Module Catalogue 2019/20

MCH1030 : Introduction to Journalism Practice

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Mrs Katy McDonald
  • Lecturer: 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
Code Title
MCH1025Introduction to Critical Practice
MCH1026Introduction to Social and Cultural Studies
Co Requisite Comment



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.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

This module will allow students to gain introductory and critical knowledge of:

1. The role and significance of the media and communications industries in society.

2. The conventions of writing, editing, and reporting.

3. The ability of the media to inform, persuade and instruct.

4. The changing nature of the media, print, online and social, and their different demands and audiences.      
Case studies, practical exercises, writing exercises and illustrations will link the above knowledge to:

An overview of contemporary print and online media

The power of the media in society and in the construction of 'events'

Genres, such as news, current affairs, sport, celebrity and gossip

Ethics and the law

The module covers the processes of planning, developing and writing copy, including gathering information; interviewing; assessing a story’s news value; the importance of accuracy, clarity and balance.

Students will actively use the key terms and concepts involved in writing a range of copy for a variety of media outlets.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Students will gain skills in

1. Reading, writing, drafting and editing
2. Planning and organising
3. Breadth of view and a sense of balance; representing others’ views fairly and impartially
4. Working to deadlines and in various formats
5. Gathering and processing large amounts of sometimes complex information
6. Logical and analytical thinking
7. Communicating information, ideas and arguments with clarity
8. Working with ICT

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading124:0024:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching23:006:00Copy clinics where students receive individual feedback on formative coursework
Guided Independent StudySkills practice140:0040:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops103:0030:00Focusing on the practical elements of news writing. A mixture of teaching and practical work.
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.

Reading Lists

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)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2MWritten exercise; 6 homework tasks set in weeks 1,2,3,4,5 and 7
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Summative 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 report will allow students to evidence their skills in reporting news (in recognisable news style) objectively for print and online media; the review allows students to experience reporting in a subjective context for a web-based publication and the portfolio (comprising the above editorial work, and any additional homework completed for the formative assessment on the module) and essay of practice and methodology will encourage 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).

Formative assessment rationale and relationship
The formative assessment for this module will comprise six homework exercise, undertaken to schedule during semester. These assignments will be front-loaded; it is intended that this approach will immerse students in the core elements of news-writing from the earliest opportunity, allowing students to develop self-confidence in what may be a new and challenging discipline. Homework assessments will be submitted via email to the tutor to a fixed deadline (those students who fail to meet the deadline for the week will not have their work considered for anonymous review in workshop the following week). Each week following the homework assessment (see schedule below), the tutor will randomly select a number of assignments, and will present them anonymously in workshop as the basis for interactive editorial review.
Though not assessed, these outputs will nevertheless form the basis of two key elements of learning on this module.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2019/20 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 2020/21 entry will be published here in early-April 2019. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.