• How to edit your story for accuracy

    by Rana F. Sweis

    As a reporter, you must gather information and interview sources quickly, then explain what you’ve learned concisely and clearly. Once that’s done, it’s tempting to ship the story to your editor or hit “publish” on your blog.

    Resist that temptation. You need to do one more thing to ensure your story contains only accurate, unbiased and verified information: edit your story line by line.

    Investigative reporter Nils Hanson shared his advice for line-by-line editing at the recent Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) conference in Cairo. More than 200 journalists and academics, mainly from the Middle East, attended the conference, which included training sessions and networking opportunities with international investigative reporters and trainers.

    Hanson, who reports for the popular Swedish TV news station SVT, and is a member of ARIJ’s board, offered these tips for editing for accuracy:

    Have your address book and notes handy

    Make sure your list of sources and their contact information, as well as notes from your interviews, are close at hand. There may be facts you will need to double-check as you edit.

    Keep an open mind

    “Are you hit by tunnel vision? That’s the big trap,” Hanson said. Tunnel vision is the tendency to hold on to a certain belief even when evidence points elsewhere. Reporters sometimes do this without realizing it, Hanson said, so stay open-minded when reporting and editing your story.

    “Listen to the skeptical, examine the expert and question the victim,” Hanson said. Think of the recent BBC scandal, in which an alleged sex-abuse victim admitted to wrongly accusing a former politician of attacking him. “Can victims prove their allegations?”

    Examine each fact

    Ask yourself if there is essential information missing and if all assertions are grounded in fact. Mark each fact, name, figure and quote in your story, and then verify it. “Watch out for overstatements, such as ‘everybody says’ or [that] they haven’t done anything,” Hanson said.

    Verify all data, including statistics. “Even data presented by interviewees must be verified,” he says.

    Evaluate your sources and decide if you need more interviews

    Do your sources make conclusions that others might criticize? Point that out.

    Reporters need to make sure they talk with many people, including those they don’t like or who don’t like them. They should also include people who are controversial or who may seem a bit odd—or just wrong—to the reporter.

    “Did the people criticized in your story have a chance to reply to all serious criticism aimed against them?” Hanson asked.

    “Look at the overall picture and check if it is unbiased or if it is written in an accusatory tone,” he explained. “Who or what could give a different picture?”

    Protect sources and check copyrights

    Make certain that a source you have promised not to identify will not appear in published documents or in photos or video. Also examine graphics and copyrights, including logos and statistics revealed in charts or graphs.

    Check your gut

    After examining your report line by line, Hanson says to ask yourself two final questions. First, ask yourself, “Are you troubled by anything?” If the answer is affirmative, be honest with yourself and your editor about what that is.

    Finally, ask yourself, “What might generate criticism?” Don’t automatically take those parts out. Instead, address those critiques in your story.

    If you follow these steps, you’ll be much less likely to need to issue a correction—or to regret publishing the story at all.

    Rana F. Sweis is a freelance journalist and media researcher. She writes mainly about political reform, refugees and social issues in the Middle East. She is also the lead researcher in Jordan for the Open Society Institute-sponsored Mapping Digital Media Study. You can visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

    Photo courtesy of Rogue Sun Media, used with a CC-license

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  • وسائل الإعلام الالكترونية تمكن الشباب في الشرق الأوسط

    يقود الشباب في الشرق الأوسط الثورات مزودين بوسائل الإعلام الجديدة.

    وقد لعب الشباب، الذين يشكلون 30% من السكان في المنطقة، دوراً مهيمناً في الاحتجاجات والاضطرابات السياسية التي تم توثيقها عبر الهواتف المحمولة والإنترنت ووسائل الاعلام الاجتماعية.

    وقالت شهيدة أظفر، المدير الإقليمي لليونيسيف في منطقة الشرق الأوسط “كان الأطفال والشباب في قلب الربيع العربي، لقد لعبوا دوراً رئيسياً في تحريض الناس، واستخدام قوة وسائل الاعلام الاجتماعية لحشد الدعم. لكنهم كانوا أيضاً من بين أول الضحايا”.

    على سبيل المثال، أجبر انعدام فرص الحصول على المعلومات في سوريا وسائل الاعلام على الاعتماد على الصور التي التقطت من قبل مواطنين عاديين وتسجيلات فيديو لهواة لحمام الدماء الذي يجري في أحياء وشوارع غامضة.

    وتحدث خالد عز العرب من هيئة الاذاعة البريطانية (بي بي سي) ونجوى قاسم من قناة العربية، ضمن منتدى اليونسيف الإقليمي للإعلام في الشرق الأوسط وشمال افريقيا، عن المتظاهرين الأطفال في مصر وسوريا واليمن والبحرين. كثير من الأطفال أيضا لا يزالون في مرمى النيران.

    عند أصيب سيد أحمد سيد، الطفل ذي الـ 14 ربيعاً، برصاصة في البحرين، نشرت عدة مقاطع فيديو مؤثرة عبر الهواتف المحمولة تكشف رأسه المضروب. تم نشر الصور ومقاطع الفيديو وتم رفع صورة كبيرة للطفل في أحد أكبر الاحتجاجات في الشوارع. قام أصدقائه بإنتاج مقاطع فيديو على يوتيوب وتوزيعها قبل وبعد الاحتجاجات.

    وقال عز العرب أن الشباب شعروا بالقوة عبر استخدام الهواتف المحمولة وشبكة الإنترنت: “الشباب، بما في ذلك الأطفال، يطالبون اليوم بتعليم أفضل، ومعلمين أفضل، ومعاملة أفضل من الحكومة، وإصلاحات من شأنها أن تؤثر على حياتهم خاصة في مجال التعليم والمساواة فضلا عن الشفافية”.



  • Digital media empower Middle Eastern youth

    Revolutions in the Middle East have been powered by young people using new technology.

    Young people, who make up 30 percent of the region’s population, have played a dominant role in protests and political upheaval by documenting events with cell phones, the Internet and social media.

    “Children and young people have been at the heart of the Arab Spring. They play a key role in instigating it, using the power of social media to rally their peers and mobilize support,” said Shahida Azfar, UNICEF Regional Director for MENA. “But they have also been among its first victims.”

    For example, the lack of access to information from Syria has forced the media to depend on photos taken by ordinary citizens and amateur recording of bloodshed in obscure neighborhoods and streets.

    Many children also continue to be caught in the crossfire. At UNICEF’s annual Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Media Forum, Khaled Ezz Al Arab of the BBC and Najwa Kassim of Al Arabiya spoke about child protesters in Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.

    When Sayed Ahmad Sayed, a 14-year-old boy, was shot in Bahrain, graphic videos – many taken by cellphones – revealed his bludgeoned head. The photos and videos were disseminated and large photos of the boy were paraded in one of the largest street protests. His friends made YouTube videos and disseminated them before and after the protests.

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