Twitter launching journalism training in Dubai

Sunday 04/06/2017
Widespread following. A 3D-printed logo for Twitter. (Reuters)

Dubai - The Dubai Press Club (DPC) is working with Twitter to offer a year-long course to help journalists and media students develop report­ing and storytelling skills through the popular social networking site.

Due to begin in September, the programme, with sessions in Eng­lish and Arabic, will initially be available in the United Arab Emir­ates but there are plans to extend it across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) next year.

DPC Director Alia al-Theeb said the goal was to support learning and the growth of digital journal­ism because social media tools such as Twitter lead to dramatic shifts in the way news content is produced, distributed and consumed.

“The initiative, developed in part­nership with Twitter, forms part of our ongoing efforts to empower journalists in the region,” she said during the announcement of the programme at the 16th Arab Media Forum in Dubai.

“The programme will build stu­dents’ skills and competencies so they can develop into tomorrow’s leading journalists. Twitter has quickly gained a widespread follow­ing among the young generation as a news source and is at the forefront of the trend for people gaining con­trol of news consumption through social media,” Theeb said.

Kinda Ibrahim, director of me­dia partnerships at Twitter in the MENA region, said: “As a real-time information network whose role is to keep people informed about the world, Twitter has proved to be an essential tool for the modern-day journalist.

“Such a partnership will allow students in the region to gain an of­ficial training, which enables them to both source and break news through the platform. We see this as a much-needed programme that will equip journalists with the right skills to progress their careers in to­day’s new media landscape.”

Faisal al-Yafai, a columnist for the National newspaper in Abu Dhabi and who has a strong Twitter following, described the move as “very necessary and indeed over­due.”

“Twitter has increasingly be­come not only a go-to place to dis­cover pieces of news but a platform in which journalists can actually break news and tell news stories in a different, innovative way,” he said.

“Young journalists today, and particularly Arab journalists who are operating in a region that uses at least three major languages — Ar­abic, English and French — need to be able to access what is being said in every part of the region and the world rapidly.”

Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington and a contrib­uting writer to the Guardian, For­eign Policy and other publications, also spoke of the opportune nature of the online tutoring course.

“The training course in Dubai is both timely and critical,” he said. “The UAE and the Gulf region have a growing internet usage penetra­tion and some of the highest num­ber of Twitter and social media us­ers per capita.”

Hassan, co-author of “ISIS: In­side the Army of Terror” and whose work focuses on Syria, Iraq and the Gulf states, highlighted another benefit of the Twitter course.

“Training about how to maximise reach and be conscious of the dan­gers that usually come with the use of social media is incredibly useful for young people and students,” he said. “Extremist groups, for exam­ple, are avid users of social media and the Gulf populations are among their top targets and so educated youth should be similarly savvy in the way they use such media.”

Abu Dhabi-based Tierra Smith, 24, a recent master’s degree gradu­ate from Louisiana State University, has written a thesis about the role of female journalists in the UAE.

“This is big for the UAE. There is a need to develop and mentor the next generation of young journal­ists,” she said. “They must have a hungry appetite for news but also understand how to use tools such as social media and mobile journal­ism to their advantage. This will give many college students and young professionals an hands-on approach to an exciting and re­warding industry.

“Once a young journalist gets a taste of fast-paced field, it is addict­ing. They will create captivating work that will advance the country and the GCC as a whole.”

More information on the pro­gramme can be obtained through the Dubai Press Club at info@dpc.