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.

MU Director On Media Ethics Using Refugee, Migrant Photos

Choosing and publishing images of refugees, migrants and people in distress is both painful and difficult, notably when they’re graphic and reach various audiences across multiple media platforms in record time.

The image as symbol (courtesy “A Sea of Images”)

Weighty decisions may lead to photos becoming icons and symbols representing all other victims as that of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler lying face down on a Turkish beach in 2015 that went viral in just three hours.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil discussed the ethical implications and how such pictures can also be (mis)used by politicians to score points and advance their own agendas.

Magda Abu-Fadil (left) discusses the ethics of using photos of migrants, refugees (courtesy Tom Law)

The topic made for an animated discussion during “Movie Night” hosted by the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)  at the December 2017 Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism’s (ARIJ) annual conference in which she participated as a panelist.

The movie in question was “A Sea of Images,” a documentary on how media tackle migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa fleeing their troubled lands in a perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

The film, produced by Misja Pekel and Maud van de Reijt, is part of a series for Dutch public television that examined the connection between media and public opinion.

How do editors decide what photos to publish? (courtesy A Sea of Images)

 Refugee fatigue, she argued in the discussion following the film’s showing, can affect journalists’ and editors’ judgment in their choice and dissemination of images, with ethics falling by the wayside.

 

Audience debates ethics of photo publishing (courtesy Tom Law)

Aidan White, veteran journalist and director of the Ethical Journalism Network, said three of the Aylan Kurdi pictures were published around the world, but photos could be used in different ways to tell different narratives.

“What that reveals, is that although the pictures are dramatic and important, in the end it’s the context in which the pictures are used by journalists,” White explained.

Aidan White on the ethical use of images (courtesy “A Sea of Images”)

The ethical use of images depicting migrants, refugees and vulnerable people in the media, and what impact they have on public policy, will continue to trigger debate so long as conflicts, economic and natural disasters cause massive population displacement.

Abu-Fadil Conducts Professional Development Workshop for Qatar’s “Al Sharq” Journalists

To meet 21st century audiences’ and users’ needs, journalists and newsroom managers must be fully engaged, must capitalize on social media, and must update their news gathering and production operations, Qatar-based journalists were told.

Abu-Fadil provides editing pointers

Abu-Fadil provides editing pointers

The advice was part of a two-day workshop Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil provided at a workshop in Doha at the headquarters of Al-Sharq daily newspaper and news portal.

The October 2015 event aimed at providing professional development advice and practical training to writers, reporters, editors and the daily’s portal content producers.

Al Sharq editors and writers attend professional development workshop

Al Sharq editors and writers attend professional development workshop

Abu-Fadil showed participants how the editorial departments of the newspaper and a common newsroom could be turned into a control center complemented by mobile journalists, user-generated content and social media.

Q & A on media ethics

Q & A on media ethics

She also engaged them in a lively presentation and discussion on media ethics.

U.S. Embassy Information Officer Sacha Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

U.S. Embassy Information Officer Sacha Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

A second component of the workshop zeroed in on digital-first journalism with case studies on how best to implement it.

Al Sharq journalists, Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

Al Sharq journalists, Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

The State Department’s U.S. Speaker Program, in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy in Qatar, organized the workshop.

MU Leads UAE Investigative Journalism Training

Over 50 UAE-based journalists feel better equipped to tackle investigative assignments after two intensive courses conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

“As a general introduction to investigative journalism, procedures and information, it was suitable, but for implementation, one needs more time, which we hope to get (in the future),” said one of the participants.

Abu Dhabi Investigative Journalism Group

It was an eye opener for reporters and editors in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, who attended workshops in November 2012 aimed at sharpening their skills in what is known as data-driven journalism.

The workshop focused on ethics in investigative journalism, ideas for topics to cover, digging for information, use of documents and numbers, and, computer-assisted reporting.

Abu-Fadil explains investigative reporting elements in Abu Dhabi

Reporters and editors from various newspapers and media-related fields attending the  course also learned how to combine text with visuals and how to incorporate social media in their projects.

Abu-Fadil in Dubai describes blogs' uses in investigative journalism

The training was organized courtesy of the UAE Journalists Association, the U.S. Embassy in the UAE and the telecommunications company Etisalat.

Dubai Investigative Journalism Workshop Trainer & Trainees

“I benefited on a personal and professional level from this workshop that will have an impact on my work,” said Mohammad Abdel Rasheed from the daily Al Bayan.

Both groups viewed the Watergate scandal classic “All the President’s Men” starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman to get a taste of old-fashioned investigative reporting techniques.

Media Unlimited Trains Gulf Journalists on Crises/Conflicts Coverage

Crises and conflicts – a topic all journalists should learn to cover since they inevitably encounter them in their work at some point.

Media Unlimited conducted a five-day workshop grouping reporters and editors from Kuwait and Oman on how to write about prickly issues such as sectarian strife; economic, political and social crises; and, unexpected events.

Participants from the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) and Oman News Agency (ONA) learned from case studies, viewed videos of unfolding crises, and wrote news and features on related topics.

KUNA business reporter Suleiman Rida writes on Kuwaiti finance minister’s resignation

They also acquired skills on the importance of integrating social media in their stories and using them as sources of information.

KUNA journalists watch video on covering demonstrations

Other topics included the need for online research, reliance on archives, establishing an extensive network of good sources and learning how to deal with them in a crisis.

ONA’s Taleb Al Riyami and Abdallah Alhajri tackle the link between poor education and unemployment in the Gulf

Equally important was focusing on how to operate in a hostile environment, accidents and shocks that adversely affect journalists, and coverage of traumatized victims of conflicts.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil flanked by trainees in Kuwait

The participants also learned about proper coordination between editors and field reporters, newsroom dynamics, ethics while on crisis assignments, and how best to write and edit content for different multimedia platforms.

The workshop May 26-31, 2012 was held at the headquarters of the Kuwait News Agency.