COM1030 : Introduction to Journalism Practice

  • Module Leader(s): Mr Murray Dick
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module allows students:

To develop an understanding of the conventions and practices of writing for the mass media.

To develop a practical knowledge of the key elements of clear, concise writing, reporting and editing.

To consider and assess the ethics of writing, the aims and objectives of writing for the mass media, and the role of the audience.

To practise, self-assess and edit their own writing.

To comment critically on the writing of others.

To assess the role and significance of writing in contemporary mass media.

To put together a portfolio of evidence which can be used in relation to employment, career or postgraduate education aims.

This module will introduce you to key writing, reading and editing skills commonly practised in many media industries. The module will help you identify, outline, and develop the key elements of clear, concise writing style, reporting and editing. In addition, the module will encourage students to think about the ethics of writing, about the purposes of writing, and about audiences who read or listen to their material. An awareness and sensitivity to various audiences’ needs and interests is important, but where these conflict with the industries there should also be an awareness of the ethical issues.

You will be introduced to genres, conventions and standards in news practices in various media and encouraged to evaluate these practices critically. You will also practice reporting and writing in the styles used in print, broadcast, online and social media, and will discuss ways to combine visual and graphic elements with the written word to present information effectively. Finally, you will learn strategies for gathering information efficiently including the development of skills in interviewing, note-taking, and observation.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module is aimed at students who are new to the field of writing for the media and communications industries, and will encourage students to write and report for a range of audiences in the print and online media.

Students will be asked to critically consider, discuss and analyse writing and reading in relation to
genre, convention, audience, grammar and form, and ethics.

The topics covered in this module may include:

• What is Journalism? And how does it differ from other forms of writing?
• What is news? What are ‘news values’ and how do they affect newsgathering?
• Confidence-building exercise
• Pitching and commissioning (for print – how to pitch a simple print news story)
• Introduction to interviewing (‘vox pops’)
• Introduction to news-writing (for print)
• Introduction to news-writing (for online)
• Introduction to news-writing (for TV broadcast)
• Introduction to news design (for print)
• Introductory journalism ethics

Not all of these topics will necessarily be taught every year; and indeed the syllabus may shift in emphasis according to media climate and culture at the time of teaching."

The module will be structured around story assignments, which will change each year. Here are some examples:

1. Local reports: Writing for audiences and knowing constituencies. Students will select a community, or locality, or subculture, or other constituency within the first two weeks of the start of the module, and will provide TWO reports over the course of the semester. Both reports will be written for a local publication of their choice, with one written for print (700 words) and one for the web (300 words). Candidates must ensure each report is written and formatted to the conventions of their intended medium, with a good idea of the requirements of their audience.

2. Review: Students will identify an online publication which carries reviews, and write a 500-word review of a cultural object of their choice – e.g. a play, concert, book or restaurant – considering the style, formatting and audience expectations of their chosen publication, along with the tools and techniques of good review writing.

3. Portfolio and essay: students will submit a portfolio of work, produced either in the module or independently, which will comprise at least three different articles – e.g. a news report for print, a news report for the web, a review or a feature. They will then write a critical analysis of the choices they made when producing these articles – referring to the tools, techniques and issues discussed in class, and citing authors from inside and outside the recommended reading list – in a 1,200 word essay. Only the essay will be marked, and although the portfolio will be used only for reference an essay submitted without a portfolio will fail.

4. In-session, non-assessed work:
(a) Students will have regular exercises and assignments on readings, grammar, stylistics and style on class days.

(b) They will be given reports and will make critical observations in relation to criteria associated with ethics, audience, and genre.

(c) Students will be encouraged to write a weekly post for a class blog, which will be accessible only to students and teachers on COM1030. Types of post will range from critical analysis of news reports and commentary on issues relating to the media, to different styles of writing for the media (e.g. news, review and feature writing). Feedback will be given by student colleagues and teachers on the module.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical121:0012:00Workshop alongside lecture
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading124:0024:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00Seminar
Guided Independent StudySkills practice140:0040:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity120:0020:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The range of material covered in the module will provide students with the opportunity to establish a base from which to develop as professional writers in a range of media settings. Students have the opportunity to be taught by professionals in the field and to identity their own skills and enhance them in the context of either advanced professional study, employability, or career. Classes will mix formal instruction with informal advice. Writing practice will be to the fore both inside and outside the taught sessions.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M302 news reports for different media (700 and 300 words)
Written exercise2M30Review for online magazine (500 words) plus 'tweet' summarising the event
Portfolio2A40Portfolio and essay of practice and methodology (1200 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment methods relate closely to key elements in the module’s outline of work (above). The assessments are designed in order to allow students to sense the importance of deadlines, accuracy, detail, drafting, etc. Knowledge for this module relates closely to practice and product as well as audience and genre. It is useful for students to have the opportunity to comment on drafts as well as on existing pieces of work or work by established writers/publications. The news reports will allow students to practice skills in reporting news objectively for print and online media; the review allows students to practice reporting in a subjective context for a web-based publication and the portfolio and essay will ask students to explore different writing styles and purposes - whether for external publications, seminar and workshop work, or a regular blog which they will be encouraged to write throughout the semester - and evaluate their methodologies in a reflective essay (1200 words).

Reading Lists


Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.