Lebanese Media Suffer Major Cutbacks

Lebanese journalists are on tenterhooks as mass layoffs decimate various media and budget cuts constrain operations, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told Al Arabiya English.

Al Arabiya Interview

“We are in a transitional phase. There is what is known as disruption and innovation and [things are] constantly changing,” she said.

Her comments followed news that Dolly Ghanem, a founding reporter and anchor at LBCI TV,  had been relieved of her last remaining duties of co-hosting a morning talk show after 31 years on the job.

“There’s constant change, but it’s happening at such a fast pace that media are having a hard time catching up,” Abu Fadil said.

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A major setback: the drastic drop in oil prices, which has, by extension, adversely affected Gulf Arab patrons’ support of several print and broadcast Lebanese media.

So when that started drying up or dwindling, there was an obvious trickle-down effect, she added.

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 Trains Libyan Journalists in Conflict-Sensitive Reporting

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil pulled all the stops to familiarize Libyan journalists with the concept of conflict-sensitive reporting aimed at producing a code of ethics for their country’s media.

MU director explains the impact of deadly rumors

MU director explains the impact of deadly rumors

During two training courses, Abu-Fadil focused on definitions of conflict-sensitive reporting and bias, propaganda, hate speech, rumors, pictures, images, and video clips, the pros and cons of online and social media, religious incitement, and peace journalism.

Propaganda stokes conflicts, journalists told

Propaganda stokes conflicts, journalists told

The final event, a workshop grouping some of the participants from the second training and others who complemented the assemblage, focused on hammering out a code of ethics to be adopted by Libyan media.

Ethics, media and conflicts

Ethics, media and conflicts

UNESCO’s Division for Freedom of Information and Media Development in collaboration with the Tunis-based UNESCO Libya CI focal point commissioned the work that was conducted in Amman, Jordan in April 2016.

UNESCO's Raja'a El Abasi at training workshop for Libyan journalists

UNESCO’s Raja’a El Abasi at training workshop for Libyan journalists

The event followed earlier efforts by UNESCO to establish a base for media ethics in Libya. The Amman program was co-funded by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

Michael Croft, UNESCO Head of Office and Representative in Libya addresses participants as US Public Affairs Officer Stephen Ibelli (center) looks on

Michael Croft, UNESCO Head of Office and Representative in Libya, addresses participants as US Public Affairs Officer Stephen Ibelli (center) looks on

The journalists came from Libya, Tunisia and Egypt to Jordan. Some of the participants were already in Amman, since they work for Libyan media based in the Jordanian capital. They represented print, broadcast and online media.

Abu-Fadil describes causes of conflicts

Abu-Fadil describes causes of conflicts

The program sought to change behavior and practice in Libya’s media sector. It drew on frameworks the journalists had established and adopted in the Madrid Declaration of July 2015 issued by Libyan media managers in talks facilitated by UNESCO in Spain.

Abu-Fadil and El Abasi with Libyan journalists in Amman

Abu-Fadil and El Abasi with Libyan journalists in Amman

The journalists are expected to work with their peers, civil society, and local and national authorities to establish a national consensus on media practice, freedom of expression, and the role of the media in Libyan society.

Amal Alwerfali receives workshop certificate

Amal Alwerfali receives workshop certificate

 

 

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. 

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.

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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.

Abu-Fadil Caps Workshops Run With Egyptian Journalists

Capping a series of workshops across the Middle East/North Africa region and beyond, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil joined BBC veteran Jim Fish to train two groups of Egyptian journalists in Jordan.

BBC veteran Jim Fish reviews journalists' work

BBC veteran Jim Fish reviews journalists’ work

Fish and Abu-Fadil reviewed and assessed the work of two groups of reporters, producers and editors for Egyptian print, broadcast and online media.

Egyptian journalists listen to comments about their work

Egyptian journalists listen to comments about their work

The journalists’ output was an assignment finalizing training that followed up on earlier courses organized by BBC Media Action and that the journalists had undergone on news reporting and writing.

Jim Fish & Magda Abu-Fadil with Group I of Egyptian journalists

Jim Fish & Magda Abu-Fadil with Group I of Egyptian journalists

The September 2014 back-to-back workshops in Amman aimed at ascertaining the importance of proper and diverse sourcing, balance in presenting various sides to the reported information, ethical considerations, newsworthiness and accuracy.

The trainers also stressed the importance of the correct use of language, grammar, attention to translated material used in the journalists’ coverage, and making sure all information, notably numerical data, are presented in the proper context.

Abu-Fadil & Fish with Group II of Egyptian trainees

Abu-Fadil & Fish with Group II of Egyptian trainees

Fish and Abu-Fadil also provided pointers on how to improve radio, TV and online stories’ audio, visual and multimedia presentations.

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.”

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.