Two very dense days ago, the 80-some-odd members of the J-school’s class who are concentrating on either Broadcasting or New Media sat down for the first time together. Last night the orientation period ended with an excellent presentation by Martin Smith , a regular contributor to Frontline and founder of RAIN Media, which makes long-form television documentaries on important topics like wars and famines and climate change. Needless to say, Mr. Smith was mobbed with questions after the presentation was through. (Over the last two days I’ve heard lots and lots of folks describe their interest in long-form documentaries, and the inevitable response from professors has been, “well, sure, but there’s very few venues for producing them.")

Orientation involved a lot of sitting in the same room and having both prosaic information and Columbia’s journalistic philosophy tossed at us in nearly equal measures. A lot of it, honestly, was redundant to the information we’d gotten over the summer at the Open House for prospective students, but since some people hadn’t come to that session, repeating the info made sense.

Here’s a photo of the Broadcast/New Media contingent. I haven’t heard if this will extend to the class as a whole, but this portion of it has a much higher percentage of women than men in it. Lots of international students, lots of people just out of their undergrad schools … it’s a neat bunch.

I’ve had some excellent conversations with folks already; several people are already clearly becoming friends.

Today, though, in an hour and a half, my first actual class meets: RW1, the very core of Columbia’s program. Reporting and Writing 1 will have us working as beat reporters in (initially) unfamiliar neighborhoods all over New York. To hear students from past years describe it, RW1 is the first serious crucible in which one gets melted down and turned into a Journalist. The professor for my section (there are three) sent us a homework assignment Sunday, before any of us had set foot in the school yet. We’re hitting the ground running, indeed.