Short course

Understanding Journalism Ethics

Online course details



Next course date

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3 Units, 4 hours study per unit

CPD hours

12 CPD hours


Self-guided online learning



Online course description

This open online course has been designed to introduce you to some of the important debates on journalism, its standards and its roles in society today. It is intended as an educational resource that covers a range of key topics within journalism, including its evolution and history, the philosophies and principles underpinning journalism and some of the key controversies that have added to journalism’s colourful history and legacy.

The course is intended for those who would like to know more about the role that journalism plays in society and how this developed over the years. As a learner on the course, you will interrogate some of the important foundational principles and practices of journalism as well as reflect on some challenging debates surrounding the work of journalists and those who work in the news.

The course stems from, and responds to recent research which signals the need for greater awareness of journalism’s ethical and normative parameters and a necessity of enhanced media literacy more generally. Though you will not learn how to become a journalist by doing this course alone, you will learn more about how and why journalists undertake the work that they do and gain useful critical media literacy skills in the process.

The course also draws insight from a range of perspectives of stakeholders within and around the industry, including the Ethical Journalism Network, the National Union of Journalists, the press regulators IPSO and IMPRESS, advocacy groups such as Migrant Voice, Trans Media Watch and reform organisations such as the Media Reform Coalition and of course you will get insight from journalists and journalism scholars themselves.

Who is this course for?

The course is suitable for anyone who is interested in finding more about:

lots of paparazzi pointing their cameras to something out of shot
old fashioned typewriter
lady smiling to camera on a tripod

Structure, certificates and assessment

Throughout the learning process you will be awarded a Digital Open Badge for completing each unit. These are internationally recognised by many employers and educational institutions and will allow you to display your study achievements, even if you only wish to complete a specific unit.

Upon finishing the course, you will be issued an E-Certificate featuring all earned badges and stating that you have completed the full course, so that you can add it to your CV or education portfolio.

If you're interested in exploring what else University of Derby Online Learning has to offer, browse our online courses.

An accredited provider of the CPD Standards Office

We are proud to be an accredited provider of the CPD Standards Office for our online short courses and free courses, demonstrating that they conform to CPD best practice and are appropriate for inclusion in a formal CPD record.

Accredited CPD Centre Logo - The CPD Standards Office, CPD Provider 60069, 2024-2025

Course units

The course is made up of 3 units, each will require approximately 4 hours of study.

This unit introduces you to some of the basic principles and concepts of journalism, as well as some of its history and development. Here, you will learn something about why journalism developed in the way that it did and the ideas that have underpinned it throughout its development.

This unit examines where journalism might have failed to adhere to its core principles and objectives and highlights some of the key controversies within journalism that have occasionally cast a shadow over its performance. You will have an opportunity to examine the debate about press standards and look at some of the key controversies that has fed this debate. In addition, you will learn about press regulation and the importance of accuracy, as well as some of the threats that journalism and journalists face in the course of their work.

This unit examines how we might improve journalism and address some of the challenges and obstacles that have, at times, hindered journalism’s obligation to fully serve the public. The unit draws on recent research into journalism ethics but also points to possible solutions to some of the current problems of journalism and public trust.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

Course requirements

How to enrol

All of our free courses are delivered through an easy-to-use online learning platform, which you can enrol from directly.

What you will need

The course is free and widely available for anyone to take part in regardless of age, location or education status. You will need to agree to the terms and conditions before you start the course which will be available when you enrol.

However, there are some basic requirements. You will need access to the internet whether it is on your PC, tablet, mobile or other electronic devices, as well as a valid email address to register with our online learning environment in order to take part in the course.

Once registered, please be aware that all study for this course is online and so you will need to be able to engage with this via a personal device, preferably a computer or laptop, for the stated duration of the course.

The learning platform is compatible with screen reader technology to assist those with visual impairments.

Who will teach you

John Steel

Professor John Steel
Programme leader

John is Research Professor in Journalism and his role is to support research activities across the School and wider university. He has interests in a variety of research areas including journalism ethics and regulation, political communication, media history and journalism education.

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If you want to find out more about studying a short course, please contact us and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

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