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.

Abu-Fadil Featured at Aljazeera Center for Studies Roundtable

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil spoke on the rising impact of social media on traditional journalism and how ethics can balance it out at a Qatar gathering of experts.

She focused on Lebanon as a case study in the Arab world in the wake of neighboring revolutions, conflicts and the country’s own internal problems.

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses Aljazeera Center for Studies roundtable

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses Aljazeera Center for Studies roundtable

The October 2015 event grouped researchers from Aljazeera’s Center for Studies.

Abu-Fadil shed light on how news operations had morphed in recent years to cater to how news is consumed today as well as to the changing definition of journalism.

Participants also discussed the rising impact of platforms such as the all-news/current events channel and site Aljazeera Plus on the future of news.

MU Director Helps Shape Next AFPF

Should the Arab Free Press Forum (AFPF) maintain its present format or should it change to adapt to fast-moving developments affecting the media landscape?

AFPF brochure.indd

What should the goals of such an event be, who is the audience, and what are their needs?

All legitimate questions discussed at an experts meeting in Cairo in September to help shape the next AFPF, traditionally organized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

WAN-IFRA's Andrew Heslop on plans for next forum

WAN-IFRA’s Andrew Heslop on plans for next forum

The agenda included debate on the format and content, synergies and partnerships, financing, funding streams and promotional channels for the next event.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil participated in the meeting aimed at giving shape to a future event for the independent press in the Middle East and North Africa.

Abu-Fadil, a panelist at the fifth AFPF in Tunis in 2012 [PDF] in the wake of successive revolutions in Arab countries, addressed the question: How can the media regain public trust as a credible source of news?

Magda Abu-Fadil at 5th Arab Free Press Forum in Tunis

Magda Abu-Fadil at 5th Arab Free Press Forum in Tunis

Other participants at the Egyptian capital meeting included Egyptian journalist Fatemah Farag and Aidan White, Director of the London-based Ethical Journalism Network, to name a few.

The Arab Free Press Forum is a unique event that brings together media professionals from across the Arab world to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas, experience and best practice at every level of the news industry.

Fatemah Farag & Aidan White discuss ideas for next AFPF

Fatemah Farag & Aidan White discuss ideas for next AFPF

As part of WAN-IFRA’s ongoing commitment to supporting the independent press in the Arab region, the Forum reinforces longstanding engagements with partners from across the media industry and the freedom of expression community.

MU Presents Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide

A tweet promoting the “First-Ever Guide to Online Media Ethics” [PDF] led Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to seek out its author in a bid to disseminate it to journalists, bloggers, trainees and students across the Arab World.

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The announcement by Andrea Gallo, a Louisiana State University (LSU) student on the birth of her publication, prompted Abu-Fadil to obtain the booklet and oversee its translation into Arabic.

Various organizations have published online media ethics guidelines but few have made the effort to disseminate them in an easy-to-use Arabic-language compendium.

Rouba El-Helou, a media studies faculty member and journalist, translated the text into Arabic and Abu-Fadil edited the booklet [PDF].

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The guide is well thought out and its sections cover news judgment and conflicts, transparency, sourcing ethics, knowing your audience, plagiarism, when problems arise, photos and art, and social media.

Governments, notably in the Arab World, have increasingly slapped on penalties or sentences on producers of online content they deem offensive, and have equated such content with that of print publications.

In other countries officials have begun to deal with the issue through restrictive legislation such as requiring online media to obtain a license to operate, leading to a whole set of ethical problems.

The booklet is an annual project for LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication students.

Dean Jerry Ceppos, who teaches an undergraduate course called “Media Ethics and Social Responsibility” (MC 4090), assigns his charges production of this invaluable resource.

Abu-Fadil Trains Jordanians on Use of Demographics in Reporting

Thirty-three Jordanian print, broadcast and online journalists plunged into an intensive course aimed at fine-tuning their reporting skills in coverage of public health issues by reading tables, deciphering statistics, and carefully filtering through complex demographic data.

Jordanian journalists toiling over demographic survey tables

Jordanian journalists toiling over demographic survey tables

 Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil contributed to the March 2014 workshop organized by Jordan’s former director of statistics Fathi Nsour and guided by the U.S.-based Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program.

The training focused on understanding Jordanian demographic survey results, the importance of math for journalists, simple rules for writing with numbers, health terminology, and general reporting guidelines.

Other experts in the fields of sociology, population, statistics and demographics were on hand to help clarify complex issues the journalists were expected to cover.

The workshop included practical math exercises, online research for primary and secondary sources, a mock news conference on public health, writing, editing, media ethics, and a general knowledge quiz.

Abu-Fadil discusses ethics in health coverage

Abu-Fadil discusses ethics in health coverage

Participants also watched relevant videos, including a segment from “About Latifa and Others,” a documentary on domestic violence by award-winning Lebanese journalist Diana Moukalled.

A major challenge was requiring the journalists to “put it all together” by reading and interpreting data, finding the story, verifying the information, not being overwhelmed by numbers, planning the story, reporting it, selecting the right headline, and simplifying complex terms for lay news consumers.

Magda Abu-Fadil (seated, red shirt) with Jordanian journalists and trainers

Magda Abu-Fadil (seated, red shirt) with Jordanian journalists and trainers

DHS is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It provides technical assistance to over 90 countries to conduct large national public health surveys and disseminate results to government and non-governmental agencies for use in programs and policies.

Abu-Fadil to Journalists: Differentiate Between News and Views

Arab journalists should differentiate between news and views and should not ignore context in their online and traditional outlet stories, said Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

She told Morocco’s Al Roaya News young reporters are impatient and often ignore journalism basics like proper sourcing, research and media ethics.

She urged journalists to enroll in training workshops on a regular basis to upgrade and update their knowledge and skills and to fall back on critical thinking in their endeavors.

A [PDF] of the interview is available here.

Social Media & Wars

Social Media & Wars

In another interview, with Lebanon’s daily Annahar, Abu-Fadil described how media disseminated news of the country’s 1975-90 civil war as opposed to the ubiquitous use of social media today that parallel and compete with legacy media in covering local and regional conflicts.

She said journalists should not be misled by incorrect or doctored information from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and should be diligent in checking all sources.

A [PDF] of the interview is available here.

Lebanese Media: Between Neglect and Lack of Professionalism

It’s a recurring refrain: Lebanese media suffer from neglect on many fronts and continue to exercise lack of professionalism in covering various types of news.

While highly politicized and operating in a charged sectarian environment, Lebanese media have unfortunately also let standards slip in stories on domestic violence, environmental issues and corrupt business practices.

Lebanese Media's Lack of Professionalism

Lebanese Media’s Lack of Professionalism

Social Media Exchange (SMEX) interviewed Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil on the topic.

UAE Foreign Aid Organizations Participate in Strat Comm Course

Some 20 participants from United Arab Emirates-funded foreign aid organizations learned how to fine-tune their communications strategies by ensuring better interaction with field workers and disseminating their news through the media.

The participants took part in a workshop on Strategic Communications conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil under the patronage of Sheikha Lubna bint Khaled Al Qassemi to help them craft their internal and external messages.

Magda Abu-Fadil (center back row) trains UAE-based foreign aid communications  officials

Magda Abu-Fadil (center back row) trains UAE-based foreign aid communications officials

The March 2013 training in Abu Dhabi centered on building bridges with the media, setting priorities, appreciating deadlines for various media, collecting news from the field, ethics in public relations, planted stories and conflict of interest, and, their organization’s visual identity.

Participants worked in groups to map out strategic media plans, practiced writing op-eds, and discussed how to improve coordination between their respective organizations.

Working groups map out strategic communications plans

Working groups map out strategic communications plans

They were advised to think like journalists, and to beef up their online presence through traditional and social media channels.

The workshop was organized by the UAE Ministry of International Cooperation and Development, the Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid, and twofour54 Tadreeb.

That’s Entertainment! Training Journalists Covering the Industry

How can one train journalists in coverage of the entertainment industry?

It’s not just television, radio, the movies and awards shows, but also the performing arts, the lucrative gaming business, health matters, and sometimes sports issues that define entertainment.

Producing entertainment content at MBC's online Dubai newsroom

Producing entertainment content at MBC’s online Dubai newsroom

Add “infotainment” and “edutainment,” and one has a vast world of news, views, statistics, and countless forms of visual representation to produce and deliver to any number of recipients across multiple mobile platforms.

So juggling news gathering, curation, production and packaging into the right online channels and interacting with one’s audiences via social media to keep the dynamic conversation going requires special talents, skills and a wide base of general knowledge.

Enter Media Unlimited’s Magda Abu-Fadil who worked with a team of very capable and professional entertainment journalists at the MBC Group’s online newsroom in Dubai to sharpen their skills and tweak their copy.

MBC-Al Arabiya building in Dubai

MBC-Al Arabiya building in Dubai

The March 2013 workshop focused on identifying entertainment journalism, tools of the trade, story structure, the art of writing entertainment news, breaking news and features.

The brief course dealt with widening the information base, working with archives, using background data and integrating strong visual elements in all stories.

Not to be overlooked was a dose of media ethics, notably in a field rife with rumors and innuendo.

Magda Abu-Fadil with new MBC friends

Magda Abu-Fadil with new MBC friends

The team also learned about interviewing techniques when dealing with celebrities, speeches, news conferences and the use of social media to collect and promote entertainment news.

Tripoli Trainees Jump on Citizen Journalism Bandwagon

Fourteen trainees learned how to become citizen journalists while maintaining professional and ethical standards during a workshop organized by the Lebanese Center for Active Citizenship.

The training in December 2012, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, touched on the evolution of modern journalism and how it gave rise to the form today practiced by ordinary citizens.

The Importance of Twitter in citizen journalism

Trainees acquired skills to help with effective coverage of events, through live blogging and vlogging, geographic positioning, and the importance of social media in instant dissemination of news.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil conducted the short course in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli that grouped 12 mass communication students from Al Jinan University and two social activists.

Magda Abu-Fadil with LCAC officials and trainees

Abu-Fadil advised the participants to keep their content short and clear, to use active verbs, to make sure their headlines are relevant and attractive, and, to use key words for easy search engine optimization.

She also stressed the importance of good visuals like photos and videos as well as infographics and simple language.

The attraction of photos and captions

Participants also discussed media standards and ethics with Abu-Fadil reminding them to be accurate, balanced, transparent, truthful, and not to lose sight of context.