NU-Q journalism graduates help “change the channel”

Alumni contribute to national broadcaster’s revamp

Shaped by a global media education in the heart of Qatar, three alumni from Northwestern University in Qatar are putting their unique knowledge and skills to work at the new Qatar TV (QTV), recently re-launched with a modern look and fresh content.

The three members of NU-Q’s first graduating class, Nazneen Zahan, Shannon Farhoud and Benazir Karim, are part of a new breed of locally-trained journalists who are contributing their unique outlook to the national broadcaster’s transformation as it tailors Qatari content for global audiences.

NU-Q Dean and CEO Everette Dennis said that the school is “proud to see some of our first graduates already making an impact on Qatar’s local media institutions. Because their coursework couples a foundation in the liberal arts with extensive training and immersion in the local community, our graduates are well-equipped to tell the stories of Qatari communities and respond to the increasingly global demands of Qatari newsrooms.”

“The skills we acquired at NU-Q are exactly what are expected from us at this channel,” said Nazneen Zahan, a journalist at the TV Support and Development Committee at Qatar TV.  “We were trained to work on tight deadlines and to go above and beyond when necessary, work with the latest equipment and switch hats from being a producer one minute to a director in the next. NU-Q was the perfect stepping stone.”

The three graduates of NU-Q have been working behind the scenes for months as part of a wide-ranging revamp that aims to turn the state-run QTV into a top-ranked media outlet, reflective of the aspiration of a country with a fast-rising international profile.

Zahan, a Doha-born Bangladeshi national, works on documentaries that tackle both international and local news. She says the best part about her job at QTV, which involves researching stories, pitching ideas, interviews, and writing synopses for broadcast, is “still getting to learn so much and working with people who have been in this industry for so many years.”

“It’s a very nourishing and motivating environment,” she added.

“Working between QTV and trying to start my own production company is hard, but passion keeps me and my colleagues going,” said Shannon Farhoud, who co-founded a production company called Torath with three other NU-Q alumni. The company’s first production Lyrics Revolt, a documentary about Arab hip-hop, received a special mention at the 2012 Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

Formerly a business student in Canada, Farhoud decided to move to NU-Q so she could change to a more creative field of study in a top school that would also be close to her family who resides in Kuwait.

“Coming into NU-Q, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Now I can’t think of anything else I would rather do,” added Farhoud.

An extension of the legacy of Northwestern University, an institution that brings 150 years of experience to Qatar, the breadth and scope of NU-Q’s education model is evident in the journalists’ ability to bring a broad skillset to QTV that goes beyond their journalistic abilities.

Together the three have brought fresh new ideas to an organization with its own long legacy, according to Maryam Al Subaiey, director of creation at QTV.

“The three students from Northwestern continue to add great value to our production team. They showed good skills in terms of handling pressure, being creative and most importantly absorbing everything so quickly and fitting in with the work environment. Their experience has encouraged us to give Northwestern students a priority in hiring,” said Al Subaiey.

Benazir Karim, also a journalist at QTV, attributed her successful contribution to QTV’s re-launch to an education that taught her and her classmates how to be “well-rounded journalists who are able to put different skills to use at different stages throughout a project.”

Karim, who hails from Tanzania, advised current students to follow social media and digital journalism closely, a practice she said was instrumental to help her “stay up to par with the quick-paced modernization of this field.”

NU-Q will celebrate its second graduating class this May.