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Programme & Unit Catalogues

SP30302: Crime and the Media

[Page last updated: 04 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: ES 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • 100% Essay (ES 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: The unit aims to introduce students to:
1) Processes of crime news production and the ways in which these are affected by social, cultural, and political economic factors
2) The core features of crime news and theoretical explanations for these (e.g. moral panic theory, feminist approaches, political economy approaches)
3) Theoretical explanations for the emergence and impact of 'real-life' crime broadcasting
4) Empirical work concerning the impact of factual and fictional depictions of crime
5) Sociological interpretations of fictional accounts of crime and criminal justice
6) Criminal justice agencies' uses of the media as part of the 'transparency' policy agenda

Learning Outcomes: By the end of the unit students should be able to:
1) Assess the role of news sources and news values in producing crime news
2) Evaluate crime news in historical context and as a sociocultural product
3) Analyse and theorise the representation of offenders, victims, and criminal justice agencies in the mass media
4) Engage with a range of theoretical and conceptual explanations for media renderings of crime and criminal justice
5) Describe and explain the emergence of 'real-life' crime broadcasting
6) Critically assess criminal justice agencies' use of the media and the 'transparent justice' policy agenda
7) Evaluate fictional representations of crime and criminal justice by locating them historically, culturally, and socially

Skills: The unit aims to foster the following skills:
1) Reading and understanding original theoretical work
2) Analytical skills
3) Reflective learning skills
4) Group-work skills
Intellectual skills:
1) Creative and analytical thinking
2) Development of an argument
3) Evaluation of others' arguments
4) The gathering of information, data, research and literature from a number of different sources (i.e. library, web-based, archives etc.).
5) The selection of appropriate and relevant information from a wide source and large body of knowledge
6) The synthesis of information from a number of sources in order to gain a coherent understanding
Transferable/Key skills:
1) Essay research, preparation and writing skills
2) Time-management and administrative skills
3) To reflect upon his/her own academic and professional performance and take responsibility for personal and professional learning and development
4) To prioritise workloads, and utilise long- and short-term planning skills

Content: The unit provides a critical sociological approach to crime and the media. The unit covers three areas of study:
* Crime news
* Fictional and semi-fictional depictions of crime and criminal justice
* Criminal justice agencies' uses of different media
We examine, amongst other things, historical trends in crime news reporting, processes of news selection, and political economic approaches to crime news. We also study the emergence of 'real-life' crime and criminal justice broadcasting - such as as-live courtroom broadcasts and reality crime television - and consider the processes of mediation at work in producing such images and theoretical explanations for the rise of these formats.

Provisional unit structure:
-Crime News-
1) How does crime make the news?
2) 'Terrorism' in the news
3) Sexual violence in the news
4) Moral panics and cautionary tales
-Crime Fictions-
5) Crime as story
6) Detective fiction: the problem of social order
7) Prison films and penal populism
8) 'Real life' crime television: surveillance and authority
-Criminal justice on demand-
9) The transparency agenda: a critical introduction
10) Opening up the courtroom: as-live courtroom broadcasting
11) Following the police: social media and the front-line of law enforcement
There will be a two hour lecture each week and a one hour seminar in weeks 4, 8, and 11 (focussing on each of the three main areas of study). The unit will be assessed by a 3,000 word essay, due right at the end of the semester.

Programme availability:

SP30302 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • UHSP-AFB22 : BSc(Hons) Criminology (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AFB21 : BSc(Hons) International Development with Economics (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB21 : BSc(Hons) International Development with Economics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 4)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
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