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10 cp from 100-level units in History or Media

Unit rationale, description and aim

News media, as we know it in the 21st century, is the product of centuries of developments in journalistic practices, popular media consumption, and enormous transformations in technology. This unit begins by exploring the age of the printing press and moves on to the nature of the press in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, considering how people in this period related to the press and how newspapers reflected and influenced social debates. It then considers how the media of more recent years has engaged with topical issues and asks students to consider how effectively contemporary media have historicised complex topics. It asks: How 'new' are the social issues featured in contemporary media debates? How have developments in technology and journalistic fashion changed the nature of media coverage? How might we understand the relationship between historians and the media today? The aim of this unit is to place social commentary and debate featured in 21st-century media in its historical context and to develop students' ability to critically analyse the nature of media coverage and its change over time.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Discuss theoretical and factual knowledge of changing approaches to news media over time and awareness of historical debates surrounding it (GA5, GA6)

LO2 - Communicate clearly in written and/or oral form, in a style appropriate to a specified audience (GA9)

LO3 - Locate, use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary materials relevant to the history of news media to develop an evidence-based historical narrative or argument (GA3, GA8, GA10) 

LO4 - Apply critical reading skills to your understanding of the history of the relationship between social debate and the media and the methods that historians have used to research it (GA4, GA5) 

LO5 - Interpret and reflect on key historical debates relating to real-world situations/case studies in media commentary and social issues over time (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7) 

Graduate attributes

GA3 - Apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - Solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - Work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - Locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - Utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively


Topics will include:  

  • The age of the press
  • Print media in the 19th and/or 20th century 
  • Impact of technological change on the media 
  • Changing patterns of media consumption 
  • What is ‘new’ in the news – tracing social debate over time
  • Who owns the news?
  •  News, propaganda and censorship
  • The challenges of ‘truth’ in news media
  • Listening in and talking back: radio
  • History on the screen: film, TV and Internet 
  • Historicising contemporary media debate 


These will be examined through a selection of case studies relevant to current social debates relating to broad themes such as: 

  • Imagined Communities
  • Freedom of speech and accountability
  • Independence of public broadcasters
  • Moral panic or scandal
  • Ethical practice in the media
  • Transparency and agendas in politics
  • Social and socio-economic disadvantage 
  • Gender equality 
  • Women as social agents
  • Indigenous rights 
  • Disability rights
  • Immigration and refugees 
  • Children and young people
  • Employment and unemployment 
  • LGBTI recognition and rights 
  • Bullying and harassment 
  • Age and aging 
  • Religious practice and freedom 
  • Global citizenship 
  • Other current topics in the contemporary press/media. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. 

To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as lectures and tutorials or workshops, supported by film/video screenings webinars, podcasts or online materials, when appropriate. The balance of the hours then becomes private study to prepare for class activities and complete set readings and assignments for this unit. 

This unit is delivered as a face to face class in order to immerse students in active learning through activities which facilitate the development of skills fundamental to the discipline of history and deep understanding of course content. This includes in-class activities which develop hands-on history research skills, particularly relating to working with a range of media sources, which students will apply in their assessments. In the opening part of the semester these activities will focus on acquiring skills in locating historical and contemporary media sources related to a specific topic. The active learning tasks will then proceed to develop students’ analytical skills and encourage them to develop specific skills in using historical debates to inform their critical interpretation of media sources. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

Students in this unit will be encouraged to: develop skills in locating, reading and analysing sources; consider different approaches to the past and the dynamics of historical and historiographical debate, and employ active research techniques into their own research and analysis. This unit introduces students to strategies that will help them to: (a) understand and interpret the historical origins of social debate as they appear in the media both now and across time; (b) take a thematic approach to the study of the past.  

The Active Research task enables students to use ‘Hands on’ historical methods to find and use primary and secondary sources and develop digital search techniques for online archives and/or digital newspaper databases and to share findings with the class as directed by the lecturer.

The ‘Writing for the Press/Writing about Media History’ assignment requires students to understand and interpret the historical origins of social debate as they appear in the media both now and across time or to explore an aspect of media and history.

The Debating the Media assignment requires students to synthesise information on a contested question related to (or reported in) specific social issue history and media, to develop their own position, to demonstrate an awareness of opposing views, and to produce an evidence-based argument to defend their own conclusions. The lecturer may designate this as an in-class debate, forum, simulation, digital recording, essay or take-home exam.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Active Research Task 

The purpose of this task is for students to research skills which enable them to locate media resources from a specified period of time related to a specific topic, and to identify key aspects of the social debates covered by these sources. 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA3, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Writing for the Press 

The purpose of this task is for students to demonstrate their ability to write for a specified audience and to engage with either the historical aspects of a contemporary social debate or an aspect of the media in history. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10

Debating the Media 

The purpose of this task is for students to research a contested question related to history and media to develop their own position, to demonstrate an awareness of opposing views, and to produce an evidence-based argument to defend their own conclusions.


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10


The purpose of this hurdle task is to provide students with a low-risk opportunity to demonstrate their ability to present and defend their ideas on a set topic in oral form. This may be connected to either the Active Research Task or the Debating the Media task.


LO2, LO4, LO5

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA9

Representative texts and references

Anderson, Benedict R. O'G., and American Council of Learned Societies. Imagined Communities Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Rev. ed. ACLS Humanities E-Book. London; New York: Verso, 2006.

Briggs, Asa, and Peter. Burke. A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet. Third ed. 2009. 

Chapman, Jane. Gender, Citizenship and Newspapers: Historical and Transnational Perspectives. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2013. 

Cullen, Jim. A Short History of the Modern Media. London: Wiley-Blackwell. 2014. 

DearmanPhilip, Cathy Greenfield, Peter Williams. Media and the Government of Populations: Communication, Technology, Power. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2018. 

Dyson, Laurel Evelyn., Stephen. Grant, and Max. Hendriks. Indigenous People and Mobile Technologies. Routledge: London and New York, 2015. 

Ellis, John, and Nick Hall. Hands on Media History: A New Methodology in the Humanities and Social Sciences. London; New York: Routledge, 2020.

Fox, Karen. Māori and Aboriginal Women in the Public Eye: Representing Difference, 1950-2000. ANU E Press, 2011. 

Gardner, Victoria. The Business of News in England, 1760–1820. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2016. 

Potter, Simon Wireless Internationalism and Distant Listening: Britain, Propaganda, and the Invention of Global Radio, 1920-1939. First ed. Oxford Scholarship Online. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2020.

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