Module Catalogue 2020/21

MCH2220 : Conflict and Crisis Reporting

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Florian Zollmann
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment

This module could be linked as an optional module to the Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Journalism, Media and Culture UCAS Code: P500, the Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Media, Communication and Cultural Studies UCAS Code: PQL0 and the Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Film and Media UCAS Code: P303.


Conflicts and crises are significant features of contemporary democratic societies. How journalists and the media report on such events is crucial for public understanding and democratic decision making. Moreover, journalistic reporting has an impact on how conflicts and crises are managed by society. In fact, journalistic reporting may contribute towards conflict resolution. Building on the theoretical and practical understandings developed in stage 1, this module aims to develop students’ understanding of the societal role of journalism during times of conflict and crisis. Students will assess how ethical norms of professional journalism, such as ‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’, are realized when journalists report on contemporary wars, terrorist attacks or refugee crises. Furthermore, students will consider conflict and crisis reporting in the context of the political and economic organisation of the media industry and with reference to up-to-date scholarship. Additionally, students will, from a journalistic perspective, interrogate the contexts and histories of a range of contemporary conflicts and crises.

More specifically, the module enables students:

-       To analyse the relationship between journalism theory and journalistic practice in the light of conflict and crisis reporting.
-       To obtain in-depth knowledge and understanding of the theories and practices of journalism in the context of national and international media reporting of conflicts and crises.
-       To build their understanding of ethical norms relevant to the media industry in order to be able to practice journalism and media work as ethical and reflexive professionals.
-       To critically assess journalistic accounts of conflicts and crises in relation to theories and concepts that are relevant in media, communication and cultural studies.

Outline Of Syllabus

The topics covered in this module may include:

-       The role of journalism and media in democracy.
-       Normative arrays ascribed to journalism and the media.
-       Reporting conflicts, accidents and crises.
-       Propaganda and bias in the news media.
-       The sociology of news production.
-       The political economy of the media.
-       Professionalism and ethics.
-       News management, lobbying and organised political communication (OPC).
-       News icons.
-       Understanding concepts such as high-intensity conflict, low-intensity conflict, war, humanitarian intervention, ethnic conflict, terrorism, international law and crisis.
-       The histories and contexts of conflicts such as the Vietnam War, the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the Yugoslav Wars, the Iraq War, the Arab Uprisings, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Syrian Civil War, the Yemeni Civil War, the Ukraine Conflict, the Korean Conflict, 9/11 and the War on Terror or the War against ISIS.
-       The histories and contexts of crises such as the Windscale Fire, the Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster, the MH17 Ukraine Plane Crash, the NSA scandal, the phone hacking scandal, the Ebola Crisis, the refugee crisis, the California Wildfires, the UK and Ireland Floods or climate change.

Not all of these topics will necessarily be taught and covered every year. The study programme may adapt to contemporary changes in journalism and politics as well as world events.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of the module, the students will be able to:

1.       Critically assess major debates and concepts in media, communication and cultural studies about how journalists should and actually do report on conflicts and crises.
2.       Analyse how journalistic reporting of conflicts and crises relates to professional codes of practice and ethics that are relevant in the transnational media industry.
3.       Identify how journalistic representations of conflicts and crises relate to public understanding and political decision making.
4.       Appraise how the political and economic contexts of media production affect journalistic practice and media representation during conflict and crisis reporting.

1. and 4. build on the knowledge gained in stage 1 modules such as MCH1023 Introduction to Media Studies and MCH1026 Introduction to Social and Cultural Studies and prepare students for the skills and knowledge needed to undertake stage 3 module MCH3077 Politics, Power and Communication. 2. complements the knowledge gained in stage 2 module MCH2059 Media Law and Ethics. 3. Complements the knowledge gained in stage 2 module MCH2075 Representations: Identity, Culture and Society. 1., 2., 3., and 4. complement, from a theoretical perspective, some of the knowledge gained in stage 2 module MCH2060 Multimedia Journalism I and stage 3 module MCH3079 Multimedia Journalism II as well as MCH3074 Themes and Issue in Media, Communication and Cultural Studies and prepare students for some of the skills and knowledge needed to undertake stage 3 module MCH3073 Media Dissertation.

Intended Skill Outcomes

At the end of the module, the students will be able to:

1.       Identify and assess relevant secondary sources from a range of journalistic and academic outlets.
2.       Compare and contrast a range of information sources in relation to their ideological and epistemological content and its validity.
3.       Produce organised and coherent ideas in written and verbal formats and to academic standard.
4.       Explain professional journalistic norms and conventions.

1., 2., and 3. prepare students for some of the skills and knowledge needed to undertake stage 3 module MCH3073 Media Dissertation. 4. complements the knowledge gained in stage 2 module MCH2059 Media Law and Ethics. 3. and 4. complements knowledge gained in stage 1 module MCH1030 Introduction to Journalism Practice and stage 2 module MCH2068 Journalism Practice

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion250:00100:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading144:0044:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00Seminar
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity120:0020:00Students prepare group presentation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery22:004:00Students receive individual, formative feedback on assignment work.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module interrogates the role of journalism and the media in democratic societies during times of conflict and crisis. The lectures introduce and situate the key academic literature on conflict and crisis reporting in media, communication and cultural studies. On the basis of a range of case studies and in the light of scholarship, important issues, concepts and reporting pattern will be elaborated. The weekly small group seminars allow for further in-depths study of relevant literature, concepts and issues. Moreover, ethical problems in relation to conflict and crisis reporting will be analysed during small-group works, simulations and discussions. During the seminars, students will also engage in the preparation of and participation in group presentations. These activities will allow for further reflection and study as well as refinement of verbal presentation skills. Two drop-in surgeries will be offered for students to individually present course work to the tutor and obtain formative feedback. This will allow students to further reflect on and refine their work. Guided independent study time will be used to engage in reading and study activities as well as to prepare and write the summative assignments.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Examination152M20Group presentation scheduled by tutor
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio2A201,000 words outlining students individual contribution to presentation, reflection on progress
Essay2A60Academic essay. Topics to be set by tutor (2,500 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Examination2MDrafts of the group presentation and portfolio work will be discussed with tutor in designated drop-in surgeries
Essay2MEssay drafts will be discussed with tutor in designated drop-in surgeries.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessments comprise (1) an oral examination (group presentations), (2) an individual portfolio and (3) and essay. (1) In small groups, students will present a case study discussing journalistic reporting of a chosen conflict or crisis. This presentation will be marked as a group. The presentation assesses oral communication and presentation skills as well as interpersonal and collaboration skills. Moreover, the presentation assesses students’ ability to apply theoretical concepts on actual cases. (2) The presentation will be accompanied by an individual portfolio. The portfolio includes the material researched for the presentation as well as a log explaining the students’ individual contribution to the presentation and reflecting on their study progress. This portfolio assesses students’ faculties in terms of self-awareness and reflection as well as their research skills. (3) An essay assessments will ask students to evaluate a designated conflict or crisis in form of a case study. Students will apply theory and scholarship to evaluate journalistic representations of the case. The essay assesses students’ ability to critically engage with theoretical and source material as well as their research, writing and referencing skills.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.