Media Ethics: Whose Standards?

It bears repeating: media ethics aren’t a one-off endeavor and shouldn’t be a priority only when trouble brews.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil made the point during the “Radio and Television Broadcasting Conference: Policies, Transformations, Challenges” organized in Amman by the Jordan Media Institute in May 2015.

Magda Abu-Fadil speaks on ethics in broadcast media

Magda Abu-Fadil speaks on ethics in broadcast media

She said broadcast media were under intense pressure, given tight deadlines, security threats, competition and shrinking budgets.

So the key challenges are: how do we define media ethics and who sets the standards when the journalism of terror is becoming the new normal?

Abu-Fadil spoke about representatives of major Western media who addressed the issue of “The journalism of terror: How do we bear witness when everybody is a witness?” at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy in April.

Given the unstable security situation in many countries, broadcast news is relying more and more on footage and reports from alternative and questionable sources like citizen journalists, terrorists, activists, NGOs, governments and others.

Live tweeting broadcasting conference

Live tweeting broadcasting conference

Abu-Fadil cited several broadcast, online and social media case studies from Arab and Western news organizations that were clear violations of ethical standards.

She wrapped up her presentation with the “Guide to Online Media Ethics in Arabic” and the guidelines for graphic content of the Radio Television Digital News Association in the U.S.

Abu-Fadil to Tunisian Journos: Separate News & Views

Don’t report the process, tell the audience what is important and why, BBC veteran Russell Peasgood instructed Tunisian journalists at a workshop to review their output following an earlier course.

Peasgood provided insights on how to improve radio and TV reports, what camera angles are best for what types of shots, indoor and outdoor sound quality, broadcast interviews, and overall content.

Russell Peasgood critiques Tunisian TV report

Russell Peasgood critiques Tunisian TV report

The training was co-conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil in Tunis and is funded by the European Union (EU).

Abu-Fadil urged the trainees to distinguish between news and views and to separate the two in their reports

She also advised them to simplify the language they use in print, broadcast and online reports and to address themselves to their respective audiences, not to their bosses.

Magda Abu-Fadil explains difference between news and views

Magda Abu-Fadil explains difference between news and views

The trainees represented media based in Tunis, Sousse, Manouba, Sidi Bouzid, Nabeul, Sfax and Djerba.

Tunisian journalists benefit from professional training

The workshop in March 2014 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.”

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.”

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

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.