“The essence of good reporting is to take the little thing you can observe on the ground and put it in the bigger picture”

Putting things into the bigger picture and practice, that was what the 5th day of the workshop was all about. Moving from theory to practice, participants revised the guidelines of ethical journalism and conflict-sensitive reporting they had developed with the trainer Gülsen D. the day before.

That a single perspective is dangerous in journalism was one of the major points that were stressed. In order to achieve conflict-sensitive reporting one would have to avoid ethnocentric views, stereotypes, and move beyond a black and white image of victim and perpetrator.

Jaafar Abdul Karim, credit Pascale Müller
Jaafar Abdul Karim. Photo: Pascale Müller

To help the participants bridge the theoretical input and the media production Jaafar Abdul Karim, moderator of “Shabab Talk” at the German TV channel Deutsche Welle paid a visit to the workshop. Together with him, the young journalists tried to implement their knowledge on a real world situation. How would they design a talk show about the recent Gaza conflict taking for an audience of young Arabs in Germany? Whom would they invite?

Still having their guidelines in mind, many responded that the aim should be to invite guests from both the Israeli and the Palestinian side. It was debated how much sense it would make to invite guests with strongly opposing views. Could it harm the talk show more than it would benefit? Maybe it would be better to focus more on speakers that have some sort of conflict solution in mind?

While Jaafar explained how he decided who was invited to such a talk show, it became evident in the group that implementing the rules they had developed on a daily basis in their journalistic work might sometimes not even be possible. As one participant pointed out: “In a conflict with such history and complexity, it is hard to include all perspectives, because there are so many divisions even within the parties that are usually seen as opponents.”

Roy Gutman, credit Pascale Müller
Roy Gutman via Skype. Photo: Pascale Müller

After the session with Jaafar, Pulitzer Price winner Roy Gutman joined the group via Skype to give them insight into how ethical reporting on conflicts and wars can reflect in fieldwork. He stressed the importance of journalists to dig deeper, to not accept the first version of a story. “Good journalism is that you do not stop at stories people tell you,” he told participants. Gutman also brought the topic of activism from Monday’s panel “Journalists as activist or observers” back into discussion. For him there is no debate: “Journalists should not be activists. We are there to report the facts on the ground.”

With the input and the professional experience, it was time to get the production going. The editorial team consisting of Maria Wölfle, Assaad Thebian, and Pascale Müller introduced the online magazine as the final output of the workshop. Topics ranged from the conflict between refugees and the local administration in Berlin over the housing crisis and Russian separatists in Latvia. As Gutman said: “Essence of good reporting is to take the little thing you can observe on ground and put it in the bigger picture.” In the next days small reporting teams will keep working on their stories to make this happen.

Text: Pascale Müller

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