Sixteen staffers from various Lebanese parliamentary departments, parties, and blocs sharpened their communications skills at a workshop conducted by the Journalism Training Program (JTP) and sponsored by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD).
“We’d like other workshops on different topics because this training was dynamic and more productive than previous ones we’ve attended,” said Youssef El Hajj, the secretary of a parliamentary committee.
Participants were immersed in the details of building bridges with the media, dealing with deadlines, public affairs priorities, writing news releases, setting up a digital newsroom, and exploring the role of spokespeople and media crisis management.
“In a brief period we learned a lot of new theoretical and practical things, and we corrected some misconceptions we had,” said Rita Nassour, an assistant to Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan.
Other trainees from the Kataeb Party and Progressive Socialist Party took turns learning interviewing techniques and the art of organizing a news conference at the five-day mini-course held at Parliament’s library in April 2010.
They were joined by staffers from Parliament’s IT department, the library, and different administrative offices.
JTP director Magda Abu-Fadil joined forces with trainers Rouba Kabbara, an Agence France-Presse veteran, and Saad Hattar, a BBC correspondent dispatched by the Thomson-Reuters Foundation, which is partnering with WFD for the workshops in Lebanon.
The trainers also briefed the staffers on media ethics, planted news stories, conflicts of interest, and their stakeholders’ visual identities.
The trainees staged mock news conferences, and Hattar demonstrated the pitfalls of journalists’ tough questions and ambush interviews. ”It was particularly beneficial to me as I am now more insistent on transparency and accuracy in the dissemination of news,” said Houtaf Dham, a reporter for Al Bina’ newspaper and a member of the Syrian Socialist Party, adding that she hoped the workshop would be held again for other staffers.