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.

 

MU Director to MCD: Newsrooms Have Ethical Duties

Legacy newsrooms face immense challenges in dealing with media ethics in the digital age, notably with competition from social networks and platforms, but have a responsibility to maintain their credibility and professionalism, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya (MCD).

“To determine the accuracy of information in digital pictures, for example, there are applications (apps) one can use to trace their origin,” she said. “Is the picture an original? Was it stolen from somewhere? Was it tampered with?”

Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya

In Part 2 of an interview on MCD, Abu-Fadil discussed the dilemma editors face in determining what photos, videos and text to disseminate when the content is sensitive, offensive and tragic.

She pointed to a number of apps and tools used in verifying content to find out if it’s plagiarized.

What’s key is to deliver information that’s accurate, balanced, that doesn’t deviate from humanity and that’s ethical, Abu-Fadil insisted, noting that critical thinking is very important but that many journalists don’t always use it in their work.

Abu-Fadil advised journalists and news organizations to be completely transparent when mistakes are made and to admit and correct them immediately if they’re to maintain their credibility.

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

Part 1 of the interview can be heard here.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Tripoli Trainees Jump on Citizen Journalism Bandwagon

Fourteen trainees learned how to become citizen journalists while maintaining professional and ethical standards during a workshop organized by the Lebanese Center for Active Citizenship.

The training in December 2012, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, touched on the evolution of modern journalism and how it gave rise to the form today practiced by ordinary citizens.

The Importance of Twitter in citizen journalism

Trainees acquired skills to help with effective coverage of events, through live blogging and vlogging, geographic positioning, and the importance of social media in instant dissemination of news.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil conducted the short course in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli that grouped 12 mass communication students from Al Jinan University and two social activists.

Magda Abu-Fadil with LCAC officials and trainees

Abu-Fadil advised the participants to keep their content short and clear, to use active verbs, to make sure their headlines are relevant and attractive, and, to use key words for easy search engine optimization.

She also stressed the importance of good visuals like photos and videos as well as infographics and simple language.

The attraction of photos and captions

Participants also discussed media standards and ethics with Abu-Fadil reminding them to be accurate, balanced, transparent, truthful, and not to lose sight of context.

Anba Moscow/Ria Novosti Journalists Upgrade Agency Online Skills

Seven journalists at Anba Moscow’s Dubai bureau underwent intensive training to upgrade their skills for the website maintained in Arabic by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

The journalists, who come from diverse backgrounds, attended a five-day workshop in October 2012 conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil on the needs of an international news agency, evolution of the media, and story structure in an online environment.

Anba Moscow trainees upgrade news agency online skills

Also on the agenda was the importance of solid headlines and leads, sources, types of wire stories and integration of social media into the mix for better audience engagement.

Magda Abu-Fadil with Anba Moscow team in Dubai

Abu-Fadil reminded the journalists of the need to maintain high ethical standards in their coverage.

They were provided tips on crises, sudden events, fieldwork, means of communication, safety measures and coordination between correspondents and their newsrooms.

Not to be overlooked, the Anba Moscow team was encouraged to make good use of infographics, photos, videos and audio clips, and develop interest in multimedia.