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Module UXS-2038:
Journalism and Risk

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


Threshold - D

  • Knowledge of key areas/principles only
  • Weaknesses in understanding of main areas
  • Limited evidence of background study
  • Answer only poorly focussed on question and with some irrelevant material and poor structure
  • Arguments presented but lack coherence
  • Several factual/computational errors
  • No original interpretation
  • Only major links between topics are described
  • Limited problem solving
  • Many weaknesses in presentation and accuracy


Good - B

  • Strong knowledge
  • Understands most but not all
  • Evidence of background study
  • Focussed answer with good structure
  • Arguments presented coherently
  • Mostly free of factual and computational errors
  • Some limited original interpretation
  • Well known links between topics are described
  • Problems addressed by existing methods/approaches
  • Good presentation with accurate communication


Excellent - A

  • Comprehensive knowledge
  • Detailed understanding
  • Extensive background study
  • Highly focussed answer and well structured
  • Logically presented and defended arguments
  • No factual/computational errors
  • Original interpretation
  • New links between topics are developed
  • New approach to a problem
  • Excellent presentation with very accurate communication

You will be assessed on:  Depth of critical thought (Make sure you directly engage with the essay title in a critical fashion).  Level of conceptual analysis of relevant issues (You should be moving beyond the descriptive towards the analytical).  Clarity of argument (You should aim for a strong and clear argument, rather than an assortment of loosely related paragraphs).  Diversity of sources (NB You MUST read beyond the lecture notes! Your sources should consist of a range of academic sources, drawn from this Module Guide).  Presentation of ideas and information (including referencing and bibliography, spelling and grammar).

Learning outcomes

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

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

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

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

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 x 11 weeks


Seminar, 1 hour per week x 11 weeks


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
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • 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: