Abu-Fadil Conducts Professional Development Workshop for Qatar’s “Al Sharq” Journalists

To meet 21st century audiences’ and users’ needs, journalists and newsroom managers must be fully engaged, must capitalize on social media, and must update their news gathering and production operations, Qatar-based journalists were told.

Abu-Fadil provides editing pointers

Abu-Fadil provides editing pointers

The advice was part of a two-day workshop Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil provided at a workshop in Doha at the headquarters of Al-Sharq daily newspaper and news portal.

The October 2015 event aimed at providing professional development advice and practical training to writers, reporters, editors and the daily’s portal content producers.

Al Sharq editors and writers attend professional development workshop

Al Sharq editors and writers attend professional development workshop

Abu-Fadil showed participants how the editorial departments of the newspaper and a common newsroom could be turned into a control center complemented by mobile journalists, user-generated content and social media.

Q & A on media ethics

Q & A on media ethics

She also engaged them in a lively presentation and discussion on media ethics.

U.S. Embassy Information Officer Sacha Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

U.S. Embassy Information Officer Sacha Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

A second component of the workshop zeroed in on digital-first journalism with case studies on how best to implement it.

Al Sharq journalists, Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

Al Sharq journalists, Fraiture and Abu-Fadil

The State Department’s U.S. Speaker Program, in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy in Qatar, organized the workshop.

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. 

MU Director Interviewed on Social Media Ethics

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil weighed in on a hot ethics topic following a Twitter slugfest during which a journalist and an activist carried on battling during a Lebanese TV talk show.

Journalist Ghadi Francis in a controversial tweet described the Syrian city of Douma as “meshwiyyeh” (Arabic for grilled or barbequed) by barrel bombs dropped on it that kill untold numbers of civilians.

Screen shot of Twitter shouting match over Douma

Screen shot of Twitter shouting match over Douma

When her label struck a raw nerve with opponents of the Syrian regime that’s accused of using these weapons, Francis then tweeted “if grilled doesn’t cut it, then it’s ‘maslouqa’ (boiled).”

That prompted activist Sara Assaf to lunge back: “This is what idiotic @ghadifrancis, a ‘journalist’ at @OTVLebanon had to say about #Douma massacre. WLEK TFOUUU (I spit on you).

Enter Paula Yacoubian, host of the political talk show “Inter-Views” on Lebanon’s Future TV, who, also in a tweet, invited both women to further expound on the matter on her program in February 2015.

Asked if there were guidelines to follow in social media under pressures of war and conflict, Abu-Fadil replied: “There are standards. While we have freedom to express ourselves through social media, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a sense of responsibility.”

Paula Yacoubian Inter-Views Magda Abu-Fadil on social media ethics

Paula Yacoubian Inter-Views Magda Abu-Fadil on social media ethics

Abu-Fadil also referred to the five core values of journalism, expounded by Ethical Journalism Network director Aidan White in a video: as accuracy, independence, impartiality, humanity and accountability.

She argued that they apply equally to bloggers, activists and non-journalists using social media.

“What we’re seeing a lot on social media are reflexive answers, where someone tweets something and another person replies reflexively, with no consideration for critical thinking,” she said.

Abu-Fadil added that one has to stop and think about the repercussions of tweets and whether they could cause harm.

“What’s this incredible accomplishment of contributing to hate speech? It’s disgraceful. We’ve reached a level of unprecedented degeneration,” she noted.

Deadlines, Competition Shouldn’t Precede Media Ethics: Abu-Fadil

Use and abuse of social media has become the “new battleground” in conflict coverage with Gaza being a recent example.

“A click is often faster than legwork to obtain information and shape it into good story form,” said Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil. “I believe the same rules apply to social media as legacy media in terms of coverage and good journalism, albeit in more condensed form and at greater speed: accuracy, balance, fairness, ethics.”

She discussed the implications in “Information wars: how journalists navigated social media in the Israel-Palestine conflict,” for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Screen shot of WAN-IFRA's Information Wars

Screen shot of WAN-IFRA’s Information Wars

Read more from Abu-Fadil on emotions, comments, images and videos used by warring factions via social media in a blogpost by Lucy Dean. A [PDF] version is available here.

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.

MU Media Literacy Features at I.C. Workshop

Should parents or nursery school teachers use an iPad as a pacifier to ease a toddler into school or a playgroup?

How do schools integrate technology, social media and other forms of engagement in their curricula?

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil answered those and other questions at a workshop on Media and Information Literacy (MIL) for schoolteachers at Lebanon’s International College Ain Aar campus.

Abu-Fadil shows video on how iPads affect children

Abu-Fadil shows video on how iPads affect children

She drew on UNESCO’s MIL Curriculum for Teachers that combines two distinct areas – media literacy and information literacy – under one umbrella.

Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teachers

Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teachers

Abu-Fadil underscored the importance of digital literacy and deconstructed it during the workshop in May 2014 using case studies and videos to illustrate the point.

She reviewed key competencies needed for MIL such as knowledge and understanding of media and information for democratic discourses and social participation, evaluation of media texts and information sources, and, production and use of media and information.

Teachers at IC's Ain Aar campus learn about media literacy

Teachers at IC’s Ain Aar campus learn about media literacy

The training also centered on how to engage with students in a multimedia environment and across various platforms.

Abu-Fadil demonstrated how social media tools such as Twitter have become an integral part of the teaching and learning process.

MU director conducts workshop on media and information literacy at Lebanon's International College

MU director conducts workshop on media and information literacy at Lebanon’s International College

The discussion also touched on accessing information in an effective and affective way, the importance of critical thinking, and methods of evaluating media-related information.

MU Presents Arabic Online Media Ethics Guide

A tweet promoting the “First-Ever Guide to Online Media Ethics” [PDF] led Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to seek out its author in a bid to disseminate it to journalists, bloggers, trainees and students across the Arab World.

Cover

The announcement by Andrea Gallo, a Louisiana State University (LSU) student on the birth of her publication, prompted Abu-Fadil to obtain the booklet and oversee its translation into Arabic.

Various organizations have published online media ethics guidelines but few have made the effort to disseminate them in an easy-to-use Arabic-language compendium.

Rouba El-Helou, a media studies faculty member and journalist, translated the text into Arabic and Abu-Fadil edited the booklet [PDF].

Print

The guide is well thought out and its sections cover news judgment and conflicts, transparency, sourcing ethics, knowing your audience, plagiarism, when problems arise, photos and art, and social media.

Governments, notably in the Arab World, have increasingly slapped on penalties or sentences on producers of online content they deem offensive, and have equated such content with that of print publications.

In other countries officials have begun to deal with the issue through restrictive legislation such as requiring online media to obtain a license to operate, leading to a whole set of ethical problems.

The booklet is an annual project for LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication students.

Dean Jerry Ceppos, who teaches an undergraduate course called “Media Ethics and Social Responsibility” (MC 4090), assigns his charges production of this invaluable resource.

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.

 

 

Abu-Fadil to Journalists: Differentiate Between News and Views

Arab journalists should differentiate between news and views and should not ignore context in their online and traditional outlet stories, said Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

She told Morocco’s Al Roaya News young reporters are impatient and often ignore journalism basics like proper sourcing, research and media ethics.

She urged journalists to enroll in training workshops on a regular basis to upgrade and update their knowledge and skills and to fall back on critical thinking in their endeavors.

A [PDF] of the interview is available here.

Social Media & Wars

Social Media & Wars

In another interview, with Lebanon’s daily Annahar, Abu-Fadil described how media disseminated news of the country’s 1975-90 civil war as opposed to the ubiquitous use of social media today that parallel and compete with legacy media in covering local and regional conflicts.

She said journalists should not be misled by incorrect or doctored information from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and should be diligent in checking all sources.

A [PDF] of the interview is available here.

On Becoming A Foreign Correspondent

Hard work, preparation, a solid contact database, a nose for news, courage and ethics go into shaping foreign correspondents whose tools of the trade may have changed in a multimedia world, but whose mission to inform remains the same.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil provided 28 journalists and activists with tips on how to function as foreign correspondents and debunked myths about glamour and fame promoted in countless Hollywood movies.

Abu-Fadil on attribution and ground rules in different countries

Abu-Fadil on attribution and ground rules in different countries

The training in Morocco was part of the “Building a Digital Gateway to Better Lives” boot camp organized by the Washington-based International Center for Journalists.

It focused on cross-border and regional issues and involved investigative journalism team projects centered on child marriage, child labor, prostitution, human trafficking, prescription drugs on the black market, organized begging, cyber crimes, and illegal immigration.

Abu-Fadil presented examples of noted Arab and Western foreign correspondents, the beats they cover, working conditions, the costs and budgets required to maintain foreign bureaus and staffs, the transition to digital journalism, competition from citizen journalists, and the need to verify all data disseminated through social media and online sources.

Participants at Rabat boot camp

Participants at Rabat boot camp

She also stressed the importance of being multilingual, of being well versed in the history, geography, politics and social environment of the countries the correspondents cover, of the need to understand the economics and statistics of these countries, and how best to cover news conferences and interviews with foreign officials.

Abu-Fadil shows difference between Anglo and French numerals

Abu-Fadil shows difference between Anglo and French numerals

Abu-Fadil touched on first aid, security and safety measures reporters on foreign assignment should learn, which veteran Egyptian journalist Abeer Saady later tackled in depth.

Abeer Saady's safety tips on taxis

Abeer Saady’s safety tips on taxis

Also on hand was Moroccan IT expert Rachid Jankari to discuss mobile phones and cloud computing for use by journalists.

Rachid Jankari on mobile phones and cloud computing

Rachid Jankari on mobile phones and cloud computing

Senior strategist at National Public Radio, self-described real-time informational DJ and occasional journalist Andy Carvin also guided participants in the uses of social media to cover regional issues.

Rabat boot camp trainers and participants

Rabat boot camp trainers and participants

The September boot camp in the Moroccan capital Rabat grouped participants from Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan and Algeria.