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Sleuth reporting

[photo]
The three-day event was attended by 17 senior journalism students from various Lebanese universities.

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December 12, 2012—

In partnership with UNESCO - Beirut, the Department of Communication Arts hosted a national workshop on investigative journalism.

The three-day event that took place earlier this month brought together 17 journalism students from LAU and other Lebanese universities.

According to Dr. Yasmine Dabbous, assistant professor of journalism and media studies, investigative reporting in the current social and political era is crucial. “With the advent of the Arab Spring, journalists have a lot to investigate - like corruption cases from the previous regimes - there is a genuine market for such reporting,” she says.

In an era of 24/7 news, investigative reporting’s value has increased, allowing those networks or publications who undertake it to distinguish themselves from the rest, says Dabbous.

As the workshop started, some of the students spoke about the relative ease of investigating. “I managed to get a full article published thanks to information I got from the ministry - they gave me everything I asked for,” one of them said.

Marlene Khalife, a professional journalist and trainer challenged the student. “You got the information they wanted to give you. There is a difference between reporting and investigating,” she said.

The students looked at Khalife with confounded faces. “It was the first time they heard about investigative journalism and they were really curious to know more,” the trainer explains.

Indeed, none of the universities in Lebanon offer an investigative reporting course. “There is a real gap between the reality of journalism and the academic curricula offered in Lebanon and the region,” says Khalife, reminding us that corruption and bribery on the one hand and the lack of press resources on the other have made it harder to carry out investigative journalism.

The workshop covered the essentials; from planning to reporting and writing to ethical and legal questions; combining lectures and discussions with hands-on exercises.

“This training was really crucial for us. It opened our eyes,” says Hussein Kassab from the American University of Science and Technology. “As a future journalist I imagined I would edit interesting stories or relay a message. Now I have a totally new vision about what journalism can be; now I know that we, journalists, could change the society we live in,” he added.

Both Khalife and Kassab said that the workshop was too short and participants expressed the need to include more practical exercises.

“We believe that by being exposed to sound journalism education students will have a different way of working and thinking - they will build their skills, be more ethical and professional,” says George Awad, program officer at UNESCO-Beirut.

LAU is preparing to launch a course in investigative journalism for fall 2013.

 


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