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Feature Writing

  • Module code: JO6006
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 6
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level 5 modules or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

Whatever the type of magazine - from quality Sunday paper supplements to women's lifestyle monthlies - features dominate content. This module encourages students to look critically at feature writing in all its forms and to analyse exactly what makes a great feature. You will learn how to generate winning ideas, research those ideas thoroughly, and turn that research into eye-catching copy. You will also learn how to pitch ideas to publications, and be encouraged to pitch for real during the course.

Aims

  • To develop skills in researching and writing City, economics, business and consumer finance news and features for the specialist and national press
  • To interpret statistics, balance sheets and accounts and use these to reveal stories about corporate activity, and/or use such skills to track use or misuse of private and public funds
  • To understand important economic statistics and financial terms and trends and use these to put business stories in context
  • To engage with on-going ethical debates about relationships between business and financial journalists and their sources, and the boundaries such journalists need to observe under the Press Complaints Commission and other professional codes of practice.
  • To equip students with the skills and confidence necessary to undertake an extended individual project from scratch

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Write clear, accurate business stories for specialist titles, business-to-business magazines and national newspapers
  • Select the significant information in balance sheets, statistical tables and reports to formulate pertinent and penetrating questions and produce hard-hitting investigative pieces
  • Explain important economic and financial trends and developments clearly, accurately and at appropriate levels for a range of general and specialist readerships
  • Analyse trends within business news and demonstrate an ability to put news into a historical, political and economic context
  • Work within the Press Complaints Commission's code of practice on dealing with contacts and investing in companies/shares in which the journalist has a personal interest
  • Demonstrate an ability to work independently and at length on an extended individual project involving significant primary research and the use of a variety of different processes and/or mediums

Curriculum content

  • Introduction to business, city and financial writing, including the importance of factual accuracy and clear understanding
  • The business publishing market – business-to-business, special interest magazines and websites, national City and business coverage and consumer finance
  • Unravelling and demystifying business jargon for general readerships and making business and finance stories interesting
  • How to write for specialist and non-specialist readerships
  • Cracking the code. Balance sheets, accounts, spreadsheets, where the money is coming from and where it is going, who wins and who loses
  • Statistics. What the figures are really saying. How to interpret tables and reports
  • Sources: On  the record versus off the record – insider trading versus moving the market
  • Cutting through spin – evading the iron grip of the company PR machine
  • Devising an individual project to pull together original investigations, news pieces, features and interviews into a cohesive body of work using a range of platforms for example, starting a niche website, producing a business features supplement or special section suitable for a named real-life newspaper; or generating a body of work demonstrating proficiency and imagination in the use of mediums beside print/writing (e.g. video, audio, web design)

Teaching and learning strategy

The module will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars/workshops. The lecturer will deliver the background information necessary to inform classroom discussion of related issues and students' practical work.  Both lectures and workshops will involve practical work in-class writing practice, interviews and analysis of company results and economic data. 

Background reading will be an essential part of progressing through the module along with appreciation of current business, economic and political news events.

Workshops will be used to facilitate research and writing – both in the form of simulated exercises set by the tutor and self-directed work on real-life articles to be submitted as part of students' assessed portfolios and work-in-progress for their extended individual projects.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching One-hour lecture and one-hour seminar/workshop 22
Guided independent study 278
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The assessment for this module is designed to test the ability of students to distinguish between different types of business journalism, and to put into practice what they have learned in the form of a varied portfolio of business  articles and an extended individual project. It is also intended to test students' awareness of  major stories, issues and debates in the business and finance  worlds. It will also test students' ability to generate a body of work demonstrating proficiency and imagination in the use of mediums beside print/writing (e.g. video, audio, web design).

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
1) Write clear, accurate business stories for specialist titles, business-to-business magazines and national newspapers Formative assessment through in-class writing practice, summative assessment through news writing test and individual extended project
2) Select the significant information in balance sheets, statistical tables and reports to formulate pertinent and penetrating questions and produce hard-hitting investigative pieces Formative assessment through in-class writing practice, summative assessment through news writing test and individual extended project
3) Explain important economic and financial trends and developments clearly, accurately and at appropriate levels for a range of general and specialist readerships Formative assessment through in-class writing practice, summative assessment through news writing test and individual extended project
4) Analyse trends within business news and demonstrate an ability to put news into a historical, political and economic context Formative assessment through in-class writing practice, summative assessment through news writing test and individual extended project
5) Work within the Press Complaints Commission's code of practice on dealing with contacts and investing in companies/shares in which the journalist has a personal interest Formative assessment through in-class writing practice, summative assessment through news writing test and individual extended project
6) Demonstrate an ability to work independently and at length on an extended individual project involving significant primary research and the use of a variety of different processes and/or mediums Formative assessment through work-in-progress for individual extended project and summative assessment of completed project

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
CWK Portfolio 50
CWK Extended individual project 50
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

BIBLIOGRAPHY (INDICATIVE):


Core Text(s):

Brett, Michael (2003) How to Read the Financial Pages Random House Business Books: London

Coggan, Philip (2002) The Money Machine – How the City Works Penguin:London

Lewis, Michael (2011) Boomerang: The Meltdown Tour Allen Lane

Peston, Robert (2008) Who Runs Britain? and who's to blame for the Economic mess we're in. Hodder Paperbacks: London

Tett, Gillian (2009) Fool's Gold Little, Brown: London

 

Bibliography recommended reading

Recommended Reading:

 

Augar Philip (2009) Chasing Alpha Bodley Head: Oxford

Biggs, Barton (2006) Hedgehogging John Wiley: New Jersey

Bruck, Connie (1989) The Predators' Ball – The inside story of Drexel Burnham and the rise of the junk bond raiders Penguin: London

Burroughs, Bryan and Helyar, John (2004) Barbarians At The Gate Random House Business Books: London

Cable, Vince (2009) The Storm: The World Economic Crisis and What it Means Atlantic Books

Lanchester, John (2010) Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay Allen Lane

Lewis, Michael (2011) The Big Short Penguin

Lewis, Michael (2006) Liar's Poker HodderPaperbacks: London

Lowenstein, Roger (2002) When Genius Failed – The rise and fall of Long-Term  Capital Management Fourth Estate: London

McLean, Bethany and Elkind, Peter (2004) The Smartest Guys in the Room – the amazing rise and scandalous fall of Enron Penguin: London

Harford, Tim (2006) The Undercover Economist Little, Brown: London

Shiller, Robert L (2000) Irrational ExuberancePrincetonUniversity Press: New Jersey

Smith, Terry (1996) Accounting for Growth Random House Business Books: London

 


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