Seven Innovative Journalism Courses You Should Take This Fall

“While writing, shooting, and editing are often solitary activities, great work emerges in the spaces between people.” We couldn’t have said it better than David Carr, whose syllabus Press Play still resonates with journalism schools today. With classes back in session, we decided to reboot Storybench’s most popular listicle. Last year, we highlighted more than a dozen forward-looking journalism courses being taught around the country. Here are seven more that we wish we could take this fall.


Designing Workflow & Product Strategy for Modern Newsrooms

Syllabus here

Nina Ong, Journalism + Design, The New School

In this process-focused course, students will work collaboratively in teams to understand and address the everyday challenges faced by the news industry. In modern newsrooms, where every story has multiple moving parts and news gets published as it breaks, how work flows through an organization is a central issue – as is how to get the news to people. Students in this class will use the deeply hands-on approach called human-centered design and apply rigorous methods and tools from that process to work on these problems. The work itself will be situated in the context of contemporary journalism and design practice.

The course work will center around a learning project; each weekly class will focus on a specific phase of the process. There will also be two Saturday workshop sprints to provide opportunities for students to collaborate with local newsrooms and apply what they have learned. Students will conduct research, develop insights, brainstorm and prototype alongside newsroom editors with the goal of helping the news organizations implement real change.

Recommended readings

Design Thinking 101, Nielsen Norman Group
IDEO Field Guide to Human Centered Design, IDEO
The secret ingredient that makes some teams better than others, TED
How the NY Times is incorporating design into audience research, CJR


Digital Media Innovation

Syllabus here

Cindy Royal, Texas State University

This course explores innovation associated with digital entrepreneurship and creativity within organizations. Students integrate concepts and ideas learned in previous courses, leading to innovation product development. A speaker series will expose students to professional practices and inspire innovation. This course is the capstone for the Digital Media Innovation undergraduate major and integrates the skills and concepts students have learned throughout the curriculum in proposing and prototyping a new media product.

Software and tools, Business Model Canvas

Recommended readings

The Lean Startup, Eric Ries
Running Lean, Ash Maurya
Sprint, Jake Knapp from Google Ventures
The Power of Social Innovation, Stephen Goldsmith
The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clay Christensen
The Four Steps to Epiphany, Steve Blank
#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness, Gary Vaynerchuk


Data Journalism and Political Reporting

Syllabus here

Meredith Broussard, New York University

In this introductory class, students will learn the skills needed to create visually exciting and thought-provoking online journalism. Topics include data journalism, data analysis, computer-assisted reporting, [painless] coding for journalists, and data visualization. The class is designed for an interdisciplinary group of students interested in writing, editing, visual design, or technology. Student-created projects will influence the path of the class: in a given semester, we may create infographics, investigate current political or economic issues, or develop innovative newsapps. The Fall 2016 class will focus on political data in anticipation of the 2016 presidential election. Prior experience is not assumed, nor is it necessary. Students are expected to be comfortable with learning software beyond basic social media or word processing, and should be willing to learn new technology skills.

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Software and tools

Excel, Tableau Public, Timeline.js, command line tools, Python, miscellaneous graphic design tools like Photoshop as needed.

Recommended readings

Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide, by Brant Houston
Visualize This, by Nathan Yau
The Data Journalism Handbook, edited by Jonathan Gray, Liliana Bounegru, and Lucy Chambers


Advanced Social Media and Analytics Class

Syllabus here

Dale Blasingame, Texas State University

This course will provide students with an advanced understanding of social media, marketing plans and social media analytics. Students will build company and/or journalistic profiles on the top social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and more – to engage with audiences and communities and utilize analytical tools to track success.

Software and tools

Canva, all the social networks and their analytics portals, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Slack

Recommended readings

We use Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” as a spirit guide for the course. It’s not a textbook, but I use Gary’s terminology so we’re all on the same page.


Interactive Journalism

Syllabus here (*This course was taught in Fall 2015)

Jonathan Stray, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

Over 14 sessions, students in this course go from having no previous data or coding experience to creating interactive visualizations in D3. Although we get heavily into coding, the orientation of this course is eminently practical. The goal is to get students comfortable adapting HTML/JavaScript sample code and inserting their own data to illustrate their stories. Students will be expected to do a great deal of learning how to learn. They’ll need to get comfortable with everyday ways of answering technical questions, including asking other people, Googling error messages, and searching Stack Overflow.

Each class begins with something I call the “Festival of Data”: One student, according to a previously determined schedule, selects a data journalism story and presents it to the class along with a critique. We also critique all student-created stories during class time, so that we learn from each others’ experience and judgement.

Software and tools

Excel, Open Refine, Chartbuilder, Infogram, Raw, Datawrapper,, Carto, JSFiddle, FileZilla, TextWrangler or Notepad++, Google Charts, Mr. Data Converter, Timeline.js, D3js.

Recommended readings

The Functional Art, Alberto Cairo, pages 25–31, 36–44, 118–129
Chapter 4: Choose Appropriate Visual Encodings, Designing Data Visualizations, Illinsky and Steele
The Curious Journalist’s Guide to Data, Jonathan Stray


Mobile and Social Media Journalism

Syllabus here

Anthony Adornato, Ithaca College

This course explores how journalists and news organizations are using emerging forms of social media and mobile platforms. Students gain hands-on experience by experimenting with social media and mobile devices for newsgathering, distribution, and audience engagement. An emphasis is placed on critically assessing the credibility and authenticity of user-generated content. Students will also learn how to use analytics tools to monitor and analyze the effectiveness of their mobile and social media activity. This course prepares you to evaluate and use social media and mobile devices as professional journalists. By the end of the course, you will have the fundamental mobile and social media skills that news organizations are seeking from today’s journalists. You will build your own professional social media brand and produce a portfolio of stories using social media and mobile devices/apps. You and your classmates are future industry leaders, so we will also critically assess future developments related to mobile and social media in journalism.

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Software and tools

iPads, iMovie, Snapchat, and other apps, and analytics and social media management dashboards

Recommended readings

We The Media, Dan Gillmor
The Associated Press Stylebook


Digital Storytelling and Social Media

Syllabus here

Dan Kennedy, Northeastern University

Over the course of the semester you will practice blogging, social-media journalism, smartphone photography and video, mapping and data visualization. You will also learn a little bit about how to use a content-management system (CMS) and how to do a little bit of coding in HTML.

We will also explore how internet-based technologies are changing journalism and redefining how journalists do their jobs. Citizen media pioneer Dan Gillmor has called our readers (and viewers and listeners) the “former audience,” meaning that technology has empowered them not to be passive consumers of news and information, but to take part in the conversation. Journalists must be prepared to take part in that conversation as well.

Recommended readings

Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency,” Mindy McAdams
Facebook is eating the world,” Emily Bell
Reporting with Web and social media data: Some helpful tools,” John Wihbey
The island of knowledge and the shoreline of wonder: Using data visualization to prompt exploration,” Alberto Cairo

Aleszu Bajak

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