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Module UXS-3038:
Journalism & Risk Society

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Vian Bakir

Overall aims and purpose

This module examines risk (issues involving uncertainty, future-orientation, value judgements, and the possibility of loss or gain), with a focus on the communication of important risk issues of our time - such as terrorism. It examines the development of risk communication, with a focus on journalistic forms and genres, critically exploring issues of trust and expertise. Patterns of journalistic risk reporting are examined across a range of risk issues, such as security risks like terrorism and health risks like 'mad cow' disease. A critical understanding will be gained of journalistic reporting of diverse risks, along with social impacts of 'good' and 'bad' risk reporting.

Course content

This course starts by presenting and critiquing the concept of risk, and the development of the field of risk communication. It then examines two key theorists of the 'risk society', namely Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens, to explore sociological theoretical foundations that explain inter-relationships of risk, trust, expertise and mass-mediated communication. Building on this theoretical lens, it then moves to examine journalism, risk and trust, looking at patterns of risk reporting in different aspects of the press. In-depth analysis of specific risk issues and their journalistic communication are examined, ranging from health risks like 'mad cow' disease to security risks like terrorism.

Assessment Criteria


Submitted work is of an outstanding quality and excellent in one or more of the following ways:

  1. Has originality of exposition with the student’s own thinking being readily apparent.
  2. Provides clear evidence of extensive and relevant independent study.
  3. Arguments are laid down with clarity and provide the reader with successive stages of consideration to reach conclusions.


Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows:

  1. Generally accurate but with omissions and errors.
  2. Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning.
  3. Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions.
  4. Draws on a relatively narrow range of material.


Submitted work is competent throughout and may be distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It:

  1. Demonstrates good or very good structure and logically developed arguments.
  2. Draws at least in parts on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.
  3. Assertions are backed by evidence and sound reasoning.
  4. Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand critically the sociological concepts of risk and trust;

  2. Evaluate and assess empirical and theoretical literature on risk communication and journalism;

  3. Understand the communicative problems and opportunities across different journalistic forms and genres presented by a range of contemporary risk issues;

  4. Critically identify and analyse existing risk communication problems apparent in the world today;

  5. Critically identify and understand journalistic risk communication that reflects best practice guidelines.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Leading A Seminar 40
Essay 2000 Words 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 178

Lecture, 1 hour per week


Seminar, 1 hour per week


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: