MU Director Briefs GU & NWU Students on Journalism, Culture, Politics, Ethics

Becoming a journalist today requires a modified skill set to the one needed decades ago, but the principles of news gathering, fact checking, story telling and ethics remain the same, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told students in Doha.

Magda Abu-Fadil on journalism today

Magda Abu-Fadil on journalism today

She addressed Georgetown University School of Foreign Service students and faculty members in October in Qatar on the evolution of journalism, on becoming a foreign correspondent, on politics, and on media ethics.

Informal lunch talk with Georgetown-Qatar students and faculty

Informal lunch talk with Georgetown-Qatar students and faculty

Abu-Fadil showed her audience how she had evolved as a reporter whose local and foreign assignments meant excellent preparations for stories through constant learning and knowledge as well as what was then available as tools of the trade.

Evolution of a journalist

Evolution of a journalist

The tools included notebooks, pens, recorders, batteries, cameras, lenses, filters, flashlights, tripods, and typewriters.

Mobile journalists, or mojos, including herself, using mobile, portable, connected devices have mostly replaced those earlier items, although several remain staples for reporters and photographers, she said.

Today’s mojos need fewer encumbering tools

Today’s mojos need fewer encumbering tools

The informal lunch gathering included students from Northwestern University’s Qatar campus who attend joint media classes at Georgetown.

Questions on whether it's worth becoming a journalist

Questions on whether it’s worth becoming a journalist

In another meeting with Georgetown students, Abu-Fadil spoke on media, culture and politics in the Middle East, focusing primarily on ethics (or the lack thereof) in print, broadcast, online and social media. 

Arab Media Need Work on Professionalism, Ethics: Abu-Fadil

Arab media have made progress but some still need work to overcome issues of journalistic professionalism and ethics, Magda Abu-Fadil told Dubai TV in May 2015.

“We see too many examples of unethical behavior in broadcast outlets, online and in print,” the Media Unlimited director said during an interview at the Arab Media Forum.

Magda Abu-Fadil interviewed by Dubai TV

Magda Abu-Fadil interviewed by Dubai TV

Given the highly charged environment in several Arab countries, media have been reflecting the political and sectarian splits by fanning the flames through sedition, unsubstantiated news reporting and slander, she added.

She also noted that schools of communication and journalism should do a better job of equipping their students for the ever-changing job market by providing them with flexible skills and not just focus primarily on outdated theories or research that have little practical application.

Lebanese Freelance Journalists Hanging by a Thread: Abu-Fadil

Freelance journalists, notably in Lebanon, face countless difficulties, not least of which are steady assignments, benefits and proper protection in conflict zones.

“Print, broadcast, online and multimedia news organizations in Lebanon are cutting down on field crews for various reasons, notably economic shrinkage and reduced administrative budgets, in addition to political pressures making freelancers more attractive and cheaper than their full-time counterparts,” said Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

Old fashioned freelancer

Old fashioned freelancer

Media prefer such an arrangement to avoid paying social security, transportation expenses, medical costs, education benefits, life insurance and end-of-service indemnities, she told Al Modon.

As media increasingly employ contractual reporters, photojournalists and multimedia journalists to cover events, there are a growing number of journalism school graduates every year facing a tight job market and low salaries.

Here is a [PDF] of the article.

Abu-Fadil Speaks At Media Neighborhood Journalism Awards

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told an audience in Brussels that training journalists should be given adequate time to improve their skills, in all fairness to them and their instructors.

Abu-Fadil (center) discusses training successes and challenges

Abu-Fadil (center) discusses training successes and challenges

She was referring to a series of brief workshops for traditional journalists and bloggers from Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Georgia in which she co-trained with BBC veterans Russell Peasgood and Jim Fish.

Abu-Fadil spoke at the Media Neighborhood Journalism Awards in the Belgian capital in February 2015 – a culmination of a project funded by the European Union and delivered by a consortium led by BBC Media Action.

Abu-Fadil was involved in the latter part of a process that provided initial training and subsequent writing and producing assignments for various media.

bbc-media-neighbourhood-logo

Being fully functional in English, Arabic and French enabled her to assess the final products in those languages, with the majority being in Arabic. But in the case of Georgia, it was a bit challenging since print, online and broadcast reports were in Georgian or Russian, forcing her to rely on English translations.

On the plus side, Abu-Fadil and her colleagues emphasized and instilled in the trainees a sense of what solid journalism is, and should be.

They hammered away at the importance of proper and diverse sourcing, balance in presenting various sides in a story, ethical considerations, newsworthiness and accuracy.

They also stressed the importance of the correct use of language, grammar, attention to translated material, ensuring numerical data are presented in the proper context, writing strong leads and avoiding opinions in hard news reports.

Trainer Ali Khalil and team leader Jean-Michel Duffrene (background)

Trainer Ali Khalil and team leader Jean-Michel Duffrene (background)

Abu-Fadil reviewed obstacles journalists and bloggers faced in the countries they represented and how constraints were reflected in their work.

The Syrians encountered problems in verifying information and assorted dangers while reporting from the field in their war-torn country.

Lebanese media saw a decline in their ability to function freely while Palestinian journalists also faced safety and access to information problems.

Jordanian journalists also had to deal with increasingly stricter rules and laws, notably those related to online media.

Egyptian journalists had to contend with the country’s roller coaster ride from a 30-year dictatorship to interim leaderships and elected presidents, which resulted in an interesting mix of reports mirroring the state of affairs.

Trainers, trainees and mentors at awards ceremony

Trainers, trainees and mentors at awards ceremony

Ditto for Tunisian participants who hailed from the trigger of the so-called “Arab Spring.” They had also been conditioned to think and operate a certain way and were adjusting to their own transitional phase of government, which came out in their reports.

The Moroccan journalists had their own set of political issues but were also cautioned to avoid bias, to focus on the real story, and to sidestep long-winded rhetoric.

The least fortunate were the Libyans whose freedom had been locked up for four decades as was their lack of understanding of what journalism is.

The awards program was held at the European Commission and grouped trainers, trainee award winners, mentors, and consortium representatives.

The full training project targeted journalists from Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Moldova, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.

MU Director Trains Lebanese, Syrian Journalists in Beirut

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil trained two groups of Lebanese and Syrian journalists in a follow up to earlier courses organized by BBC Media Action.

Lebanese journalists learn how to tighten their copy

Lebanese journalists learn how to tighten their copy

Key expert and BBC veteran Russell Peasgood provided guidance on how to improve their TV and radio reporting and editing skills.

Russell Peasgood explains fine points of good TV coverage

Russell Peasgood explains fine points of good TV coverage

The consecutive May 2014 workshops in Beirut included reporters and bloggers from various print, broadcast and online media in Lebanon and Syria as well as Syrian journalists in exile.

Magda Abu-Fadil shoots training session video

Magda Abu-Fadil shoots training session video

Stories ranged from hard news coverage and feature articles on the conflict in Syria and Syrian refugees, to the work of municipalities, water policies in the Middle East, university curricula, and women’s electoral rights and empowerment.

Syrian journalist's report appears on Aljazeera

Syrian journalist’s report appears on Aljazeera

The Syrian journalists discussed obstacles they faced in verifying information about casualties, obtaining accurate data from opposing sources, and assorted dangers while reporting from the field.

Syrian reporters and mentor attend Beirut follow-up workshop

Syrian reporters and mentor attend Beirut follow-up workshop

The European Union-funded workshops are part of a program run by a BBC Media Action-led consortium covering 17 countries in the “European Neighbourhood.”

Abu-Fadil (left) with Peasgood (center rear) and Lebanese journalists

Abu-Fadil (left) with Peasgood (center rear) and Lebanese journalists

 

 

 

MU Director Tutors Moroccan Journalists in Avoiding Pitfalls

Twelve eager journalists from across Morocco returned to a Rabat workshop to present work they had produced following earlier intensive training led by BBC Media Action.

Analysis of Moroccan journalist's EU-related article

Analysis of Moroccan journalist’s EU-related article

The March 2014 training, conducted by BBC veteran Jim Fish and Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil centered on a review of print and online articles, as well as radio and television reports covering crimes, the controversial Sahara issue, protesting judges, and projects funded by the European Union (EU), to name a few.

BBC veteran Jim Fish (far right) with pointers on good reporting for Moroccan journalists

BBC veteran Jim Fish (far right) with pointers on good reporting for Moroccan journalists

The trainers went over several samples of work, critiquing content, sourcing, accuracy, style, presentation, and ethics.

They also cautioned participants to avoid bias, focus on the real story, sidestep long-winded rhetoric and remember the context.

Jim Fish (left) & Magda Abu-Fadil (right) with Moroccan journalists

Jim Fish (left) & Magda Abu-Fadil (right) with Moroccan journalists

The journalists hailed from Rabat, Sale, Casablanca, Meknes, Tetouan, Laayoune, and Sidi Ifni.

The workshop is part of a journalism training project funded by the EU and run by a BBC Media Action-led consortium covering 17 countries in the “European Neighbourhood.”

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 Helps Georgian Journalists Hone Skills

Keep it simple, don’t assume, remember accuracy, ethics are key, and avoid wordiness, was some of the advice provided by BBC veteran Jim Fish and Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to 12 Georgian journalists attending a booster course to hone their reporting skills.

Georgian journalists advised never to assume anything

Georgian journalists advised never to assume anything

The reporters at print, broadcast and online media presented samples of their work in the final phase of training organized by BBC Media Action and funded by the European Union in Tbilisi.

Review of TV report elements

Review of TV report elements

The reports included focus on a special needs school, internally displaced persons, the decriminalization of marijuana, homeless senior citizens, victims of hurricane damage, and an embargo on dairy products, to name a few.

Fish and Abu-Fadil cautioned the journalists not to be swayed by officials’ statements and to cut through the haze of government, corporate and NGO news releases.

Trainers Jim Fish, Abu-Fadil (center) journalists, mentor Akaki Gvimradze and interpreters

Trainers Jim Fish, Abu-Fadil (center) journalists, mentor Akaki Gvimradze and interpreters

Akaki Gvimradze, deputy editor-in-chief of the Georgian daily “Resonance,” helped with logistics and served as a mentor to the younger journalists.

Georgian journalist-mentor Akaki Gvimradze

Georgian journalist-mentor Akaki Gvimradze

While most of the three samples each journalist produced were of a serious nature, a few TV reports touched viewers’ funny bone and provided a fresh approach to otherwise mundane subjects.

The intense two-day course in January 2014 is part of a series of workshops covering partner states of the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument, an initiative that targets several Eastern European and Mediterranean countries.

Jordanian, Palestinian Journalists’ Output Evaluated

Fourteen Jordanian and Palestinian journalists sat through two days of intensive evaluations in Amman, Jordan where experts judged their print, broadcast and online output for various media as a follow-up to earlier training workshops.

Amman trainees present their work for evaluation

Amman trainees present their work for evaluation

The November 2013 workshop aimed to improve participants’ reporting skills in covering topics such as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, a popular movement to set up tent cities where Israeli settlements are being planned, child labor in the Jordan Valley, and Jordan’s handling of Syrian refugees,.

BBC veteran and lead trainer Russell Peasgood provided solid advice on how best to prepare and present radio and television packages as well as reporting for newspapers.

Peasgood points to Gaelle Sundelin’s (right) Jordan Times article

Peasgood points to Gaelle Sundelin’s (right) Jordan Times article

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil contributed to the assessment sessions by judging print, online and broadcast content.

Reports in Arabic and English also focused on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the commemoration of (Ard) Land Day, how the Israeli occupation distresses Palestinian children, restoration of Jordanian relics and historical sites, eco-friendly coal mining in the West Bank town of Jenin, as well as threats to the Zarqa second-hand market in Jordan.

Abu-Fadil assesses online content

Abu-Fadil assesses online content

The workshop was part of a project funded by the European Union and delivered by a consortium led by BBC Media Action.

Some samples of the participants’ work:

http://al-shorfa.com/ar/articles/meii/features/main/2010/03/26/feature-02

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHfju-MQ1N4

http://jordantimes.com/as-prison-doors-open-into-freedom-inmates-find-helping-hand-to-survive-in-not-so-friendly-environment

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fua0n56ZWBM&feature=youtu.be

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1cVHFz5pAk&feature=youtu.be

MU Director on Cover of UAE Media Mag

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil made it on the cover of “Al I3lam wal 3sr” (Media and Era), a United Arab Emirates monthly magazine focused on media issues.

Cover of Al I3lam wal 3sr includes MU director

Cover of Al I3lam wal 3sr includes MU director

The wide-ranging interview in the magazine’s March issue shed light on Abu-Fadil’s career in print, broadcast and online media, as well as her stint in academia and her take on media ethics, social networks, and how to re-purpose oneself as a journalist.

A PDF of the Al I3lam wal 3sr article can be downloaded here.