Credit points


Campus offering

Find out more about study modes.

Unit offerings may be subject to minimum enrolment numbers.

Please select your preferred campus.

  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Online Scheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

Crime, Media and Popular Culture examines important criminological and criminal justice issues through the lens of documentaries, podcasts, movies and other contemporary forms of media. It explores the (often distorted) messages about crime that are perpetuated through the media and explores theories of media and crime, including moral panics, as well as ideas from cultural criminology. Students will engage with true-crime documentaries, movies, tv series and podcasts to consider issues including wrongful convictions, eyewitness misidentifications, and the use of investigative genetic genealogy to identify victims and offenders of crime. Students will also learn about the emerging role of social media as a means of detecting and solving crimes, but also as a means of highlighting failings of the criminal justice system or its key actors.  

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.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome Description
LO1Critically analyse and interpret media portrayals of crime, victims and offenders
LO2Demonstrate understanding of contemporary criminal justice issues and their portrayal through popular forms of media
LO3Demonstrate critical thinking about the role of media as a tool to detect or solve crimes or highlight failures of the criminal justice system
LO4Critically reflect on the use of emerging technologies as a tool to identifying murder victims and offenders


Topics will include:1.    

Introduction: Media depictions of crime and criminal justice

2.     Serial: The popularization of investigative journalism into crime

3.     Making a Murderer: Reigniting public interest in wrongful convictions

4.     Murder on a Sunday Morning: Issues of eyewitness misidentification

5.     Bear Brook: The use of investigative genetic genealogy to solve crimes

6.     West of Memphis: The demonization of teenagers

7.     When They See Us: The demonization of young black and Latino boys

8.     The Teacher’s Pet: Bringing new evidence to light in murder cases

9.     Amanda Knox: The characterization and demonization of ‘femme fatales’

10.  The Innocence Files: Police and expert witness misconduct

11.  Roll Red Roll: ‘Anonymous’ taking on sexual assault offenders online

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit comprises 150 hours of study in total. It will be taught over a 12 week semester and includes one 2-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial each week or ACU Online 10 week asynchronous delivery mode. The balance of the hours committed to this unit comprise private student study and undertaking of assessments.

Our strategy is to encourage students to actively engage with unit content and their peers; to provide a clear link between lecture content and tutorial practicum to develop skills that bridge the gap between theory and practice. Within an integrated learning framework, lectures will provide core content relating to the topics identified above and begin the process of exploration, which will be followed by detailed explanation and further investigation in tutorials. Through direct interaction between students and teachers, students are encouraged to engage in critical analysis of the foundational knowledge they acquire; to test that knowledge by applying it to factual situations; and to reflect on their learning. Each component is intended to build on knowledge and skills and progressively scaffold student learning. 

 The online learning platforms used in this unit provide multiple preparatory and practice opportunities to guide in-class and out-of-class study. Technology assistance in the form of online learning resources, notices, assessment information (including online submission, marking and return of results/feedback), is student focused, affording greater accessibility and flexibility to the learning experience. 

ACU Online

This unit uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of knowledge essential to the discipline. Students are provided with choice and variety in how they learn. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning in situations similar to their future professions. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessment is an integral part of the learning process. This unit is assessed by three assignments, outlined below. Assessment tasks in this unit are aimed at measuring and developing student’s achievement of both the learning outcomes and graduate attributes noted above. The assessment in this unit may include, but are not limited to: a case summary; video presentation; and essays. The pass mark for this unit is 50% overall and as Assessment 3 is the only assessment to test LO3, students are required to pass Assessment 3 in order to pass the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Case Summary: This task requires students to choose a documentary, podcast or other type of media that discusses a contemporary criminal justice case or issue. The student must critically analyse the media portrayal of the case/issue and compare with other media reporting that same case/issue.


LO1, LO2

Video presentation: Students will prepare a video presentation of between 5-10 minutes in length discussing the issue of investigative genetic genealogy to solve crimes and identify murder victims and offenders. Benefits and concerns about the use of this technology must be discussed.


LO2, LO4

Research Essay: This task requires students to demonstrate their ability to research and critically discuss a contemporary criminal justice issue of their choosing. Topics may include issues relating to wrongful conviction, eyewitness misidentification, or expert witness misconduct.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Representative texts and references

Marsh & Melville (2019) Crime, Justice and the Media

Hayes & Luther (2018) #Crime: Social media, crime and the criminal legal system

Jewkes (2015) Media and Crime

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs