module specification

SJ4034 - Journalism: History and Ideas (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Journalism: History and Ideas
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 300
90 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
210 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   Reflective writing on task submitted week 4 - 500 words
Coursework 20%   1500 word essay on history and relevance to present day industry
Coursework 20%   1500 word essay on ethical issue in journalism, with reference to current issues
Coursework 25%   2000 word portfolio of writing samples
Coursework 15%   Contribution to class assessed by journals and moderated by tutor
Running in 2024/25

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

 This module introduces students to the history of journalism, honourable and dishonourable, to the roles it has played and continues to play in society, and to the main theories used to understand how it works.  Focusing on the UK, it will also highlight ethical concerns and take account of wider, global issues and contexts. This content will be used to develop transferable skills of critical thinking and analysis, crucial to employability.

Political accounts, investigations which have transformed lives, human interest stories, arts reviews, in-depth profiles, cartoons, speculative columns, hot gossip, sports, fashion, celebrity… and now, for something completely different! What does it all mean and why do we produce and consume it? By the end of the module, students won’t necessarily have any answers, but they should be able to ask much better questions and have developed critical and analytical skills.

Working together, individually and in small groups, students explore major events and stories, past and present. They develop skills of presentation and analysis, learning when to use academic writing and when the more vivid narrative of journalism can play an equally effective role.  In addition, they will explore critically and practically, the techniques used in writing and broadcasting of the past so that they can better develop their own professional capacities in the future.

Discussion, presentations, research, screenings and visits will all play a part in the development of critical thinking skills, which will be workshop-based.
The module will be assessed by three essays and contributions to an online journal, which is moderated by tutors at the end of the year.

Prior learning requirements



This entire syllabus is aimed at the development of critical, analytical thinking and expression. LO1

Students begin by identifying how journalism differs from academic writing, and the purposes of both. The course goes on to describe the scope of media today, identifying audiences for media organisations, and discussing how journalism is used by: politicians, consumers, advertisers, proprietors, social media users. LO1-2

Students identify how British journalism began, tracing the main stages in its evolution, from pamphlets to the BBC and multi-nationals and then discussing the main values of journalism (truth, balance, perspective), setting these within the contexts of society and, importantly, ethics. LO1-3

They will also survey ethical, legal and political constraints, worldwide. LO3

They explore the work of, among others, Marx and Engels, Bourdieu, Durkheim and the sociologists, Stanley Cohen and theorists of narrative. They learn to what extent these theories can be useful in understanding how and why journalism works within the ethical dilemmas today.LO2-5

They explore and dissect, through analysis and practice, some great journalism of the past and present; they then learn to use its techniques in their own practice, in action research. LO4-5

Through screenings, visits and guest speakers, students gain personal experiences which will deepen their understandings of the journalistic field and its agents. Regular discussions which discuss issues raised by guest speakers will develop collaboration and critical thinking. LO3-5

Through collaborations and exercises in class, they will develop social skills needed in the quickfire world of journalism. LO5

Finally, through writing on these theories, histories and key texts, they will sharpen their writing and presentation skills through reflective processes and feedback from staff and other students. LO4-5

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

 Learning and teaching strategy will be based on an interactive model.

For most of the 30 teaching weeks, a three-hourly session will require students to listen to exposition, write and to speak, to work with each other and individually. They will also need to take notes, present independent research and ideas and contest information presented by staff and each other.

Regular guest speakers will present issues to be discussed weekly and commented on in journals. These discussions will form part of the class contribution assessment.

In enhancement and news weeks, field trips, guest speakers and screenings will complement one-to-one tutorial and coaching sessions.

Feedback will be given one-to-one in class and electronically. Electronic resources, including the university’s weblearn tools, will be used by students and staff.

The aim is to develop transferable social as well as academic skills, with a view to employability.

The module will be supported by a VLE site containing notes, readings and extended bibliographies, and weblinks.

Learning outcomes

 If students read all the required texts, participate in all the class activities and complete the required assessments and assignments, they will develop transferable skills.

They should be able to:
1. Through written work and presentations, demonstrate a familiarity with the history and contexts of journalism, including ethical issues

2. Use the theories discussed in class to explain current affairs and developments in journalism;

3. Employ the ideas and works of others to substantiate and illuminate their own ideas, through oral and written presentation;

4. Write academic essays, following the norms of presentation, structure and referencing and using analytical argument;

5. Challenge the ideas of others, with reasoned, evidenced argument.


 The most important reading will be regular reading of printed media and informed watching of/listening to broadcast/internet.

No textbooks. Key/core readings in Bold

Addision, A (2017). Mail Men. London: Atlantic
Benson, Rodney & Erik Neveu (2005) Bourdieu And The Journalistic Field. Cambridge: Polity
Bourdieu, Pierre (1999) On Television. London: New Press [CORE]
Brooker, Charlie (2007) Dawn of the Dumb. London: Faber
Bower, Tom (2016). Broken Vows. London: Faber and Faber
Cohen, Stanley (2002) Folk Devils and Moral Panics. London: Routledge [CORE]
Curran, James and Seaton, Jean (2003) Power without responsibility. London: Routledge
Davies, Nick (2009)  Flat Earth News. London: Vintage
Davies  Nick (2014). Hack Attack. London: Chatto and Windus [CORE]
Durkheim, Emile (2008) The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (abridged). Oxford. [CORE]
Franklin, Bob (2004) Packaging Politics: Political Communication In Britain’s Media Democracy (Second Edition). London: Hodder Arnold
Frost, Chris (2011) Journalism: Ethics and regulation. London: Longman. [CORE]
Herr, Michael (2002) Dispatches. London: Picador
Hyde, Marina (2010). Celebrity: How entertainers took over the world and why we need an exit strategy. London: Vintage
Ianucci, Armando. (2009) The Audacity of Hype. London: Little, Brown
Jukes, Peter (2015). Beyond Contempt. London: Canbury
Kobre, Kenneth (2004) Photojournalism. Oxford: Focal Press
Lloyd, John (2004)  What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics. London: Constable.
Loffelholz, Martin & David H. Weaver (2007) Global Journalism Research. Oxford: Blackwell
McNair, Brian (2003) News And Journalism In The UK. London: Routledge
Marr, Andrew (2005) My Trade. London : Macmillan [CORE]
Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich (2002). The Communist Manifesto. London: Penguin. [CORE]
Morris, Chris (1997). Brass Eye. DVD
Morrison David E. & Howard Tumber (1988) Journalists At War. London: Sage
Pilger, John (2005) Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism And Its Triumphs. London: Vintage
Richardson, John E. (2006) Analysing Newspapers. London: Palgrave
Ronson, Jon (2015). So you’ve been publicly shamed. London: Riverhead
Watson, Tom and Hickman, Martin (2012) Dial M for Murdoch. London: Allen Lane
Waugh, Evelyn (2003) Scoop. London: Penguin

Websites/social media:
Guardian: databases and interactive graphics
Media Standards Trust
TV Series: The Thick of It, Hillsborough
Films: In the Loop, The Front Page, Missing, The China Syndrome, The Insider, Page One