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Media Flows and Literacy




Admission Requirements



Media affect how we perceive ourselves and influence our understanding of society, politics, and culture. They shape our life experience and at the same time mirror our standards, ide-as, judgments and prejudices. Throughout this course we will examine how this process of “shaping and mirroring” takes place as we grapple with the relationship between news me-dia and “reality”. By developing critical thinking skills, looking at actual news media products and evaluating media theory, you will enhance your ability to interpret news media critically and so enhance your media literacy.

Koltay (2011) sees media literacy, information literacy and digital literacy as the three most prevailing concepts in a critical approach towards media messages. In this eight week course on Media Flows and Literacy ‘literacy’ is seen as media literacy. The word ‘media’ is under-stood as news media. The ‘media flow’ comprises all modern news media from the internet, television, radio, to magazines and newspapers, in text as well as in images. (Sideways, espe-cially in the view-and-discussion-sessions, we will also touch on topics such as the role of Twitter, Facebook, news forums and news blogs in the production and consumption of news.)

From a social constructionist perspective we study and evaluate the processes that generate news and shape our social environment. The central theme is the way media mirror and shape our world.

General objective of this course is to increase media literacy by understanding the relation between news media and “reality”. And so to enhance our ability to interpret the intent and strategies of media. In other words: the goal of this eight week course is to increase the stu-dent’s ability to “read”, analyze, evaluate and (on a limited scale) research products of news media. In short: students will learn to understand how the media flow is kept flowing by the process of news making.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • analyze media from a social constructionist’s perspective;

  • discuss key concepts such as social construction, framing, social problems, objectivity;

  • apply the basics of qualitative and quantitative media content analysis;

  • critically reflect on every day news media;

  • demonstrate an understanding of the process by which social problems are constructed.

Mode of Instruction

Each week has two classes on one theme. Tuesday classes will give a theoretical underpin-ning of the theme: students prepare short presentations on their readings and discuss the different insights and points of view. Other (non-presenting) students post discussion ques-tions on Blackboard.

Friday classes are more hands-on. In V&D-sessions (viewing and discussing) students elabo-rate on the theory by applying it to examples from present day news media, brought in by students (video fragments, radio fragments, news photographs, articles from news sites, blogs, et cetera). In this way we cover both media theory and media practice, visually and textually.
Both the Tuesday and Friday classes are student-led.(Schedules will be distributed on Black-board once the exact number of participants is known.) The instructor watches over content quality and the overall learning process and coaches the research projects.

Besides these regular classes in weeks 1 to 5, there will be a small scale research project in week 6 (no regular classes that week; students work in small groups on a research project). In week 7 they present their research results. Week 8 is for the final exam.


To be confirmed in course syllabus:

This course has 4 assessments: 3 on team level (2-4 students) and 1 on individual level. They are assessed as follows:

  • Presentation Media Theory (team: 15%)

  • Presentation on Media Practice: Viewing & Discussing (team: 15%)

  • Written test Media Theory (individual: 40%)

  • Small Scale Content Analysis Project (team: 30%)


Compulsory Literature and availability

  • Most of the required reading will be made available via Blackboard, or can be obtained via Internet or the electronic library.

  • Students are required to purchase: Best, Joel (2008). Social Problems. New York London: Norton. ($20,- at Amazon, € 40,- at 90 pag-es is required reading; the rest is additional reading.

  • Other publications are published in PDF on Blackboard and are under 10.000 words, so no permission is needed from PRO. See the week schedule for the exact titles.

Note: in the first five weeks of this course we will peruse approximately ±500 pages of reading. That is 100 pages a week. For the exam you can choose 7 questions out of 10. Reading 70% of the literature will be enough and you can make your own choice. Students are advised to start reading in week one to avoid time management issues.

Recommended Reading

  • If you do not have a lot of time to do extra reading, than at least download (a no cost !) Karin Wahl-Jorgensen & Thomas Hanitzsch (eds.) The Handbook of Journalism Studies, and keep it on your nightstand. If you have some more time, read all you can in Joel Best, Yvonne Jewkes, and Donileen Loseke. The reader on Crime and News from Chris Greer is also worth reading.

  • Go through a few recent volumes of these important journals on Journalism Studies:
    Journalism. Theory, practice and criticism;
    Journalism Studies;
    Journalism Practice;
    Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism;
    Digital Journalism.

Contact Information

Weekly Overview

Each week has a theme that is theoretically developed in the Tuesday classes. In the Friday classes – in so called V&D-sessions (viewing and discussing) – students apply theory to self-selected examples from present day news media.

1 Studying News from a Social Constructionist’s Perspective
2 The rise and fall of objectivity
3 Constructing Social Problems in news media
4 Framing crime
5 Small scale media content analysis: theory and practice
6 Doing your own research & preparing presentation
7 Presentations Research projects
8 Preparation exam & Final exam

Preparation for first session