MCD Interviews Abu-Fadil on “Fake News,” Media Literacy

Monte Carlo Doualiya radio interviewed Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to discuss her take on mitigating the dangers of “fake news” and how journalists should verify sources.

Digital” show host Nayla Al Salibi dedicated a segment to Abu-Fadil’s media and information literacy chapter in the UNESCO book/course “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” and the tools needed to handle misleading news before it’s published.

Monte Carlo Doualiya’s “Digital” show interviewed MU director Abu-Fadil

Abu-Fadil shed light on journalists’ issues in dealing with social media and dubious platforms as well as media ethics in the digital age since photos, videos and audio content can be manipulated with ease.

She insisted the expression “fake news” should not be used since it’s been weaponized by politicians, notably U.S. President Donald Trump and others, against their adversaries.

Abu-Fadil said disinformation and misinformation in the “post-truth” and “alternative facts” age were more appropriate, depending on their respective contexts.

You can hear the interview here [ 3].

MU Director Boosts LAU Marcom Team Skills

A two-day strategic communications workshop helped staffers at the Lebanese American University (LAU) beef up their writing and editing skills by thinking like journalists.

Good writing tips from Magda Abu-Fadil

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil put members of the Marketing and Communications (Marcom) team through the paces of researching, reporting, editing, visualizing and engaging through social media in August 2018 to boost the LAU brand across multiple platforms.

She created a newsroom environment simulating fieldwork that requires on-the-scene reporting, shooting pictures and videos, and interacting with newsmakers in their academic world.

LAU’s Marcom editorial team sharpen writing-editing skills

The intense sessions focused on what skills journalists need to operate in a digital-first environment where search engine and social media optimization can determine what news attracts the requisite attention.

The workshop examined the very essence of news and its sources, the key to writing strong leads, fine-tuning quotations, and using contextual details to bolster elements of a story.

Abu-Fadil dedicated a session to media ethics, the need to be mindful of proper sourcing, and how to avoid the dissemination of mis- or disinformation.

The power of headlines

Each session included exercises and quizzes to test participants’ grasp of the topics.

The Marcom staffers also learned how to hone their headline writing skills by using action verbs, word association, quotes from stories, substituting words with punctuation marks, ensuring the story title leads readers into the main text, and optimizing it for search engines and social media.

Abu-Fadil gave trainees a general knowledge quiz, cautioned them about oxymorons, and refreshed their memories on the importance of correct grammar and punctuation, with case studies of common errors as well as good writing examples.

Covering academic news like a professional journalist

Given Marcom’s mandate, participants also worked on the public relations aspect of communication by improving their writing of news releases and how best to pitch stories to various media.

The MU director helped the trainees better craft their coverage of speeches, meetings, and news conferences. She also provided tips on how to write solid feature stories.

The importance of accurate visuals in storytelling

LAU’s campuses in Beirut and Byblos provide an ample supply of events and people to highlight.

An important part of the training included mock TV interviews with staffers acting as reporter and interviewee while Abu-Fadil shot sequences that were later evaluated for strengths and weaknesses.

Trainees go through the paces of on-camera interviews

Equally vital is the use of visual elements like photos, videos, infographics, and illustrations. Trainees sharpened their caption-writing abilities and learned how to turn photo captions into mini-stories.

 

Abu-Fadil Serves on AJA Jury, Promotes Professional Journalism

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil served as a jury member for the investigative journalism category of the Arab Journalism Award (AJA) in 2018 in a bid to raise the standard of that media field.

AJA logo

The Award ceremony [AJA Supplement in Al Bayan-18-2018-04-05] usually comes at the end of the Arab Media Forum (AMF) in Dubai every year with prizes for different categories handed out to reporters, editors, columnists, photojournalists and cartoonists from across the Arab world.

Abu-Fadil is a former AJA board member and has been on several of its juries over the years.

Magda Abu-Fadil (front row far right) as an Arab Journalism Award board member in 2010 (courtesy DPC)

This year experts closely scrutinized media’s fierce competition and misleading information that causes harm at the AMF [AMF-A5 Agenda_Website_En] in April amid clamor to rectify wrongs.

“Credibility tops the agenda,” [أجندة منتدى الإعلام العربي 2018] said Mona Al Marri, the DPC president who heads the Forum’s organizing committee.

DPC President Mona Al Marri flanked by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohamad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohamad Bin Rashid at AMF 2018 (courtesy DPC)

Over 2,000 Arab and foreign media professionals, academics and corporate leaders participated in the 17th edition of the Forum organized by the DPC.

Innovation and technology also took center stage at the two-day event that packed a rich and forceful program that also focused on errant media and the negative impact of social media.

Media Ethics in Digital Age Imperative: Abu-Fadil

Media Ethics require critical thinking, notably when social media are used to spread harmful content, Magda Abu-Fadil told Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya.

“Ethics are in a state of disarray because although digital media are good, attractive and fast as they disseminate information, visuals and sound with speed, critical thinking to choose the words, pictures, sound bites and videos isn’t as readily available as in the past,” the Media Unlimited director explained.

Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya

There’s fierce competition between legacy media and citizen journalists in addition to all other social media output, so whoever publishes material is breathless (in his/her attempt to be out there), which is very dangerous, she added.

“The result is that what’s being published, quite often, is not just unethical and disturbing, but downright criminal,” Abu-Fadil said.

She discussed the impact of “fake news,” “post-truth,” and “alternative facts” in the age of competing social platforms during a segment of the program “Digital” in January 2018 hosted by Nayla Salibi.

The full interview can be heard and downloaded here.

Palestinian Diplomats Hone Digital Communication Skills

Foreign service officials must master the art and science of digital and public diplomacy if they’re to be effective abroad, but equally if they’re on home turf dealing with media, diplomats and foreign visitors.

This is doubly important for Palestinian diplomats who face tremendous odds representing a homeland under occupation in a truncated landmass and whose movements are severely restricted.

Trainers, trainees and administrators at Turin workshop

Constraints notwithstanding, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil co-trained a group of 10 Palestinian officials at a weeklong workshop on “Communication Skills & Media Relations for Diplomacy” in Turin, Italy in August 2017.

The event, organized by the International Training Center of the International Labor Organization (ITC-ILO), with funding from the Italian Consulate General in Jerusalem, was the second in which she participated as a journalist/trainer along with Abdulhamid Abdeljaber, a journalist and faculty member at Rutgers University.

 

Journalists use multiple means and sources to obtain information

Abu-Fadil and Abdeljaber showed the participants how to think like journalists and understand what media look for in news.

This included familiarizing them with converged, digital media priorities, hardware, software and applications used by journalists, skills needed to produce and publish content, cautionary notes on fake news and misleading information, sourcing, and news value.

They put the diplomats through two sets of separate rigorous on-camera interviews.

Interview skills

 

Other sessions focused on organizing news conferences, briefings and news event planning.

One of the most animated sessions was a news conference simulation with feedback from the trainers-cum-journalists and participants.

 

White House news conference simulation with Ghada Arafat, Abdulhamid Abdeljaber and Hanan Jarrar

Abu-Fadil also trained the diplomats in the art of writing news releases. The workshop was conducted in Arabic and English.

MU Director Speaks on Media/Migrant/Refugee Coverage, Presents Award

International organizations and government officials are paying attention to the need for collaboration with media on the migrant/refugee crisis to mitigate a rising tide of xenophobia egged on by false and toxic reporting.

The International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), partnering with the European Union (EU), Euro Mediterranean Migration IV (EMM4) and the government of Malta, organized the “Director General Conference: Balancing the Narrative on Migration, The Role of Media and Policymakers” in Valetta in June 2017 aimed at balancing the narrative on migration.

Narrative on migration and media conference

Topics included a panel on the role of the media and migration reporting in informing the public during which Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil presented a Lebanese social media case study of politics, sectarianism, xenophobia, hate speech, a counter-narrative, and, pushback from maligned parties.

The conference grouped policymakers, media representatives and academics who discussed how media and different stakeholder groups, including policymakers, communicate on migration, how the media gather, use and convey migration-related data, and how this ultimately influences the narrative and public opinion on migration.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil presents Lebanese social media case study

Abu-Fadil also spoke of the importance of promoting critical thinking, and reinforcing awareness to combat online hate speech and fake news against migrants and refugees through media, information and news literacy.

 

Organizers, along with Open Media Hub hosted in Valetta the first Migration Media Award for journalistic excellence on migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It’s an EU-funded journalism competition for which Abu-Fadil served as one of the judges.

 

Migration Media Award recipients and judges

It recognized 35 journalists from 16 countries for their journalistic excellence in reporting on migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

Abu-Fadil handed the first prize in the print category to Moroccan journalist Salaheddine Lemaizi for his winning entry “Right to Asylum: What to do with Syrian Refugees?”

 

Abu-Fadil hands Migration Media Award to Salaheddine Lemaizi

The winning entries featured fact-based and impartial reporting on the complexity of migration, its many challenges and opportunities.

MIL to Mitigate Violent Extremism

Experts met at United Nations headquarters to discuss how best to mitigate violent extremism and incorporate their findings into viable educational frameworks against a backdrop of mounting xenophobia, hate speech, and a deficit in critical thinking.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

The February 2017 New York forum, co-organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations’ (UNAOC) Media and Information Literacy program and the United Nations Academic Impact’s (UNAI) Unlearning Intolerance program, was themed “Media and Information Literacy: Educational Strategies for the Prevention of Violent Extremism.”

Jordi Torrent, UNAOC's Media Literacy Education Project Manager, UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

Jordi Torrent, UNAOC’s Media Literacy Education Project Manager, UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil was part of the event with a presentation featuring case studies of positive initiatives from the Middle East and North Africa region that succeeded in mitigating violent extremism through engagement with youth.

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses UNAOC conference in New York

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses UNAOC conference in New York

She also highlighted examples of sedition, hate speech and xenophobia that are increasingly being disseminated via social media.

Her presentation is available in her Huffington Post contribution and LinkedIn blogpost.

The forum saw the Americas’ launch of the recently published “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa,” for which Abu-Fadil was the lead editor and a co-author.

Presentation of MENA MIL book co-edited-co-authored by Abu-Fadil (UNAOC photo)

Presentation of MENA MIL book co-edited, co-authored by Abu-Fadil (UNAOC photo)

The book was co-published by UNAOC, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Nordic Documentation Center for Mass Communication Research (NORDICOM).

Abu-Fadil stressed the crucial need for media and information literacy (MIL) worldwide as well as the necessity for news and religion literacy to combat today’s toxic environment.

Regina de Assis, former Secretary of Education, Ministry of Education, Brazil (UNAOC photo)

Regina de Assis, former Secretary of Education, Ministry of Education, Brazil (UNAOC photo)

She’s been trying to create awareness on the subject in the Middle East and North Africa region for decades.

In 1999, a colleague from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and Abu-Fadil designed a cross-cultural media project.

In 2007, she presented a paper for a UNESCO world literacy conference in Doha, Qatar entitled “Media Literacy: A Tool to Combat Stereotypes and Promote Intercultural Understanding.”

Guy Berger, UNESCO's Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development

Guy Berger, UNESCO’s Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development

These are just two of the many articles, chapters in books and blogposts she’s published. She’s written, spoken, and trained extensively on the subject.

#SpreadNoHate Brussels Confab Strikes Timely Note

News of a U.S. travel ban on citizens from mostly Muslim countries, revved-up populist rhetoric and anti-migrant/refugee campaigns snowballed as an international symposium tagged #SpreadNoHate offered an opposing scenario with recommendations to fight the venom.

“When one minority comes under attack, everyone’s freedom is at stake,” said Federica Mogherini to a symposium in Brussels in January 2017 hours before the travel ban took effect. “When people are discriminated (against) because they look different, it’s not only a violation of their human rights, but an attack against the very fabric of our societies.”

Federica Mogherini's video message on hate speech

Federica Mogherini’s video message on hate speech

Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, told conferees in a video message that the rise of hate speech was a global phenomenon requiring global awareness and local mobilization.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil moderated the first session and asked if media and information literacy could mitigate the damage of hate speech and if so, how?

Magda Abu-Fadil (center) moderates #SpreadNoHate panel

Magda Abu-Fadil (center) moderates #SpreadNoHate panel

She also stirred the debate pot by wondering whether governments, Internet service providers, and social media should control the message, if legacy media should be restrained in what they publish once offensive content has gone viral on social media, and, who else was to blame for fanning the flames of populism.

The event organized by the European Union External Action and United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) focused on hate speech against migrants and refugees in the media and grouped experts, journalists, academics, government officials and members of NGOs from across the globe.

Hate speech debated at Brussels symposium

Hate speech debated at Brussels symposium

“Hate speech is a violation of freedom of expression,” noted Cécile Kyenge, a member of the European Parliament and a former minister of integration in Italy, adding that that freedom was a pillar of all democratic societies.

MEP Cécile Kyenge (courtesy Virginie van Elbmt)

MEP Cécile Kyenge (courtesy Virginie van Elbmt)

Kyenge, an ophthalmologist who was born in the Congo, has experienced racism and hate speech first hand. A former government minister called her an orangutan and detractors tossed bananas at her while on a podium to speak, according media reports.

Spread No Hate publications

Spread No Hate publications

The UNAOC symposium was organized within the framework of its #SpreadNoHate initiative given the rising rhetoric of hate speech and incitement against migrants and refugees across Europe and elsewhere.

The daylong event’s themes were: media and the rise of populism; triggers and mechanisms of hate speech against migrants and refugees; improving the quality of media coverage about migrants and refugees; promoting ethical journalism; strengthening partnerships between media and civil society to promote balanced narratives; and providing recommendations on next steps to sustain the initiative.

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.

Journalists Need Digital Skills and Traditional Grounding: Abu-Fadil

Today’s journalists are expected to have multimedia digital skills but must also abide by the principles of accuracy, fairness, balance, humanity and ethics, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told French magazine Défense.

“Today’s journalists are required to do more because of the available technology, because of budget cutbacks, and because of the 24/7 news cycle,” she said, adding that in the old days jobs were clearly defined – there was the reporter and there was the photographer or video cameraman/woman.

Interview with Abu-Fadil in Défense magazine.

Interview with Abu-Fadil in Défense magazine. 

There’s a crisis of confidence in both traditional and other media due to a lack of professionalism by many journalists as well as the political and economic pressures they face, Abu-Fadil noted in the March/April 2016 issue of the publication.

Citizen journalists – ordinary people with mobile devices like smartphones – are often the first on the scene of a disaster or event and transmit their content like photos, videos, texts – immediately through social media before traditional journalists can cover what is happening.

So it’s imperative for journalists to be able to interact with their audiences through social media and to produce high quality content using mobile devices to get the message out in a timely fashion across different platforms, she said.

The complete interview is available here [PDF].