Journalism 101 for Arab News Recruits

Today’s journalists must work holistically across digital platforms but shouldn’t forget the basics of getting the story right and building their knowledge base, Arab News recruits learned in a virtual workshop.

Journalism 101 for recruits

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil put a group of newly-minted reporters at the Saudi daily through the paces by first testing their grasp of geography, history, basic economics, verification skills, writing copy, headlines and captions as well as note taking and observation by turning video content into a story.

Geography test

The three-day workshop in September 2021 included basics in grammar, errors writers often make, redundancies in copy, and punctuation that journalists often take for granted.

Abu-Fadil said news writing wasn’t literature or poetry and provided a detailed explanation of what constituted news.

What’s the story?

She stressed the importance of fact checking in a bid to mitigate the damage from mis-, dis- and mal-information, adding that journalism is an interdisciplinary field requiring extensive reading and research.

She also urged the trainees not to fall for superficial social media messages.

The journalists were introduced to the basic structure of a news story, the essence of news, writing effective leads, the importance of context in the nut graf, proper use of quotations and the ability to distinguish between American and British English journalistic writing styles.

 

How to use quotes

The training’s other key elements included numbers, hype, oxymorons, jargon, clichés and the use of visuals.

Abu-Fadil spoke of media ethics, the use of anonymous sources, and focused on the skills needed to conduct effective interviews, in person and virtually.

She also stressed the importance of establishing interview ground rules and differentiating between attribution terminology in American and British English.

Let’s edit

On the final day, the recruits demonstrated what they learned through rigorous writing and editing exercises that included turning bland official news releases into actual stories with adequate context, proper attribution, well placed quotes, research and strong active verb leads to draw readers into the rest of the article.

 

The importance of fact checking

They viewed a video to test their sense of observation and news judgment and a short film on fact checking.

Arab News Recruits Embark on Journo Journey

Arab News recruits took the plunge into the choppy waters of journalism through a battery of tests and presentations ahead of what they hope will be a reporting, and maybe editing, career.

 

The ABCs of journalism

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil assessed the rookies’ knowledge of geography, history, basic economics, verification skills, writing copy, headlines and captions as well as note taking and observation by storifying video content during a three-day workshop in April 2021.

She pointed out errors writers often make, cautioned against redundancies and ran them through grammar, punctuation, editing and rewriting exercises.

Understanding mis-, dis- and mal-information

Abu-Fadil said hard news writing wasn’t literature or poetry and stressed the importance of fact checking in a bid to mitigate the damage from mis-, dis- and mal-information.

Journalism is an interdisciplinary field requiring extensive reading and research, she said, and urged them not to fall for superficial social media messages.

 

The lead (lede) can make or break a story

The trainees were introduced to the basic structure of a news story, the essence of news, writing effective leads, the importance of context in the nut graf, proper use of quotations and the ability to distinguish between American and British English journalistic writing styles.

The training’s other key elements included numbers, hype, oxymorons, jargon, clichés and the use of visuals.

 

Writing American or British English

Abu-Fadil spoke of media ethics, the use of anonymous sources, and focused on the skills needed to conduct effective interviews, in person and virtually.

She also stressed the importance of establishing interview ground rules and differentiating between attribution terminology in American and British English.

 

Interview skills

On the final day, the recruits demonstrated what they learned through rigorous writing and editing exercises. They viewed a video to test their sense of observation and news judgment and a short film on fact checking.

Lebanese NNA Features Media Unlimited Fact-Checking Workshop

Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) featured Media Unlimited’s workshop on fact-checking with Minister of Information Manal Abdel Samad thanking director Magda Abu-Fadil for providing dynamic, engaged and interactive coaching to 24 journalists and academics.

NNA coverage of fact-checking workshop

Abdel Samad commended Abu-Fadil for combining theory and practice in the intensive three-day training based primarily on the UNESCO handbook/course “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” the latter co-authored.

Abu-Fadil coached Lebanese reporters, editors, anchors and media professors on how to detect false information using case studies, exercises and various tools in combating the infodemic.

National News Agency logo

 She conducted the workshop organized by UNESCO and the Lebanese Ministry of Information in March 2021 and hosted expert Nayla Salibi from Monte Carlo Doualiya Radio to launch the training with a review of cyber security and how information disruption can cause great harm due to manipulated data.

The sessions included participants from Lebanon’s Ministry of Information and National News Agency, Saudi 24 TV channel, Kuwait TV, Lebanon’s OTV, Radio Liban, Télé Liban, LBC TV, Al Arabi Al Jadeed, Univérsité Saint Joseph and Univérsité Saint Esprit Kaslik, among others.

Abu-Fadil Beefs Up Journos’ Online Media Skills

Arab News journalists sank their teeth into an intense online reporting, writing and editing masterclass to beef up their skills under extended coronavirus lockdown conditions.

Arab News masterclass in Online Reporting, Writing & Editing

 

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil conducted three video-conferenced classes in June 2020 involving reporters and editors from the Saudi Arabian daily’s Riyadh, Dubai and Pakistan/India bureaus that covered a range of topics they incorporate in their work.

Among the reporting tips were the basics of accuracy, fact-checking information, scrutinizing numbers and statistics, questioning assumptions, and following the money.

Reporting tips

 

The journalists were also advised to look for questions in online content, listening more carefully to people, cultivating their niche, using social media monitoring tools to help land stories, and tracking official inquiries for potential topics.

On the language front, Abu-Fadil told the trainees to avoid hype in their headlines and copy, and to show, not tell, the story with the facts by also avoiding subjective judgments. Other pitfalls she cautioned against were clichés and jargon that seep into one’s writing.

Advice to journalists: don’t hype, show, don’t tell, avoid oxymorons

 

While the basics of leads, nut grafs and context are constants in all stories, how they’re packaged online and how information is dug up to disseminate them may vary according to the platform.

Abu-Fadil discussed open source tools, filters and user-generated content to uncover facts. She showed a video on Google Earth Pro and how to capture geolocated photos and videos for inclusion in their content.

Trainees watch a video on how to use Google Earth Pro in their stories

The masterclass involved writing photo captions, tips for writing better headlines, media ethics, online interviewing techniques and covering virtual events.

The art of writing photo captions

 

Abu-Fadil provided the journalists with a series of writing and editing tips to fine-tune their copy. They included proofreading tools to clean up clunky phrases and grammar mistakes and online plagiarism checkers.

Journalists are provided with proofreading tools

 

She also demonstrated how to edit a news item by tightening the headline, deleting redundancies, maintaining verb tense consistency and simplifying the language.

MU Director Leads Newsroom Management Workshops in Riyadh, Jeddah

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil trained Arab News journalists on the finer points of newsroom management at the paper’s Riyadh and Jeddah headquarters, with follow-up mentoring covering the Misk Global Forum in the Saudi Arabian capital.

Arab News headquarters in Riyadh

The workshops in November 2019 included the evolution of organizational charts from traditional to digital integrated multimedia newsrooms, issues of leadership, the importance of optimizing technology, and having IT people, designers, data visualization artists, infographics, photo, video and illustration teams alongside journalists and editors.

Magda Abu-Fadil with Arab News journalists in Riyadh

There was no escaping a requisite session on media ethics, notably in an era of alternative facts, deepfakes, disinformation, and the need for fact-checking in all newsrooms.

Journalists also learned about the importance of engagement with their audiences across various platforms. Almost each session had topic-related exercises.

Arab News Riyadh team being drilled on newsroom management

Abu-Fadil used a session on social media to focus on how apps can be optimized to gather and double-check information and why journalists should live blog and live tweet at major events or while covering breaking news.

There was a session on photojournalism and how newsrooms handle graphic images and videos, violence, death and hate speech.

 

Preparing to cover and mentor Arab News journalists at the Misk Global Forum

Not to be ignored is the importance of mobile journalism (MoJo), which Abu-Fadil stressed is a cornerstone of most newsrooms today, meaning reporters should be able to report, interview, write, shoot pictures and videos, edit their work and, if need be, upload the material to the newsroom, or directly to a live platform, if they’re qualified and authorized to do so.

Misk Global Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The workshop sessions were interspersed with several informative and how-to videos to help the trainees better understand the material’s context.

There were reminders on writing headlines, leads, nut graphs, dealing with numbers, interviewing techniques and covering major events.

 

Arab News journalists in Jeddah beavering away at writing and editing exercises

Other topics covered during the training included gamification, how young people consume news and comics journalism.

Abu-Fadil Pens MIL Chapter in UNESCO “Fake News” Course/Book

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil wrote a teaching module on media and information literacy in a course aimed at creating awareness about “fake news.”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization supported the initiative as part of UNESCO’s Excellence in Journalism Education Series for the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

The result: “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” published in the summer of 2018.

She joined a stellar group of journalists, academics and media experts in producing the course that can also be used by newsrooms and anyone concerned by the distortion of information.

This handbook for journalism education and training is a 128-page compendium of seven modules comprising lessons, exercises, assignments, activities, materials, and resources to create awareness about an increasingly relevant topic. The full text can be downloaded here.

It explores the very nature of journalism with modules on why trust matters; thinking critically about how digital technology and social platforms are conduits of information disorder; fighting back against disinformation and misinformation through media and information literacy; fact-checking 101; social media verification and combatting online abuse.

Abu-Fadil’s contribution, Module 4 “Combatting Disinformation and Misinformation Through Media and Information Literacy (MIL)” can be downloaded separately here.