module specification

SJ5033A - Media Law and Ethics; Public Administration, part 1 (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Media Law and Ethics; Public Administration, part 1
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 30%   2000 word portfolio: current reporting on public administration
Coursework 45%   1500 word essay on an ethical issue for journalists
Coursework 25%   Engagement with class, assessed by self-assessed grid and moderated by tutor
Running in 2023/24

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Thursday Morning

Module summary

This module covers what student journalists need to know about how Britain works.
Within public adminstration, classes will survey: national systems of government and representation; local government; citizen remedies and freedom of information; foreign policy, the EU and defence; social services and education; health; the judicial system (civil) and human rights; emergency services; the criminal justice system, including police; finance and the stock exchange.
At the heart of this course is the study of ethics.  How journalists ought to behave – and what we can learn from those who do not behave properly – is particularly important to the profession. The public relies on the profession to give information. How should journalists get that information and how convey it?
Field trips to local authority meetings will be key to personal experience and understanding, as will guest speakers.
Discussion, research, screenings and visits will all play a part in developing students’ critical thinking skills and the professional skill of accurate, legally acceptable writing.
The module will be assessed by portfolios and a self-assessed grid moderated by tutors at the end of the year.

Module aims

The main aims of this module are:

  • To provide the opportunity for students to amass and codify key knowledge about British social and political institutions as background for news stories;
  • To develop students’ understanding of historical, political, economic, cultural and social factors that shape the present news agenda;
  • To develop in students the ability to incorporate background context in their news writing in a concise manner that enhances understanding and interest;
  • To investigate the origins and consequences of ethical frameworks;
  • To study the place of ethics in journalism, including: confidentiality, anonymity and protection of sources; truth, deception and integrity; principles of democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of information; human rights; secret/covert filming; investigative journalism; celebrity, private lives and public interest; conflicts of interest.


The course will introduce key aspects of UK public affairs.  Each week, students explore stories which uncover the work of different institutions and research them in and out of class. Each week will centre on action research, where students analyse a topical piece of journalism to discover what knowledge and which sources were used to create an effective piece of writing. 
Public adminstration subjects will include: national systems of government and representation; local government; foreign policy, the EU and defence;  the emergency services; social services and education; health; finance and the stock exchange. 
Written work will show evidence of critical awareness and the need to evaluate evidence with regard to sources. Students will work together to uncover background information for stories and present this as part of their oral contribution.
In enhancement weeks, through screenings, visits and guest speakers, they will gain personal experience which will deepen their understandings.
Finally, through writing on these theories and histories, they will sharpen writing and presentation skills through reflecting on feedback from staff and other students. Such written work will help demonstrate employability for the PDP.

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching strategy will be based on an interactive model.
For most of the 15 teaching weeks, a three-hourly session will require students to listen, 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.
In enhancement weeks, field trips, guest speakers and screenings will complement one-to-one tutorial and coaching sessions. The magistrates’ court visit and visit to local council meetings are a key part of this course.
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.
In developing employability, accuracy and understanding of legal matters are highlighted. However, social skills, of listening, debate and presentation, are also important in the profession of journalism and these will be supported by the teaching and learning strategy.
The module will be supported by a VLE site containing notes, readings and extended bibliographies, and weblinks.
Opportunities for creating PDP will be fully supported.

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, usable in the workplace and as citizens. They should be able to:

  • Write knowledgeably about key British institutions, taking into account their histories and current contexts;
  • Use political, social, economic and cultural factors to add context to stories, without losing a reader’s interest.
  • Develop the ability to research independently in varied fields of journalism;
  • Communicate the basic concepts of ethics and their application to media practice;
  • Analyse and argue about live ethical and professional issues in journalism today.

Assessment strategy

Formative assessment will comprise short weekly written exercises both creative and critical, and feedback on oral contributions to seminars and workshops. Tutorials and blogs will offer formative assessment on drafts for portfolios.
Summative assessment will comprise: a portfolio and an essay.
Moderation of self-assessed contribution in class will be through tutors.


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Bell, Allan. (1991) The language of news media.  Oxford : Basil Blackwell
Belsey, Andrew (1992 ed.).  Ethical issues in journalism and the media. London : Routledge.
Berry, David (2000) Ethics And Media Culture. Oxford: Focal Press
Branston, Gill and Stafford, Roy (2006). The Media Student’s Book. London: Routledge.
Clapham, A. (2007) Human Rights, A very short introduction. Oxford.
Curran, James and Seaton, Jean (2003) Power without responsibility. London: Routledge
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Elkind, P. (2004) The Smartest Guys in the Room.  Penguin
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Frost, Chris (2007). Journalism, Ethics and Regulation. London: Longman
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