Abu-Fadil Leads Intensive Editorial Workshop

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil led an intensive workshop for mid-level staffers at Saudi-based daily Arab News covering a basket of legal, editorial and newsroom management issues that challenge most journalists.

Saudi laws in review

The first segment of the four-day training in September 2020 focused on the complex subject of defamation, libel and slander laws as general concepts and delved into how their countless nuances and permutations require journalists to tread carefully.

The trainees from bureaus in Riyadh, Dubai, Cairo and London were coached on ways to protect themselves from defamation claims (against them and the newspaper). They were given scenarios requiring them to solve editorial and legal problems.


What’s defamation in the UAE?

Abu-Fadil reviewed defamation laws in Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the UAE and the UK and the trainees were advised to learn about legislation in the countries in which they work, and where Arab News has potential reach.

The English-language daily launched a French edition aimed at Francophone readers across the Middle East/North Africa region and beyond, and has Japanese and Pakistani editions.

Commissioning, pitching and editorial judgment

On the second day, the trainees tackled the complexities of commissioning stories, dealing with internal pitches and articles from freelancers or different types of subjects from citizen journalists providing user-generated content.

They also addressed the topic of regular and kill fees, editorial judgment and how to exercise it, and learned from case studies that tested their skills.

Freelance pitches and kill fees

On day three, Abu-Fadil emphasized the need for collaboration across bureaus and platforms and reviewed the latest newsroom trends. The journalists watched a New York Times clip on the incorporation of 360-degree video into newsgathering, storytelling and the ethics of disseminating information in such a format.


Remote management failures

The trainees were shown how leaders fail their remote teams, notably with the ongoing need for distributed newsrooms. Managing people and staff development were major topics during that session.


The New York Times’ 360-degree video “Displaced”

The journalists also examined how Financial Times editor-in-chief Roula Khalaf is running her 600-strong dispersed newsroom with journalists, editors and others working remotely after the outbreak of the coronavirus. Abu-Fadil also discussed the roles of various editors in different newsrooms.

Exercise on covering tragedy


On the final day, the participants went through four exercises (scenarios) requiring them to solve problems on accuracy, a tragic event, media ethics, and integrity. They also delved into individual issues they had raised prior to the training and tried to find workable collective and individual solutions for them.

Lebanese Media Challenged in Covering Elections: Abu-Fadil

Lebanese media covering elections face a double challenge: reporting events tied to antiquated sectarian-based laws and grasping draft legislation aimed at reforming what’s on the books.

They must also deal with constraints on journalists and their organizations that hamper newsgathering and dissemination, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told reporters at a forum in Amman.

Magda Abu-Fadil on challenges in covering Lebanese elections

Magda Abu-Fadil on challenges in covering Lebanese elections

Her presentation drew on attempts by Lebanon’s National Commission on Parliamentary Electoral Law to streamline procedures, regulations on campaign finances, advertising, the voting age, establishing a quota for women candidates, permitting voters to cast their ballots in their place of residence, and, ensuring that serving cabinet members don’t double as legislators.

She showed video clips on a satirical campaign mocking politicians’ hollow promises, a spot on the divisiveness of sectarianism, the symbiotic relationship between the media and politicians, and how Lebanese youth view their elected officials.

Abu-Fadil also stressed the importance of being able to decypher government budgets and how public funds are spent.

A common thread at the forum was learning all about the candidates, their programs, the parties involved, campaign promises, policies, electoral rules and procedures, the vote counting process, surveys, and security measures.

Amman conferees discuss elections coverage in their countries

Amman conferees discuss elections coverage in their countries

The two-day seminar in November 2013 grouped Jordanian journalists who had attended training workshops on elections coverage with counterparts from Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Palestine and Iraq who had covered elections in their own countries as well as regionally and internationally.

Mai Shams El Din discusses Egypt's elections

Mai Shams El Din discusses Egypt’s elections

It was funded by the European Union and organized by UNESCO‘s Amman office .

UNESCO project manager Rut Gomez Sobrino and EU's Patricia Pennetier

UNESCO project manager Rut Gomez Sobrino and EU’s Patricia Pennetier