Module Catalogue 2019/20

MCH1036 : Journalism: Pasts, present and future

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Murray Dick
  • 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 allows students:
1. To critically evaluate what 'journalism' is and what journalists do.
2. To engage with various competing (and overlapping) histories of journalism, in order to better understand the place and function of journalism in societies past and present.
3. To interrogate the historic rise of professional journalism; to understand what came before it, what factors shaped it, and why it takes the various forms it does today.
4. To critically evaluate the fundamentals of journalism: what makes a journalists and what constitutes 'journalism'? For example, what is the 'fourth estate'; where does the idea come from, does it exist, and if so, why (if it all) does it matter?
5. To consider where journalism as profession and practice is heading in the network age.
6. To consider where the study of journalism sits within the wider field of media studies.

This module will introduce you to key theoretical considerations in the study of journalism; its pasts, present and future; from the 18th century pamphleteers, to today’s beat-bloggers.

It will help you to identify and to critically evaluate various competing (and overlapping) histories of journalism towards a clearer understanding of the 'hows' and 'whys' of journalism's emergence; and the significant moments in its narrative arc.

This module will encourage students to reflect upon, and to challenge those elements of journalism that define its centrality to our lives today, for example:

• What is 'freedom of the press'; where does it come from, how is it conceived, does it truly exist, and does this even matter?

Taking a critical historical perspective, this module will consider how journalism's contemporary crises are best understood and learned from in journalisms of the past. Students will be encouraged to find their own answers to the question of what future journalism has in an age of atomised online news consumption.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module is aimed at students who are new to the field of journalism studies; and who wish to develop a more critically engaged understanding of journalism; where it comes from, and what purpose journalists serve (and journalism serves) in wider society.
Students will critically engage with the elements of journalism and its core values, for example:
• What is journalism, and why and how did it emerge as we recognise it today?
• What is 'freedom of the press', where does the idea come from, and why does it matter?
• What is 'impartiality', and does it matter to the practice of journalism? Is it being supplanted by 'transparency' in the network age?
• Is the press truly a 'fourth estate', or is it merely a cypher for elite corporate and political interests?

The module will be structured around a range of key themes in the 'narrative arc' of journalism studies. Key readings from the field will be introduced in order to tease out competing (and overlapping) discourses on journalism's pasts, present and future, allowing students to make comparative assessments of their respective merits.

Historic themes that will be used as a means of engaging competing journalism studies discourses include:

• The pre-history of journalism as a literary (and oral) form
• The rise of the revolutionary pamphleteers
• The early modern press, and the rise and fall of the radical press
• The ‘ new journalism’
• The emergence of wholesale ( globalised) news
• Public sector broadcasting
• Convergence: journalism in the network age
• Journalism's futures: Blogging, Wikileaks and the so-called 'fifth estate'

Small group seminars will enable students to critically appraise the significance of key events in these histories according to different readings of history, from different theoretical perspectives. As such this module may be considered both an introduction to the substance of journalism history, as well as an introduction to the study of journalism history, and the application of theory in journalism studies.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

This module will allow students to gain an introductory knowledge of:

1. Key concepts and theories that have arisen in order to explain the emergence of journalism as we recognise it today
2. The contexts in which these concepts and theories arose
3. The roles of various elements (ie political, economic, social, technological) as they both shape and are shaped by journalism
4. How to identify competing discourses in journalism studies, towards a critical historiography of the field
5. How to appraise the merit of these competing (and at times overlapping) discourses

Intended Skill Outcomes

Students will gain skills in how to:

1. Think critically about the emergence and evolving practice of journalism.
2. Think critically about the contexts in which journalism studies as a discipline has emerged
3. Reflect upon the application and outputs of academic thought; towards informing performance in future theoretical modules on the Journalism, Media and Culture program
4. Communicate clearly
5. Undertake independent study

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion124:0024:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity120:0020:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study170:0070:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Students will engage with a range of learning approaches on this module, allowing them to develop a nuanced analytical approach to primary and secondary sources, towards entrenching methods for the critical evaluation of theory in the field of journalism studies.

Each method selected is intended to enhance the learning experience, and to help students achieve key learning (and skills) outcomes in a structured accumulation.

Critical historical evaluation will be the dominant feature of this course, and generally speaking, skills in critical evaluation will be encouraged both in and outside of class time.

Lectures will be used to set out competing discourses on journalism history, around key themes in the ‘narrative arc’ of the emergence of journalism. The directed nature of the medium will support students’ engagement with the factual content on the module (Aims: 2, 3, 5) (Outcomes: 1, 2, 3).

Small group teaching will allow students to learn discursively, and to negotiate answers (in the context of peer-interaction) to some of the more complicated ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions in journalism studies, accommodating a more collaborative approach to learning (Aims: 1, 4, 5, 6) (Outcomes: 4, 5, 9).

Critical engagement will be nurtured through directed research and reading; the material covered in lectures, and in small group exercise will be covered (Aims: 1-5; Outcomes: 1-7).

Reflective learning activities will be used to entrench (and help students engage with) the learning process on the module, and learning in journalism studies more generally (Outcomes: 8).

Independent study will enhance student’s sense of initiative (Outcomes: 10).

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M30Critical synopsis of two competing/opposing theories (750-1000 words)
Essay2A70Critical essay (3000 words)
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
Written exerciseMAnalytical framework for comparing two theories
Written exerciseMBibliography with brief precise of contribution of each work to argument
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Formative and summative methods are combined on this module in order to more effectively support students (across the duration of the semester in which the module is taught) towards achieving aims and learning (and skills) outcomes.

Formative assessment
1.       The Analytical framework for comparing two theories will allow students to demonstrate their awareness of the conceptual bounds of a select theme in journalism studies (Outcomes: 1, 4)

2.       The Bibliography with brief precise of contribution of each work to argument will help students to ground their theoretical understanding, towards improving academic communication (Outcomes: 9, 10)

Summative assessment
3.       The Critical synopsis of two competing/opposing theories will allow students to demonstrate their critical engagement with (and narrative treatment of) two opposing discourses in journalism studies (Outcomes: 1, 2, 5)

4.       The Critical essay will allow students to explore the material covered during the module, while undertaking their own original research in journalism studies (Outcomes: 1-3, 5-10)

The completion of each formative submission (3. Critical synopsis of two competing/opposing theories; 4. Critical essay) will be informed by prior submission and tutorial discussion of the formative components (1. Analytical framework, submitted two weeks prior to submission of Critical synopsis; 2. Bibliography with brief precise of contribution of each work to argument, submitted two weeks prior to Critical essay).

This approach will provide the module leader with a clearer understanding of students' progress on the module, and help identify suitable interventions (and provision of extra tutorial support) for students where necessary. It will also re-inforce key learning outcomes at each stage of submission, representing a joined-up learning process.

This approach will help mitigate any disparity in students' understanding of the application of critical thinking to theory during the early stages of their university experience, taking into account the range and varying combination of subjects taken by students new to the program.


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.