module specification

SJ4035 - Practical Journalism (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Practical Journalism
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 300
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
219 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 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Wednesday Morning

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 on a class blog. 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.
The module will be assessed by two portfolios and a timed class exercise.

The first portfolio consisting of a) news stories of 250 words and follow-up ideas, up to 1,000 words in total;

The second portfolio of  a) two non-diary sourced news features, with multi-media elements – could include voicer and piece to camera, or written text with images.
b) one-minute audio and video vox pops, recorded and edited
c) a log book of story construction, including contact details.

The timed class exercise will comprise a) a news story of between 250-300 words; b) a short story (nib) of between 30-50 words; c) a tweet to link to the story. 

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. This to include links to Youtube, soundcloud etc, with multimedia elements.

Module aims

The module’s aims are:

  • An understanding of the basic professional techniques and processes involved in news gathering and writing;
  • Practical competence in the skills needed to develop stories from a variety of sources using a range of research and information gathering techniques;
  • Opportunity to work in teams producing news stories tailored to different outlets;
  • Development of social skills involved in working in teams;
  • Introduction of skills needed to write to different lengths and different genres, to time;
  • Development of clear, unambiguous writing skills;
  • Creation of original journalism for different platforms and across multimedia platforms;
  • Grasp of concepts of news and news values in an industry context, with regard to ethics and the law.


Students examine 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, downpage 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. They create and maintain a blogging profile with multi media content.
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 familiarise themselves with the use of a style book. They edit each other's work and learn how to give constructive criticism.

Learning and teaching

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 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.
A weekly podcast will require each student to respond through social media.
In enhancement 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.
The module will be supported by a VLE site containing notes, readings and extended bibliographies, and weblinks.
Opportunities for pdp will be supported.




In class teaching and activities: 81 hours, 3 hours a week for 27 weeks Podcast with social media input: 1 hour a week



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:

  • Display the basic techniques and processes of news gathering and writing, in portfolios;
  • Write basic news stories to length and to audience;
  • Display effective interviewing and reporting techniques, in written and media pieces for portfolios;
  • Work in teams to find and develop stories, with regard to ethical constraints;
  • Originate and write stories to length and to time, from different sources, diary and off-diary;
  • Produce content for different platforms, including vox pops for audio and video;
  • Analyse and interpret information from a variety of sources and communicate the results to a variety of target media, audiences and cultures.

Assessment strategy

• Formative assessment will comprise short weekly written exercises both creative and critical, use of multimedia and presentations to seminars and workshops.
• Summative and formative assessment will comprise: one portfolio of a) short news stories of 250 words with follow-up ideas; Total 1,000 words. Logs of contacts as well. One of these stories to be multi-media
• PLUS a timed class exercise of a) a news story of between 250- 300 words;  b) a short story (nib) of between 30-50 words; c) tweet to link to story
• Summative assessment will comprise: one portfolio of: a) vox pops, both audio and video, to be recorded and edited to add to story impact; b) short online feature with links OR piece to camera and voicer; c) contacts list
• and moderation by tutors of journal measuring contribution in class, to include blogging and online profile.

These assessments form a graduated means to test the progression of all the learning outcomes. All work is assessed individually.


Brooke, H., 2007. Your Right to Know: a Citizen's Guide to the Freedom of Information Act. London: Pluto.
Bull, A., 2010. Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide. Abingdon: Routledge.
Evans, H., 2000. Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers. London: Pimlico.
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.
McKane, A., 2006. News Writing. London: Sage.
Randall, D., 2011. The Universal Journalist, 4th ed. London: Pluto.
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