Model 4: Advanced Graduate Degree: Expertise-Driven Reporting on Data & Computation

While most undergraduate and master’s programs are designed to offer journalistic newcomers a set of skills that can be applied to a wide range of subjects, there is also demand for mid-career journalists to return for coursework in which they can develop deep expertise to report on complicated subjects. As highly technical topics have come to permeate matters from international politics to everyday life, journalism schools may wish to offer classes that prepare students and equip mid-career journalists to report on such issues as cyberwar, data breaches, and cryptocurrency that require specialized skill when writing for a general audience. The uses of data, machine learning, and computational models may also aid these reporters in finding and telling these stories.

Data and computational journalism are ideal subjects for a mid-career degree because of the time and mentorship that could be devoted to developing this set of skills. Since it is directed at students who already know how journalism works, this degree could provide a level of depth and focus that may be difficult to reach during a standard journalism program or while working a full-time job.


Foundations of Data-Driven Journalism

(as detailed above, but adapted to the level of advanced students)

Reporting About Data

Course description: : The goal of this course is to prepare students to understand and critically assess reports, studies, scholarly work, and other information sources that are based in data and technical work. This will be an essential skill as each student develops a focus as an expert reporter on a topic centered on data, computation, technology, or the experimental sciences.

Course structure: Small seminar focused on the discussion and analysis of readings and case studies, culminating in a longform piece.

example assignments:

  • response papers: Weekly analysis and reflection on class readings.
  • term paper: A substantial long-form reporting project on a topic of the student’s choosing, possibly developed as an outgrowth of a weekly response paper.


Course description and structure: Seminar in which students develop independent reporting projects, sharing progress during class and meeting regularly with an adviser to build toward a master’s thesis.


One of the goals of a mid-career, expertise-driven degree in journalism is for students to develop a deep understanding of the field they are reporting. To this end, this degree should offer several elective slots for taking classes in other departments that contribute directly to the subject of the thesis.

Students may also consider auditing courses with skill requirements above their level (for example, if assignments must be submitted in the C programming language, which is still the case in some traditional computer science classes).

example electives and justification:

  • An earth science or geology course focused on climate data.
  • A digital humanities course that uses computational techniques to explore historical archives, literary works, or leaked caches of documents, to name just a few examples.
  • Any number of computer science courses in which students could learn the technical basis and academic concerns surrounding issues of interest in their reporting, such as computer vision or cryptography.
  • A course in digital security could help a journalist not only to protect sensitive sources, but also to report on such matters as public key encryption or onion routing, and to assess new developments in these fields.
  • A graduate course in statistical modeling, whether taken in the statistics department or in a quantitative social science such as sociology.

The point of elective courses should be to permit students to craft a coursework plan that is suitable to their own unique interests as they develop the capacity for expertise-driven reporting in some area related to data, computation, and emerging technologies.

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