MU Director Boosts LAU Marcom Team Skills

A two-day strategic communications workshop helped staffers at the Lebanese American University (LAU) beef up their writing and editing skills by thinking like journalists.

Good writing tips from Magda Abu-Fadil

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil put members of the Marketing and Communications (Marcom) team through the paces of researching, reporting, editing, visualizing and engaging through social media in August 2018 to boost the LAU brand across multiple platforms.

She created a newsroom environment simulating fieldwork that requires on-the-scene reporting, shooting pictures and videos, and interacting with newsmakers in their academic world.

LAU’s Marcom editorial team sharpen writing-editing skills

The intense sessions focused on what skills journalists need to operate in a digital-first environment where search engine and social media optimization can determine what news attracts the requisite attention.

The workshop examined the very essence of news and its sources, the key to writing strong leads, fine-tuning quotations, and using contextual details to bolster elements of a story.

Abu-Fadil dedicated a session to media ethics, the need to be mindful of proper sourcing, and how to avoid the dissemination of mis- or disinformation.

The power of headlines

Each session included exercises and quizzes to test participants’ grasp of the topics.

The Marcom staffers also learned how to hone their headline writing skills by using action verbs, word association, quotes from stories, substituting words with punctuation marks, ensuring the story title leads readers into the main text, and optimizing it for search engines and social media.

Abu-Fadil gave trainees a general knowledge quiz, cautioned them about oxymorons, and refreshed their memories on the importance of correct grammar and punctuation, with case studies of common errors as well as good writing examples.

Covering academic news like a professional journalist

Given Marcom’s mandate, participants also worked on the public relations aspect of communication by improving their writing of news releases and how best to pitch stories to various media.

The MU director helped the trainees better craft their coverage of speeches, meetings, and news conferences. She also provided tips on how to write solid feature stories.

The importance of accurate visuals in storytelling

LAU’s campuses in Beirut and Byblos provide an ample supply of events and people to highlight.

An important part of the training included mock TV interviews with staffers acting as reporter and interviewee while Abu-Fadil shot sequences that were later evaluated for strengths and weaknesses.

Trainees go through the paces of on-camera interviews

Equally vital is the use of visual elements like photos, videos, infographics, and illustrations. Trainees sharpened their caption-writing abilities and learned how to turn photo captions into mini-stories.

 

MU Director to MCD: Newsrooms Have Ethical Duties

Legacy newsrooms face immense challenges in dealing with media ethics in the digital age, notably with competition from social networks and platforms, but have a responsibility to maintain their credibility and professionalism, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya (MCD).

“To determine the accuracy of information in digital pictures, for example, there are applications (apps) one can use to trace their origin,” she said. “Is the picture an original? Was it stolen from somewhere? Was it tampered with?”

Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya

In Part 2 of an interview on MCD, Abu-Fadil discussed the dilemma editors face in determining what photos, videos and text to disseminate when the content is sensitive, offensive and tragic.

She pointed to a number of apps and tools used in verifying content to find out if it’s plagiarized.

What’s key is to deliver information that’s accurate, balanced, that doesn’t deviate from humanity and that’s ethical, Abu-Fadil insisted, noting that critical thinking is very important but that many journalists don’t always use it in their work.

Abu-Fadil advised journalists and news organizations to be completely transparent when mistakes are made and to admit and correct them immediately if they’re to maintain their credibility.

She discussed the impact of “fake news,” “post-truth,” and “alternative facts” during a segment of the program “Digital” in February 2018 hosted by Nayla Salibi.

Part 1 of the interview can be heard here.

Media Ethics in Digital Age Imperative: Abu-Fadil

Media Ethics require critical thinking, notably when social media are used to spread harmful content, Magda Abu-Fadil told Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya.

“Ethics are in a state of disarray because although digital media are good, attractive and fast as they disseminate information, visuals and sound with speed, critical thinking to choose the words, pictures, sound bites and videos isn’t as readily available as in the past,” the Media Unlimited director explained.

Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya

There’s fierce competition between legacy media and citizen journalists in addition to all other social media output, so whoever publishes material is breathless (in his/her attempt to be out there), which is very dangerous, she added.

“The result is that what’s being published, quite often, is not just unethical and disturbing, but downright criminal,” Abu-Fadil said.

She discussed the impact of “fake news,” “post-truth,” and “alternative facts” in the age of competing social platforms during a segment of the program “Digital” in January 2018 hosted by Nayla Salibi.

The full interview can be heard and downloaded here.

“Journalism in the Internet Age”: MU Director to NDU Students

“We need journalists to tell the story and tell it well,” Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told media graduate students at Lebanon’s Notre Dame University during a Skype discussion on journalism and its transformation.

Abu-Fadil Skypes with NDU students

The virtual seminar “Journalism in the Internet Age: Trends, Tools and Technologies” November 15, 2017 began with a presentation reviewing Abu-Fadil’s evolution from an analog to a digital journalist in a career spanning over four decades.

“Whether you’re using analog or digital tools, what matters is the content,” she told students of Rouba El Helou-Sensenig’s JOU 640 class.

 

MU director explains her start as an analog, manual journalist

The discussion also focused on adapting journalism skills to incorporate technological changes like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR).

 

Demonstrating the use of a smartphone for mobile journalism

Abu-Fadil explained how newsrooms must reinvent themselves just to keep up.

She said what she could do with a large bag of equipment – cameras, lenses, filters, batteries, rolls of film, recorders, notebooks and more – she can now accomplish with a small smartphone, some pocket-size accessories, and apps.

Abu-Fadil Provides Palestinian Diplomats With Media Skills

Ten young Palestinian diplomats sharpened their media skills in Turin, Italy, as part of a program to prepare them for the rigors of public diplomacy and exposure to the world.

The group of eager men and women attended a weeklong workshop conducted in July 2016 by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil and media expert Abdelhamid Siyam at the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) training center there.

Abdelhamid Siyam and Magda Abu-Fadil on fine points of public diplomacy

Abdelhamid Siyam and Magda Abu-Fadil on fine points of public diplomacy

Abu-Fadil’s input began with concentrated sessions on how to think and act like a journalist.

That meant understanding the rapid and major changes media and journalists have to undergo as well as the added pressures Palestinians face on their home turf, where (among other things) mobility is regularly hampered by the Israeli occupation, and abroad, where they have to compete for attention with other pressing world issues.

The diplomats were also briefed on how newsrooms and journalists have to contend with a multimedia digital ecosystem as users of countless apps and social media often outpace traditional news outlets.

Palestinian diplomats hone media skills in Turin

Palestinian diplomats hone media skills in Turin

Abu-Fadil helped them define news, news values, the impact of information they disseminate, controversy, notoriety, sources, and how to write for different media, not just their superiors and other government officials.

A major part of one session was dedicated to media ethics and the trainees were told about verification and credibility of sources, notably in conflict zones, how to minimize the risk of misinforming audiences and how to mitigate the impact of hate speech.

Siyam offers pointers on TV interviews

Siyam offers pointers on TV interviews

Abu-Fadil and Siyam walked the diplomats through interview skills and how diplomats can improve their performance on the air, in print, and in online media.

That meant the proper planning and execution of the before, during, and after parts of interviews, and the subsequent assessment of one’s performance for improved future delivery of a message or project.

Simulations and mock interviews were part of the practical work in the workshop. Siyam was the interviewer and Abu-Fadil was the camerawoman/producer.

Other sessions involved writing skills, special focus on media in the Arab world, dealing with reputation issues, and social media for diplomacy.

Journalists Need Digital Skills and Traditional Grounding: Abu-Fadil

Today’s journalists are expected to have multimedia digital skills but must also abide by the principles of accuracy, fairness, balance, humanity and ethics, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told French magazine Défense.

“Today’s journalists are required to do more because of the available technology, because of budget cutbacks, and because of the 24/7 news cycle,” she said, adding that in the old days jobs were clearly defined – there was the reporter and there was the photographer or video cameraman/woman.

Interview with Abu-Fadil in Défense magazine.

Interview with Abu-Fadil in Défense magazine. 

There’s a crisis of confidence in both traditional and other media due to a lack of professionalism by many journalists as well as the political and economic pressures they face, Abu-Fadil noted in the March/April 2016 issue of the publication.

Citizen journalists – ordinary people with mobile devices like smartphones – are often the first on the scene of a disaster or event and transmit their content like photos, videos, texts – immediately through social media before traditional journalists can cover what is happening.

So it’s imperative for journalists to be able to interact with their audiences through social media and to produce high quality content using mobile devices to get the message out in a timely fashion across different platforms, she said.

The complete interview is available here [PDF].

MU Director Lectures/Trains on Social Media, Ethical Implications

How credible are social media, are they reliable sources of information, and should journalists use them for their coverage?

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil raised these three and other pertinent questions in an address to mass communications students and faculty members at Qatar University in October.

Magda Abu-Fadil lectures on social media and ethics at Qatar University

Magda Abu-Fadil lectures on social media and ethics at Qatar University

Abu-Fadil touched on how legacy media are increasingly using tips and reports disseminated through social media in conflict zones and in light of widespread terrorism but that verification remained a major challenge.

QU's Mass Communications Director Dr. Mahmoud Galandar with Abu-Fadil

QU’s Mass Communications Director Dr. Mahmoud Galandar with Abu-Fadil

She used case studies from coverage of demonstrations in Lebanon and how the media interpreted the civil society and rioters’ presence in the streets during a lecture entitled “Rise of Social Media on the Media Landscape: Impact on Media Ethics.” 

Skills digital journalist needs

Skills digital journalist needs

Abu-Fadil also tracked the evolution of social media and their incorporation into integrated multimedia news operations serving consumers across various platforms using mostly mobile digital devices.

She stressed the need for critical thinking to deconstruct social media messages and posts and understand what positive and negative impact they have on recipients.

Abu-Fadil with Qatar University students

Abu-Fadil with Qatar University students

On a second day, Abu-Fadil conducted a workshop for QU students on the use of social media and online journalism, notably the ubiquity of mobile journalists (mojos).

Social media and online journalism workshop at QU

Social media and online journalism workshop at QU

The workshop included a general knowledge test for the students as well as tips on how to verify online data, and case studies of unethical media behavior online.