SOAS University of London

Centre for Global Media and Communications

Theoretical Approaches to International Journalisms

Module Code:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year

News is ‘the sense-making practice of modernity’ and, as such, ‘the most important textual system in the world, Prof  Hartley has argued. In understanding news determinants therefore must lie clues in how we perceive ourselves. This degree attempts to understand journalism through a multidisciplinary approach that borrows from media studies, anthgropology, sociology and cultural studies but not necessarily limited to these. Starting with the question of who produces news and for whom, the course delves into the politics of news production. It examines the political economy of news, paying special attention to the Global South and its emerging newsroom practices.

The spread of the Internet, social media and the advent of comparatively cheap communications technology holds out the promise of enabling a more diverse range of actors to shape journalism. The forms and practices involved in such journalism could also enable greater inclusivity, supporting a range of progressive aims such as advocacy, peace, development and greater intercultural understanding. At the same time, widespread cost-cutting in mainstream journalism and the speeded-up journalistic practices used to service multiple delivery platforms threaten media pluralism. Skill requirements change, the politics of news change.

This degree,  drawing upon the unique positioning of SOAS in higher education, aims to thus arm students with a rounded sense of  the various journalisms and their varied pracitices, their different histories and political trajectories, their scope, both present and future. This contrasts strongly with other Journalism MAs taught in the UK, which are usually constrained by the norms and priorities of British professional accreditation bodies.


  • This Module is capped at 25 places
  • Students enrol via the online Module Sign-Up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Faculty Office

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • A theoretical understanding of the various approaches to studying News and Journalism in particular and the media in general
  •  An understanding of different histories of Journalism in the Global South
  •  An understanding of the relationship between political economy and journalism
  •  A critical understanding of the relationship between journalistic discourse and power
  •  A solid grasp of newsroom practices and news theories
  •  A regional or country based specialisation depending on the candidate’s choice
  •  Assess changes in social, political and economic life brought about by digital transformations in the countries of the Global South while critically questioning the technological determinism and techno-optimism that pervades the literature
  •  Training in methodologies appropriate to deal with different kinds of quantitative and qualitative materials and problems.
  •  Ability to define and undertake independent primary research and present the materials in a coherent dissertation
  •  Analyse case studies of specific journalistic practices within national and regional context
  •  Effective analytic and critical written skills
  •  Effective oral presentations using appropriate software
  •  Ability to handle small-group dynamics
  •  Teamwork in building a collective news blog
  •  Develop a range of online competencies

Scope and syllabus

Term 1 (Theory)

1. Introduction: Overview, establishing working practices and objectivity

Some basic conceptual vocabularies for thinking about news and news-making practices. What constitutes “news”? How is it produced? What kind of claim is “objectivity”?

2: News Organizations: A Political Economy of News Production

A variety of organizations have been and are involved in the business of news, including news agencies, transnational news channels and media conglomerates. What are the economics of global news production and the key issues of ownership, control and effect?
3. Historical debates: NWICO Media Imperialism and Democracy

The debate about imbalance in international news dominated UNESCO and the Non-Aligned Movement through the 1970s. Here we focus on the core arguments of the debate, its ramifications, and ask whether anything has changed? What constitutes “foreign” news and what do the maps of global news look like?

4. Professionalism and new Southern News Actors

Over the past decade a number of significant news media organizations have developed in the global south.  In what sense do these mimic “western” models and practices and in what sense are they doing something novel and different? Is the transfer of media professionalism simply another example of “cultural imperialism”?

5. Issues of Representation

One of the most controversial issues is about Western media representations of the “other”, particularly the Middle East and Islam.  In the current period, this is tied up with news framings of violence and “war” on terror, on drugs, on Iran and North Korea, on Syria

6. Beyond Factual Media:  

Factual media are used to play an increasingly important role in public diplomacy. What are the other forms
of Journalism?

7. Images and Photojournalism

News media texts are structured not only through language but through the image. How does the news image work and how can we read it critically?

8. Alternative news sources:

What makes a news source ‘alternative’: is it its agency, a different news agenda, the construction of its texts? We will examine the chequered fate of old and new ‘alternative’ news sources

9.  Changing Technologies and News: The Impact of the Net  

A considerable amount of mainstream news media material is available on the web as well as many alternative news sources. How do we evaluate the impact of the net on news production and consumption?  If anyone can blog, is everyone a journalist?

10. Audiences, publics and distant others: the moral debates

The audience remains at the heart of media production while the public remains at the heart of democratic theory.  Are they compatible or conflicting constructs and which does news content address? What kinds of invitations does international news provide its readers and viewers? How do we and might we engage with distant others?  

Mid Term

Term 2 (Practice)

Week1: 24 hour in a television/newspaper/online newsroom

Understanding the newsroom, its hierarchies, its practices and the mechanics of news production.

Week 2: Political/Sports Journalism and the Nation

The rise of political and sports journalism and its lanks with nation building

Week 3: Finanical Journalism and technology

The development of finacial journalism and its close links to technology

Week 4: Cultural/Entertainment Reporting and Cultural Hegemony

From Hollywood to Bollywood, how entertainment reporting constituted a cultural hegemony

Week 5: War and Peace Journalism

Nationalism versus Internationalism in reporting war and Peace reporting

Reading Week

(Focus on Regions)

Week 6: Growth of the media in South Asia

India, Bangladesh and Pakistan

Week 7: China: From state control to Net Control

Week 8: Africa: From being represented to Represnting the Self

Week 9: The Middle East: Reporting after 9/11

Week 10: Journalism Today and its Future

Method of assessment

Coursework: Book or article review of 500-800 words worth 10% of mark, essay of 2,500 words worth 30% of mark, reporting assessment of 600-800 words worth 15% of mark, essay of 2,500 words worth 45% of final mark


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules