Abu-Fadil Leads Virtual Masterclasses in COVID-19 Coverage

Journalists from bureaus of the Saudi-based daily Arab News took active part in a virtual masterclass on how to cover COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to grip the world and demand effective media attention.

 

Covering COVID-19

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil conducted three sessions in May 2020 for the reporters in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Pakistan/India, with one journalist joining Saudi colleagues from London.

The teleconferenced training tackled working from home and how that has morphed into the journalists’ distributed newsroom. The masterclass emphasized the importance of the reporters’ mental and physical safety in lockdown situations, or on their occasional trips out.

 

Dubai-based journalists shown the dangers of viruses spreading on a plane

The class delved into the medical aspect of the coronavirus by first making sure participants understood and conveyed the proper terminology in their coverage, to seeking advice from medical experts, to the role of the World Health Organization and other medical institutions, to learning how to filter through medical journals and studies.

Abu-Fadil also cautioned the journalists against being misled by dis-, mis- and mal-information disseminated through traditional and social media, or regular contacts with other people. She shared several case studies of dubious information and pressed upon her charges the importance of fact-checking, spotting and debunking deliberate or unintentional lies.

 

Tips on debunking disinformation

The reporters were armed with useful resources on where to obtain reliable data about COVID-19 and tips on protecting themselves.

The masterclass further explored the future of offices and activities while social distancing.

Of key importance was focus on the media in the COVID-19 crisis and how to cover the story ethically.

On the business front, Abu-Fadil discussed the impact on the world/regional economy, with a particular nod to the ever-growing gig economy. There were references to the supply chain, food shortages, hunger, poverty, social revolutions, border controls, and refugees.

 

Getting the medical details right

A touchy but important subject is how to cover major religions’ handling of the coronavirus for which Abu-Fadil showed ample examples.

Other sub-topics were art, culture, education and kids with distance learning presenting the biggest challenge to educators.

But entertainment under lockdown has also taken on new meaning and the trainees were shown options to virtual cultural trips to museums and concerts, and, the ability to download free books and obtain free subscriptions for kids’ publications to keep them occupied.

 

Pakistani and Indian journalists asked to change newspapers’ COVID-19 headlines

Last, but not least, Abu-Fadil turned to humor, saying Arab News journalists should infuse their coverage with some jokes to make light of COVID-19 in a bid to overcome the grim reality and used the example of a Lebanese newspaper that dedicates a whole page to funny items on the virus.

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.

MU Leads UAE Investigative Journalism Training

Over 50 UAE-based journalists feel better equipped to tackle investigative assignments after two intensive courses conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

“As a general introduction to investigative journalism, procedures and information, it was suitable, but for implementation, one needs more time, which we hope to get (in the future),” said one of the participants.

Abu Dhabi Investigative Journalism Group

It was an eye opener for reporters and editors in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, who attended workshops in November 2012 aimed at sharpening their skills in what is known as data-driven journalism.

The workshop focused on ethics in investigative journalism, ideas for topics to cover, digging for information, use of documents and numbers, and, computer-assisted reporting.

Abu-Fadil explains investigative reporting elements in Abu Dhabi

Reporters and editors from various newspapers and media-related fields attending the  course also learned how to combine text with visuals and how to incorporate social media in their projects.

Abu-Fadil in Dubai describes blogs' uses in investigative journalism

The training was organized courtesy of the UAE Journalists Association, the U.S. Embassy in the UAE and the telecommunications company Etisalat.

Dubai Investigative Journalism Workshop Trainer & Trainees

“I benefited on a personal and professional level from this workshop that will have an impact on my work,” said Mohammad Abdel Rasheed from the daily Al Bayan.

Both groups viewed the Watergate scandal classic “All the President’s Men” starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman to get a taste of old-fashioned investigative reporting techniques.

Media Unlimited Trains Gulf Journalists on Crises/Conflicts Coverage

Crises and conflicts – a topic all journalists should learn to cover since they inevitably encounter them in their work at some point.

Media Unlimited conducted a five-day workshop grouping reporters and editors from Kuwait and Oman on how to write about prickly issues such as sectarian strife; economic, political and social crises; and, unexpected events.

Participants from the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) and Oman News Agency (ONA) learned from case studies, viewed videos of unfolding crises, and wrote news and features on related topics.

KUNA business reporter Suleiman Rida writes on Kuwaiti finance minister’s resignation

They also acquired skills on the importance of integrating social media in their stories and using them as sources of information.

KUNA journalists watch video on covering demonstrations

Other topics included the need for online research, reliance on archives, establishing an extensive network of good sources and learning how to deal with them in a crisis.

ONA’s Taleb Al Riyami and Abdallah Alhajri tackle the link between poor education and unemployment in the Gulf

Equally important was focusing on how to operate in a hostile environment, accidents and shocks that adversely affect journalists, and coverage of traumatized victims of conflicts.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil flanked by trainees in Kuwait

The participants also learned about proper coordination between editors and field reporters, newsroom dynamics, ethics while on crisis assignments, and how best to write and edit content for different multimedia platforms.

The workshop May 26-31, 2012 was held at the headquarters of the Kuwait News Agency.