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MCH1036 : Journalism: Pasts, present and future

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr David Bates
  • Co-Module Leader: Dr Florian Zollmann
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


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 journalist 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 may 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.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion170:0070:00Assessment 2 preparation
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00Assessment 1 preparation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00On-campus lectures
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities104:0040:00Weekly readings in preparation for seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00On-campus seminars to facilitate discussion and enhance knowledge/understanding. Can be moved online
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study127:0027:00N/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 module, 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 (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 students' sense of initiative (Outcomes: 10).

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 (1000 words)
Essay2A70Critical essay (2500 words)
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Research proposal2MStudents will be required to produce plan/outline of Critical Synopsis & draft bibliography for verbal feedback from seminar leaders.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Assessment 1
1. 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)
Assessment 2
2. The critical essay will allow students to explore, in further depth, material covered during the module, while undertaking their own original research in journalism studies (Outcomes: 1-3, 5-10)

The formative assessment will help the students prepare for their first assessment (Critical Synopsis) by providing feedback on ideas and ensuring they understand key theoretical approaches covered on the module in advance of the summative assessment.

Reading Lists