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: Social Media a Double-Edged Sword in Syrian Conflict

How is the Syrian war playing out on social media? Are reports by citizen journalists and activists credible?

Is it “the most socially mediated civil conflict in history” and can we agree with a study’s conclusion that “social media have revolutionized the way that the world has understood the Syrian conflict?”

Screen shot of Syria's "Twitter Jihad"

Screen shot of Syria’s “Twitter Jihad”

According to Magda Abu-Fadil, social media are a double-edged sword.

“[Social media] help provide vital information that traditional media have been unable to obtain, but they also have misused it to disseminate disinformation,” says Abu-Fadil, a veteran journalist in the region. “One has to take it on a case-by–case basis.”

Read more from Media Unlimited’s director on media ethics, propaganda, information verification, photos and videos in “Syria’s ‘Twitter Jihad’: Social media is hardly immune from the fog of war,’ an article in Global Journalist. A [PDF] version is available here.

Major Change in Syria War Coverage

A tectonic shift has occurred for media coverage in Syria with information gathering and dissemination evolving from assigning correspondents to the conflict to relying on citizen journalists and content from social media.

“We’re being bombarded with messages from every direction at breakneck speed, the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil said.

Syria's civil war plays out on social media: AP

Syria’s civil war plays out on social media: AP

She told The Associated Press that as the conflict became more dangerous, legacy news organizations have had to turn to non-traditional means to fill their pages, air time and websites.

This has meant publishing and broadcasting text, photos and videos from ordinary citizens, activists, warriors and anybody with a mobile device, Internet connection or functioning telephone line.

 

 

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.

Anba Moscow/Ria Novosti Journalists Upgrade Agency Online Skills

Seven journalists at Anba Moscow’s Dubai bureau underwent intensive training to upgrade their skills for the website maintained in Arabic by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

The journalists, who come from diverse backgrounds, attended a five-day workshop in October 2012 conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil on the needs of an international news agency, evolution of the media, and story structure in an online environment.

Anba Moscow trainees upgrade news agency online skills

Also on the agenda was the importance of solid headlines and leads, sources, types of wire stories and integration of social media into the mix for better audience engagement.

Magda Abu-Fadil with Anba Moscow team in Dubai

Abu-Fadil reminded the journalists of the need to maintain high ethical standards in their coverage.

They were provided tips on crises, sudden events, fieldwork, means of communication, safety measures and coordination between correspondents and their newsrooms.

Not to be overlooked, the Anba Moscow team was encouraged to make good use of infographics, photos, videos and audio clips, and develop interest in multimedia.