Will Lebanese Newspapers Become Extinct?

The ax is falling fast on Lebanese journalists as word of newspapers going fully online or facing shutdown spread this week amid a sea of political, financial and social turmoil in the country.

Lebanon Files’ Rabih Haber and Al Liwa’s Salah Salam

Lebanon Files’ Rabih Haber and Al Liwa’s Salah Salam

Besides sharp drops in advertising revenue, competition from newer local print and online media (not to mention social media and citizen journalists), rising production costs, measly subscriptions, and readers who would rather get their news in snippets on the move, Lebanese media have also been heavily dependent on political patronage and outside funding over the decades.

VDL talk show host Khaldoun Zeineddine

VDL talk show host Khaldoun Zeineddine

All dailies have online versions but the big question is whether the paper editions would survive.

Newsrooms have failed to keep up with the times. There’s no real integration of key elements of digital multimedia newsgathering, editing, distribution and interactivity or engagement with consumers.

Magda Abu-Fadil on Voix du Liban talk show

Magda Abu-Fadil on Voix du Liban talk show

Editors and publishers exist in bubbles of denial or believe that imitating certain foreign media’s tactics of a race for clicks and unrealistic analytics will help achieve their goals of monetizing online content.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil discussed Lebanese print media’s slippery slope in “Al Safha Al Akheera” (The Last Page), a radio talk show on Voix du Liban, in March 2016.

Rabih Haber, Salah Salam, Abu-Fadil, Ahmad Zein El Dine, Khaldoun Zeineddine

Rabih Haber, Salah Salam, Abu-Fadil, Ahmad Zein El Dine, Khaldoun Zeineddine

Other guests were Ahmad Zeineddine, a media professor at the state-run Lebanese University, as well as Salah Salam, editor of the daily Al Liwa’ (The Banner) and Rabih Haber, publisher of the online news site Lebanon Files

Abu-Fadil: Social Media a Double-Edged Sword in Syrian Conflict

How is the Syrian war playing out on social media? Are reports by citizen journalists and activists credible?

Is it “the most socially mediated civil conflict in history” and can we agree with a study’s conclusion that “social media have revolutionized the way that the world has understood the Syrian conflict?”

Screen shot of Syria's "Twitter Jihad"

Screen shot of Syria’s “Twitter Jihad”

According to Magda Abu-Fadil, social media are a double-edged sword.

“[Social media] help provide vital information that traditional media have been unable to obtain, but they also have misused it to disseminate disinformation,” says Abu-Fadil, a veteran journalist in the region. “One has to take it on a case-by–case basis.”

Read more from Media Unlimited’s director on media ethics, propaganda, information verification, photos and videos in “Syria’s ‘Twitter Jihad’: Social media is hardly immune from the fog of war,’ an article in Global Journalist. A [PDF] version is available here.

Major Change in Syria War Coverage

A tectonic shift has occurred for media coverage in Syria with information gathering and dissemination evolving from assigning correspondents to the conflict to relying on citizen journalists and content from social media.

“We’re being bombarded with messages from every direction at breakneck speed, the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil said.

Syria's civil war plays out on social media: AP

Syria’s civil war plays out on social media: AP

She told The Associated Press that as the conflict became more dangerous, legacy news organizations have had to turn to non-traditional means to fill their pages, air time and websites.

This has meant publishing and broadcasting text, photos and videos from ordinary citizens, activists, warriors and anybody with a mobile device, Internet connection or functioning telephone line.

 

 

On Becoming A Foreign Correspondent

Hard work, preparation, a solid contact database, a nose for news, courage and ethics go into shaping foreign correspondents whose tools of the trade may have changed in a multimedia world, but whose mission to inform remains the same.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil provided 28 journalists and activists with tips on how to function as foreign correspondents and debunked myths about glamour and fame promoted in countless Hollywood movies.

Abu-Fadil on attribution and ground rules in different countries

Abu-Fadil on attribution and ground rules in different countries

The training in Morocco was part of the “Building a Digital Gateway to Better Lives” boot camp organized by the Washington-based International Center for Journalists.

It focused on cross-border and regional issues and involved investigative journalism team projects centered on child marriage, child labor, prostitution, human trafficking, prescription drugs on the black market, organized begging, cyber crimes, and illegal immigration.

Abu-Fadil presented examples of noted Arab and Western foreign correspondents, the beats they cover, working conditions, the costs and budgets required to maintain foreign bureaus and staffs, the transition to digital journalism, competition from citizen journalists, and the need to verify all data disseminated through social media and online sources.

Participants at Rabat boot camp

Participants at Rabat boot camp

She also stressed the importance of being multilingual, of being well versed in the history, geography, politics and social environment of the countries the correspondents cover, of the need to understand the economics and statistics of these countries, and how best to cover news conferences and interviews with foreign officials.

Abu-Fadil shows difference between Anglo and French numerals

Abu-Fadil shows difference between Anglo and French numerals

Abu-Fadil touched on first aid, security and safety measures reporters on foreign assignment should learn, which veteran Egyptian journalist Abeer Saady later tackled in depth.

Abeer Saady's safety tips on taxis

Abeer Saady’s safety tips on taxis

Also on hand was Moroccan IT expert Rachid Jankari to discuss mobile phones and cloud computing for use by journalists.

Rachid Jankari on mobile phones and cloud computing

Rachid Jankari on mobile phones and cloud computing

Senior strategist at National Public Radio, self-described real-time informational DJ and occasional journalist Andy Carvin also guided participants in the uses of social media to cover regional issues.

Rabat boot camp trainers and participants

Rabat boot camp trainers and participants

The September boot camp in the Moroccan capital Rabat grouped participants from Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan and Algeria.