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MCH2220 : Conflict and Crisis Reporting

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): 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


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 Cold and new Cold Wars, 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, the War against ISIS or the War in Ukraine.
- The histories and contexts of crises such as Covid-19 crisis, the climate change crisis, the Windscale Fire, the Grenfell Tower 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 Opioid crisis, the refugee crisis, the California Wildfires or the UK and Ireland Floods.

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.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture61:006:00On-campus lectures. Can be delivered online if necessary.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00On-campus lectures. Can be delivered online if necessary.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion177:0077:00Summative essay.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion110:0010:00Formative essay plan in preparation of summative essay.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00Mainly reading but also some viewing as well as listening to support lecture and seminar work.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00On-campus seminars. Can be delivered online if necessary.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time51:005:00Online synchronous. Q+As, assessment intro., quizzes, drop-in surgeries, consolidation lectures.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module interrogates the role of journalism and the media in democratic societies during times of conflict and crisis. The lecture materials 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-depth 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. Scheduled online contact time (mainly drop-in surgeries but also webinars and Q&A sessions) will be offered for students to individually present course work to the tutor, obtain formative feedback and clarify questions. This will allow students to further reflect on and refine their work. Guided independent study time will be used to engage in reading, viewing/listening and study activities as well as to prepare and write the formative and summative assignments.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A100Academic essay. Topics to be set by tutor (3,500 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
Essay2M500 words. Essay plans will be discussed with tutor in designated drop-in surgeries.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A summative essay assessment will ask students to evaluate a designated conflict or crisis in form of a case study. Students will apply theory and scholarship to interrogate journalistic or other media 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. This will enable students to engage with relevant theory and case study material and develop an analytical framework for the critical analysis of journalistic or other media representations of pertinent events and issues. A preparatory formative essay assessment enables students to develop a rationale for their summative essay and obtain feedforward.

Reading Lists