Social Media News Gathering Workshop at Sindh University

GNMI trains students in social media news gathering at Sindh University, Hyderabad.

On January 24th GNMI conducted training at Sindh University, Hyderabad with a group of 81 student participants, out of whom 41 were women. The importance of social media in todays’ world is undeniable and the value it presents to journalists the world over is unparalleled. However gathering news from social media sources is laced with peril since sources can sometimes be ambiguous and unverifiable. Therefore GNMI decided to illuminate the participants who were interested in joining the media industry on how to reliably source their news and how to identify a breaking news story on social media.

The training was conducted by Najia Ashar, founder of GNMI, and supplemented with a visual presentation in order to facilitate the understanding of how social media is not just significant; it is becoming increasingly accessible by different social classes and hence provides a way for more demographics to have their voices heard. In order to provide in-depth perspective by journalists who are well-versed in how to utilize the digital practice of social media newsgathering, a guest speaker was featured in the training. Syed Masood Raza, investigative journalist, spoke for an hour about the need for gender sensitization in newsrooms and acknowledged that the media often acts carelessly when reporting gender issues. He said that it is also an individual journalist’s responsibility to highlight cases of abuse and violence against women and carry out objective reporting.

Throughout the workshop the participants were given the tools and understanding they needed to employ social media in a way that allowed them to be one of the first people to identify breaking news on social media. In order to help them realize the possibility and profit of this practice, they were provided with several case studies pertaining to domestic and sexual violence where the survivors and victims are women. The 50% ratio of women participants ensured that there would be a healthy brainstorming discussion regarding the case studies and that the presentations would have varying perspectives. The case studies were all news stories that had become national headlines and household debates therefore the participants were well aware of them. However their activity required for them to conduct research on the social mMedia screenshots provided to them on their worksheets, and this gave them a starting off point upon which to base their presentations on and what to look for in the future.

Students scanned social media and different media outlets for information on the cases of their choice, and were asked to identify how they chose a social media source and establish their authenticity. In the case of an infamous university rape and murder news story, the participants detailed how certain powerful quarters allegedly try to influence the investigation in the case. The students wrote details on chart papers, sticky notes and activity material provided to them and presented their research before the audience. This highlights their own understanding and knowledge on power structures and power dynamics that have a gendered underlay.

Head trainer Ashar, and the GNMI team guided the participants throughout and helped them with their presentations. The finalized projects were presented at the front of room with guest speaker Masood providing them with feedback regarding the language used by the participants, the choice of platform, sources and formatting. In the cases of a few students who chose to vlog, Masood gave them constructive criticism on camera angles and backdrops.

The students were all enthusiastic about the workshop and were eager to apply the knowledge they gained from the training towards real life and journalism endeavors of their own.

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