module specification

SJ4035 - Practical Journalism (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Practical Journalism
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 255
87 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
168 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 25%   Portfolio 1 (news)
In-Course Test 20%   Timed class exercise
Coursework 30%   Portfolio 2 (news features)
Coursework 25%   Engagement with class, assessed by journal, 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 practical and analytical skills (including looking at ethical problems) involved in professional news writing, newsgathering, collaborating in teams to produce stories, evaluating sources and revising writing.

Students will be required to produce news copy in professional formats, which will include online posts using images, video and audio and the use of mobile technology.

They will research and write a series of news articles and publish them to the class. They will learn newsgathering skills: analysis of reports, press releases and user-generated content; deducing news content from press conferences and announcements (diary items); following up human interest via face-to-face and phone interviews, including vox pops and the death knock; organising a team response to a major event; follow-up stories and case studies; analysing facts and figures to use in sidebar boxes; cultivating contacts and FoI.

They will study contemporary news coverage to develop an understanding of how news stories are reported and created.  They will discuss ethical, legal and commercial constraints on journalists and how different genres serve different markets.

Accuracy, subediting, headlines and search engine optimisation will be important, as will developing stories through new media, images, audio, and video. This to include links to Youtube, soundcloud etc, with multimedia elements.

The module will be assessed by two portfolios, using mixed media, and a timed class exercise. These will test students’ developing news sense, news gathering and news writing.

Contribution in class will be measured by a journal recording the student’s activity, weekly updated, moderated by tutors at the end of the teaching period

Prior learning requirements



Students examine and explore the reporter’s job through writing and reporting workshops.

They discuss news values, finding out where to look for and develop stories. They examine the ethical dilemmas which beset story construction. They explore the importance of developing news contacts, going on to develop varied techniques of interviewing face-to-face, by telephone and via email, from vox pops to death knock and extended interview.

Writing for newspapers and broadcast media, they explore how to craft an intro, the use of the 5 Ws and the news pyramid, and offering opportunities for headlines and pull quotes.  They write news leads, stories and nibs. They look at translating these values into online formats, via class blog.

They learn how to record and edit vox pops.
They learn how to select appropriate quotations from sources – press release, official report, new conference and personal contact -- and how to use them. They learn which details to include, the use of acknowledgements and cautions about plagiarism, thus how to be accurate and consistent.

They deconstruct the principles of logical story construction and how to tailor stories for an audience, recognising and evaluating news.

Writing for online platforms, they learn basics of search engine optimisation, good headlines and standfirsts and links.

Covering events, speakers and meetings, they learn how to produce original copy as well as how to rewrite handouts. They analyse government/ministerial briefings; ‘off-the-record’ interviews and news agency copy from the “wire” to develop stories. They discuss and explore the parameters of research, from official and hidden statistics and databases to social media and printed archives.

They edit each other's work and learn how to give constructive criticism

Learning Outcomes LO 1 - 5

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Learning and teaching strategy will be based on an interactive model.
For most of the 24 teaching weeks, a three-hourly session will require students to 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. They will need to create and market news stories.
In enhancement and news weeks, newsdays 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 virtual environment, will be used by students and staff.

Working in small teams will develop social as well as academic skills. These are essential for employability and to integrate international students.

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

Learning and teaching






Learning outcomes

Students who read all the required texts, participate in all the class activities and complete the required assessments and assignments, should be able to:
1. Display the basic techniques and processes of news gathering and writing, in portfolios;
2. Write basic news stories to length, to time and to audience;
3. Display effective interviewing and reporting techniques, in written and media pieces for portfolios;
4. Work in teams to find and develop stories, with regard to ethical constraints;
5. Produce content for different platforms, including vox pops for audio and video;

Core/sources texts in bold

Banks, D and Hanna, M. 2020.  McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists.  Oxford: OUP.
Bradshaw, Paul (2017) The Online Journalism Handbook. London: Longman. [CORE]
Brooke, H., 2007. Your Right to Know: a Citizen's Guide to the Freedom of Information Act. London: Pluto.
Bull, A., 2016. Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide. Abingdon: Routledge.  [CORE]
Evans, H., 2000. Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers. London: Pimlico.
Hernandez, R K  and Rue, J (2015) The Principles of Multimedia Journalism: Packaging Digital News. London: Routledge
Hicks, W. & Holmes, T., 2002. Subediting for Journalists. London: Routledge.
Holmes, T., Hadwin, S. & Mottershead, G., 2013. The 21st Century Journalism Handbook. Harlow: Pearson.
Keeble, R., 2006. The Newspaper Handbook, 4th ed. London: Routledge.
Kelly, S. 2015. The Entrepreneurial Journalist's Toolkit. London: Focal.
Knight, M  and Cook, C (2013). Social Media for Journalists. London: Routledge.
Mayhew, H (2008). London Labour and the London Poor (first pub1840). Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics
McKane, A., 2013. News Writing 2nd ed. London: Sage.
Nielsen, R K (ed) (2015) Local Journalism: The Decline of Newspapers and the Rise of Digital Media. London : I B Tauris.
Randall, D., 2016. The Universal Journalist, 5th ed. London: Pluto. [CORE]
Sissons, H., 2006. Practical Journalism; How to Write News. London: Sage.
Smith, J., 2007. Essential Reporting: The NCTJ Guide for Trainee Journalists. London: Sage.

All newspaper websites (e.g. and
BBC Online
50 blogs for journalists by journalists: