism schools in the world. Associate Professor, Sree Sreenivasan, says the school’s ability to be on the cutting edge of media technology against the backdrop of its long history is what makes Columbia so special.

A huge draw with international students, the J-school gets over 400 applications for some 100 spots. Journalism students lucky enough to gain admission here rarely go elsewhere.

The 100 year old school keeps pace with the times by ensuring students gain enough exposure to various media formats to be able to adapt easily to the varying demands of modern, converged–media newsrooms.

Dean of Students and Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, in Columbia University, Sreenath Sreenivasan talked to Uttara Choudhury in New York about how Columbia teaches students the core writing, reporting, editing and presentation skills to succeed in modern print, broadcast and online newsrooms.

Photo by: Rebecca Castillo 
Sreenath Sreenivasan, Dean of Students and Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, in Columbia University teaching international students.

Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism is considered one of the most rigorous journalism schools in the world. What are the key factors that make a Columbia J-school degree sought after?

“There is a combination of things that make Columbia attractive to international students. We have students from 40 countries and 40 states at the J-school and the combination of factors that make it appealing include its rich history — it is going to be turning 100 years old.”

There is a combination of things that make Columbia attractive to international students. We have students from 40 countries and 40 states at the J-school and the combination of factors that make it appealing are its rich history it is going to be turning a100 years old. We are celebrating our Centennial between now and 2012.

Columbia has a mission to educate and uphold the highest standards of journalism. This is the home of the Pulitzer Prizes, the home of the National Magazine Awards and the home of the duPont-Columbia Awards for the best in television and radio journalism, so upholding the standards is very important to what we do. It is also the fact that we have been emphasizing digital skills since 1994 that’s when we first started teaching digital journalism. So our ability to be on the cutting edge of media technology while having the history and breadth of knowledge behind us is part of our appeal.

Our faculty is also absolutely world class. Instead of bringing in media professionals at the end of their careers, our journalism dean Nicholas Lemann has changed the formula to bring in media professionals at the height of their careers where they have great productive years ahead of them. The faculty is constantly working while teaching. That combination of our faculty, our history and our emphasis on new technology without losing sight of traditional values of journalism is what keeps us going.

What are the key components of some of the degree programs offered by Columbia? Is the Master of Science in Journalism program the best fit for students with little or no journalism experience?

We have four different programs the Master of Science, the Master of Arts, the Ph.D. in Communications and finally our brand new joint degree with computer science and journalism.

“Columbia has a mission to educate and uphold the highest standards of journalism. This is the home of the Pulitzer Prizes, the home of the National Magazine Awards and the home of the duPont-Columbia Awards for the best in television and radio journalism…”

The traditional M.S which has been offered since 1935 is aimed at career switches or people in their first three or four years in journalism. It is an excellent course for people who want to understand and get into journalism in a strong way. During the 10-month M.S program students choose from one of four specializations: newspaper, magazine, broadcast or digital media. Digital media training is integrated through the M.S curriculum so everyone learns skills that are now expected of multimedia journalists, including Flash, Final Cut Pro and Photoshop, as well as writing for the Web. We teach our students how to get sources, research and write stories by using New York City as a lab. We also teach them about legal aspects of journalism from libel and copyright issues to the ethics, history and business of journalism.  

Next, we have the Master of Arts program for more experienced journalists who want to specialize in arts, politics, health and science or business. It is aimed at people with a little more journalism experience or specialized in one of those four topic areas. 

“Our faculty is also absolutely world class. Instead of bringing in media professionals at the end of their careers, our journalism dean Nicholas Lemann has changed the formula to bring in media professionals at the height of their careers…”

Then we have a very widely respected Ph.D. program in which we only take four students a year. The Ph.D. program is all about scholarly research on communications. Each student chooses to concentrate in one of three areas of study: Journalism and public life; Social impact of media or economic, legal, and policy aspects of communication. Each Ph.D. student will also have to complete and defend a doctoral dissertation.

And, finally I am very excited about our joint degree with computer science and journalism. This program is designed to prepare a new generation of professionals with skills in the technical aspects of both digital media and news production. 

Do all M.S applicants have to take the Journalism School’s writing test? How will the test be administered to applicants from South Asia who may not be living near a testing site?

“…I am very excited about our joint degree with computer science and journalism. This program is designed to prepare a new generation of professionals with skills in the technical aspects of both digital media and news production.”

All M.S students have to take the writing test, while M.A students don’t. The way it has been done so far is that an applicant’s editor or professor can administer the test for us. We have alumni all over the world including in many parts of India. If you can get to one of the big cities where we have alumni then you can suggest a professor or boss and they can proctor the test for us.

The writing test is a 90-minute computer exercise that will examine your written, problem solving and critical thinking skills. The test will give the admissions committee a good picture of your reporting and writing skills as well as your judgment and knowledge of current events. 

How much work experience do you like applicants to the 9-month Masters of Arts degree to have?

We have people with a little experience to five or six years of experience. We like that range.

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Comments:
Shashank Ravi
Are There Scolarships If U Get A Very Good Score In GRE? Wat Would The Ideal Range Of Scores Be, In Order To Secure Scolarships? Is GRE Applicable For Admissions Into UK Universities Of Engineering & Technology?
20 April 2011


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