Unique degree will tackle ‘fake news’

  • Date

    Wed 26 Apr 23

A film studies lecturer helps a students set up a video camera for a shot

A unique new postgraduate degree is hoping to attract aspiring journalists who want to expose injustices and atrocities in a world dominated by online content.

Essex’s new MA International Journalism is the first course of its kind in the UK to offer a complete module in digital open-source journalism techniques which have become indispensable for journalists. 

As well as offering a grounding in traditional reporting, writing and visual storytelling skills and investigative techniques, the new degree offers students the chance to collect, analyse and document publicly available online information for use in law, advocacy or journalism.

Students will learn how to identify authentic audio-visual data, geolocate photos and videos, and mine social media for useful information, gaining advanced fact-checking methods along the way.

Dr Idrees Ahmad, Director of Journalism, explained why the new degree is so vital: “Social media has radically transformed the practice of journalism. The ubiquity of smartphones and social media have ensured that wherever there is access to the internet or mobile data, most human activities are being captured on someone’s electronic device.

“The bigger challenge these days is sifting through the deluge of data currently being produced. Inevitably, this space is also being filled with noise, often in the form of weaponised disinformation, which is intended to bury the truth. Open-source journalism addresses this by restoring the primacy of facts and verifiability.”

The degree will be taught by a team of experienced journalists from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, as well as guest speakers with experience of reporting from conflict zones. Students will also benefit from expertise within Essex’s world-renowned Human Rights Centre, where staff and students in the Digital Verification Unit work with Amnesty International using open-source techniques to verify human rights violations.

Students will have the opportunity to choose an academic track, aimed at those who want to hone their skills as academic researchers, or a practice track for those who want to demonstrate their skills as a journalist.

The course “is designed to help students develop greater rigour in their reporting and tell more compelling stories. Students will learn to write with clarity and vigour while also being able to engage audiences through superior storytelling across different media, including magazine features, podcasts, photo-essays and documentaries,” added Dr Ahmad.

Read our Q&A with Dr Ahmad to find out more.