This initial wave of interest was far greater than anything we’d anticipated and proved resistant to the attrition we’d been told to expect based on other non-credit offerings in recent years. In response, we vastly expanded our workshop and office-hours offerings; still, we were unable to come anywhere close to accommodating the demand for both workshop slots and one-on-one assistance. This sustained interest persisted despite that, on the whole, professors and advisors did not encourage or otherwise reward participants for attendance. While a few attendees certainly did feel it would help make them competitive in the job market, most came because they felt the training was necessary to do their jobs properly and responsibly. Many also said they attended because they found our sessions to be their favorite and most valuable “class” of the semester. As noted in emails participants sent to the Tow Center leadership and journalism school administration:
“[These] workshops have been one of the most worthwhile investments I have made during my time at the Journalism School. In the future, [fewer] than ten years from now, perhaps, I envision a course like [this] being mandatory. For now, at the very least, [these] workshops give students that take [them] seriously an edge in the job market and an edge in reporting on sensitive stories that require additional steps to protect sources.”
“I believe the workshop is the most important course that I am taking at Columbia. I know it’s not actually a course, but it should be.”
“I wholeheartedly support the idea of integrating digital security into the core curriculum . . . I believe there is a dedicated, serious, core group of J-schoolers who want this course very, very badly.”
This high level of interest, combined with students’ unprecedented commitment to attending workshops throughout the semester, leads us to conclude that the interest in learning information-security skills is more than a passing one and warrants inclusion in regular journalism school curriculum offerings.