Corruption is talked about more than ever before, and barely a day goes by when it’s not a big media story.

Politicians and countries accuse each other of corruption, scandals of many different types are described as corruption, and the label itself remains unusually powerful.

On the one hand, the phenomenon of fake news allows those who are corrupt, or at least unscrupulous, to develop a narrative about corrupt opponents. On the other, the exceptional work of investigative journalists in an age of big data and transparency exposes ever more corruption in more places.

This module looks at how narratives and metaphors about corruption are formed, examining how a complex phenomenon with unclear boundaries is used in public discourse.

Module Lead: Rebecca Dobson Philips

What you’ll learn
In this module, you will learn about the ways in which the word corruption is used in public, popular and political discourse.

We will look at the role of the media, old and new, both in uncovering corruption and in creating and spreading narratives of corruption – whether they are merited or not.

We will examine the scandalisation of corruption, in which high-profile events shape perceptions, as well as the role of propaganda and kompromat.

We will analyse the pros and cons of the media in the field of corruption and in tackling it, applying different techniques and methods to understand the role played by the media. This will look beneath the surface, for example, to help students understand how social media works to amplify messaging and mobilise popular anger and support – and how this can be subverted or abused.

The module explores many contemporary themes such as transparency, fake news, social media and the weaponisation of corruption.

By the end of the module, you’ll be able to:

  • explain the role played by the media and social media in investigating and uncovering corruption, and in creating and sustaining narratives about corruption
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role played by the media and social media in perpetuating corruption through fake news and similar
  • apply knowledge about media ethics to reflect on how corruption is investigated by and represented in the media
  • critically analyse the impact of corruption scandals on society.

Types of assessment may include:

  • a written report (20%) – you’ll write a short report that critically analyses the media portrayal of a recent corruption scandal
  • a poster (20%) – you’ll create a poster that provides a visual reflection of a case of corruption selected by you
  • a written report (60%) – you’ll write a detailed report that reflects your opinion regarding the media practices that were used to expose a specific case of corruption selected by you.