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.

MU Director Trains Rookies in Basics of Journalism

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil conducted a two-day virtual workshop for rookie journalists and recruits in the basics of the trade with the first session focusing on exercises to test their knowledge, power of observation, capabilities and skills.

Basic training for recruits

The training for Saudi Arabian daily Arab News in December 2020 examined the journalists’ grasp of basic grammar, their ability to write and edit, to write photo captions, and their knowledge of geography, history, economics, politics and culture.

 

 

Identify the missing capitals or countries in the white spots on the map

On the second day Abu-Fadil covered the definition of news, news story structures, grammar and punctuation rules, the lede (lead), the nut graf, the importance of context and background information in stories, the use of quotations, how headlines are produced, the essentials of picture captions, the use of news sources, interview skills and media ethics.

Practical advice about reporting

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.

Abu-Fadil Trains Journalists for Saudi Daily

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil put eight young journalists for a Saudi Arabian daily through the paces of reporting, writing and editing as part of a an intensive workshop to upgrade their skills and catapult them to the next level.

The training in Dubai in August 2019 involved exercises based on presentations and discussions that “seasoned” writers sometimes take for granted: leads, headlines, photo captions, grammar, punctuation, story components and structure, to say nothing of contextual background information like history, geography, numbers and visuals.

Saudi newspaper journalists hone their skills

The materials included relevant videos, assignments, tools, online research and news tests.

A key session focused on media ethics, notably in today’s world of alternative facts, disinformation, deep fakes and artificial intelligence-generated news.

Other sessions concentrated on interviewing techniques, the AP style guide, long considered the industry standard, as well as coverage of speeches, meetings and news conferences.

 

During the long afternoon sessions, she helped the trainees sharpen their writing proficiency with a mix of topics including housing problems, oil spills and their environmental impact, and the hospitality industry.

One afternoon was dedicated to visiting Bloomberg’s Dubai hub for a briefing on the newsgathering and editing operation, including automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Riad Hamade and Nayla Razzouk explain workings of Bloomberg’s Dubai TV studio

Riad Hamade, executive editor for the Middle East and North Africa at Bloomberg News, gave them a rundown on his organization’s workings.

Hamade, along with Nayla Razzouk, Bloomberg News Team Leader for Energy and Commodities in the Middle East & North Africa, and Claudia Maedler, the Gulf bureau chief (excluding Saudi Arabia), took the group on a tour of the very impressive newsroom and TV studio.

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 Co-Trains Libyan Journalists

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil helped eight Libyan journalists better understand solid reporting in a final workshop to assess their coverage of European Union-related issues.

MU director critiques Libyan journalists' work

MU director critiques Libyan journalists’ work

She joined BBC veteran Russell Peasgood to train the reporters from Tripoli, Benghazi and Ajdabia.

The training took place in Tunisia due to the unsettled situation in Libya.

BBC veteran Russell Peasgood (left) reviews Libyan reporter’s article

BBC veteran Russell Peasgood (left) reviews Libyan reporter’s article

Government security forces, opposing warring factions and militias systematically target Libyan journalists. The journalists’ work for the course reflected the threats under which they  operate.

Libyan journalists learn to sharpen skills

Libyan journalists learn to sharpen skills

Abu-Fadil stressed the importance of writing strong leads, avoiding opinions in hard news reports, verifying all information, using proper attribution, and being mindful of media ethics.

BBC Media Action training of Libyan journalists in Tunis

BBC Media Action training of Libyan journalists in Tunis

The European Union-funded workshop in April 2014 is part of a program run by a BBC Media Action-led consortium covering 17 countries in the “European Neighbourhood.”

MU Director Contributes to UNESCO Elections Coverage Book

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil contributed to a UNESCO publication on elections coverage that featured the media’s mixed bag reporting of Lebanon’s presidential, parliamentary and municipal balloting.

The booklet entitled “Elections Reporting in the Arab Region” [PDF] is a handy collection of articles encapsulating the proceedings of an experts meeting in Amman, Jordan during which participants exchanged views on how the media tackled elections in their respective countries.

Elections Reporting in the Arab Region

Elections Reporting in the Arab Region

The seminar in November 2013 grouped Jordanian journalists who had attended training workshops on elections coverage with counterparts from Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Palestine and Iraq who, in turn, had covered elections in their own countries as well as regionally and internationally.

The seminar was funded by the European Union and organized by UNESCO’s Amman office.

Abu-Fadil Helps Georgian Journalists Hone Skills

Keep it simple, don’t assume, remember accuracy, ethics are key, and avoid wordiness, was some of the advice provided by BBC veteran Jim Fish and Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil to 12 Georgian journalists attending a booster course to hone their reporting skills.

Georgian journalists advised never to assume anything

Georgian journalists advised never to assume anything

The reporters at print, broadcast and online media presented samples of their work in the final phase of training organized by BBC Media Action and funded by the European Union in Tbilisi.

Review of TV report elements

Review of TV report elements

The reports included focus on a special needs school, internally displaced persons, the decriminalization of marijuana, homeless senior citizens, victims of hurricane damage, and an embargo on dairy products, to name a few.

Fish and Abu-Fadil cautioned the journalists not to be swayed by officials’ statements and to cut through the haze of government, corporate and NGO news releases.

Trainers Jim Fish, Abu-Fadil (center) journalists, mentor Akaki Gvimradze and interpreters

Trainers Jim Fish, Abu-Fadil (center) journalists, mentor Akaki Gvimradze and interpreters

Akaki Gvimradze, deputy editor-in-chief of the Georgian daily “Resonance,” helped with logistics and served as a mentor to the younger journalists.

Georgian journalist-mentor Akaki Gvimradze

Georgian journalist-mentor Akaki Gvimradze

While most of the three samples each journalist produced were of a serious nature, a few TV reports touched viewers’ funny bone and provided a fresh approach to otherwise mundane subjects.

The intense two-day course in January 2014 is part of a series of workshops covering partner states of the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument, an initiative that targets several Eastern European and Mediterranean countries.

MU Director Interviewed on Elections Reporting in Lebanon

Political polarization and political sectarianism are the main problems facing journalists covering legislative elections in Lebanon, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil said in an interview.

Amman Experts Meeting Interview

“There are always warnings about crossing red lines, as that may endanger life and limb,” she said, adding that threats may also affect the direction of reports that are published or broadcast.

Abu-Fadil addressed an experts meeting in Jordan on challenges facing elections reporting in the Arab region funded by the European Union and organized by UNESCO‘s Amman office.

 

 

 

Jordanian, Palestinian Journalists’ Output Evaluated

Fourteen Jordanian and Palestinian journalists sat through two days of intensive evaluations in Amman, Jordan where experts judged their print, broadcast and online output for various media as a follow-up to earlier training workshops.

Amman trainees present their work for evaluation

Amman trainees present their work for evaluation

The November 2013 workshop aimed to improve participants’ reporting skills in covering topics such as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, a popular movement to set up tent cities where Israeli settlements are being planned, child labor in the Jordan Valley, and Jordan’s handling of Syrian refugees,.

BBC veteran and lead trainer Russell Peasgood provided solid advice on how best to prepare and present radio and television packages as well as reporting for newspapers.

Peasgood points to Gaelle Sundelin’s (right) Jordan Times article

Peasgood points to Gaelle Sundelin’s (right) Jordan Times article

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil contributed to the assessment sessions by judging print, online and broadcast content.

Reports in Arabic and English also focused on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the commemoration of (Ard) Land Day, how the Israeli occupation distresses Palestinian children, restoration of Jordanian relics and historical sites, eco-friendly coal mining in the West Bank town of Jenin, as well as threats to the Zarqa second-hand market in Jordan.

Abu-Fadil assesses online content

Abu-Fadil assesses online content

The workshop was part of a project funded by the European Union and delivered by a consortium led by BBC Media Action.

Some samples of the participants’ work:

http://al-shorfa.com/ar/articles/meii/features/main/2010/03/26/feature-02

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHfju-MQ1N4

http://jordantimes.com/as-prison-doors-open-into-freedom-inmates-find-helping-hand-to-survive-in-not-so-friendly-environment

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fua0n56ZWBM&feature=youtu.be

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1cVHFz5pAk&feature=youtu.be