University Senate                                                         

Proposed: April 2, 2010
Adopted:  April 2, 2010 by voice vote with one abstention

 

RESOLUTION TO ESTABLISH A PROGRAM
LEADING TO A DUAL MASTER OF SCIENCE DEGREE
IN JOURNALISM AND COMPUTER SCIENCE

 

WHEREAS      new technology is profoundly changing the creation, presentation and distribution of news, and

WHEREAS      news organizations have not embraced the digital revolution as successfully as have some other industries, and

WHEREAS      much of journalism’s potential remains untapped due to the lack of professionals with experience in both the technical and the editorial elements of online journalism, and

WHEREAS      in most newsrooms, journalists write the news stories while engineers build the package for online consumption, and there is little communication between the two groups, and

WHEREAS      new technologies for filtering data and engaging readers in collecting material for new stories hold great promise, and

WHEREAS      there is a need for professionals with expertise in both journalism and computer science, and

WHEREAS      the program is the first of its kind in the U.S.,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED  that the Senate establish the Dual Master of Science Degree in Journalism and Computer Science, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Education Committee shall review the program in five years.

Proponent:
Committee on Education


Dual MS Degree in Computer Science/Journalism Program

Joint Proposal from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism  and School of Engineering and Applied Science

New technology is profoundly changing the creation, presentation and distribution of news.  Consumers can now get their news not only from the newspapers, but on their cell phones, PDAs and computers.  Journalists can research more widely, verify stories more easily and engage in a continual fact-checking dialogue with readers. The Internet opens the greatest collection of raw data ever created.  By all accounts, this should be journalism’s golden age; more people have access to more news sources than at any time in history. So why is the overarching narrative not “journalism’s new golden age,” but rather, “the death of journalism?”  

News organizations have not embraced the digital revolution in the same way as other industries that have made a more successful transition. Behind the veneer of a new Web site, the reporting at many news organizations remains the same analog style that has been practiced for the last hundred years and, as a consequence, many of the opportunities afforded by the Internet revolution remain just that: opportunities. This lack of progress is not a failure of ambition. Rather, much of journalism’s potential remains untapped due to the lack of professionals with experience in both the technical and the editorial elements of online journalism. In most newsrooms, journalists write the news stories while engineers build the package for online consumption – and there is little communication and collaboration between these two groups. The technical background required to create new digital applications creates an insurmountable barrier to entry for those journalists who aspire to innovate.  Also, much of the technical focus has been on displaying traditional news stories on new platforms, but new technologies for filtering vast stores of raw data and extracting meaning from it, and for engaging readers in collecting material for news stories, hold great promise. Likewise, programmers have great technical knowledge, but do not have the journalistic experience to determine what kinds of applications would best serve the public and assist journalists in the creation, presentation and distribution of their stories. The lack of professionals with an adequate understanding of both the message and the mode of delivery is hindering innovation.

To address this, the Columbia Journalism School and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science propose a new joint M.S. degree program to train students in research and development in the field of digital media.  The program’s cadre of 12-15 students will take classes at both schools over five semesters (one being a summer term), learning the fundamentals of journalistic reporting and writing while developing a working background in computer science. This will be a true integrated dual degree program, in which students will use the content of one discipline to inform their execution of the other. Senior faculty members and graduate fellows will combine leading-edge engineering research with journalistic methods to produce applications that could lead to new educational models for the news business in the Internet age.

The program is geared towards students who have both a technical background, in computer science or a related engineering discipline, and aptitude for and background in journalism. Students will have to meet the strict standards of both schools to gain admission into the program. 

A cornerstone of the program will be the specialized digital journalism curriculum. In addition to taking classes already offered at both schools, students will attend a seminar and workshop designed specifically for those in the dual degree program. These classes will be in-depth investigations into topics in interactive media and Internet use and will be geared towards an audience with a working knowledge of journalistic practices and computer science. Additionally, as part of their graduation requirements, students will develop a final project with a strong computer science component.  

We have not found this kind of rigorous joint degree program anywhere else. Other schools have programs that are similar by name, but they lack the comprehensive curricular integration that we wish to offer, or their students lack the high degree of technical ability that we will expect of our graduates. While Columbia students will be taking core classes in both engineering and journalism, the later stages of class work will be a truly integrated curriculum designed specifically for joint degree students.  
In the face of the digital revolution, our mission is to preserve the essential elements of independent, original and credible news reporting. We want to embrace new technology not because it is new, but because it can fundamentally improve the quality and variety of journalism that we can create. By providing students with technical knowledge and the fundamentals of writing for digital platforms, this program will ensure that graduates will be able to create the next generation of digital applications in service of excellent journalism.