Students report back from Global Media Experience

Students at Northwestern University in Qatar recently returned from the university’s first Global Media Experience (GME), in which they visited powerful centers of media activity such as the New York Times, Dubai’s Media City and the United Nations briefing room to gain a unique, first-hand look at top tier international media operations.

Twelve students explored the extremely different media hubs of Dubai and New York, visiting traditional media powerhouses such as NBC, the live-event and content producers Madison Square Garden Company and new media organizations like the bilingual Arabic/English womensenews.org, developing a truly global context for their media studies. Their meetings also included an insider’s look at entrepreneurship and the business behind media at a working breakfast with KMH Group – a company that works with young media enterprises to develop business model and financial strategies.

“The Global Media Experience gives our students the opportunity to visit vibrant media hubs like New York and Dubai, where they gain a deeper understanding of the global media system in its diverse forms, meet key active players in that system, and reflect on how they might best approach a career in twenty-first century media,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q.

During visits to the wide spectrum of media organizations, students studied various approaches to the news-gathering and content development process, including a rare opportunity to attend a page one editorial meeting at the New York Times.

Alanna Alexander, a journalism junior, said, “My question before the trip was how journalism has been affected by technological change, but attending the NYT editorial meeting showed me that journalism is advancing now more than ever, as opposed to dying, which is something we discuss a lot in class. So this trip has really encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing.”

The visits resulted in short collaborative films that aimed to capture key moments and lessons learned on the trip. In one film, students Rawan Al-Thabatah, Hazar Eskandar and Malak Monir asked a leading editorial figure at the NYT how top media organizations in New York portray conflicts in the Middle East to the rest of the world.

“By our very nature we tend to look at what’s going wrong as opposed to what’s going right, and that includes [stories about] our own countries,” Larry Ingrassia, the New York Times assistant managing editor for new initiatives, told the student filmmakers. “Other publications tend to be more simplistic.”

Ingrassia also spoke about the different ways New York outlets are reaching their audiences. “We are platform agnostic; we don’t care how you get your news, we want to be a source of news for you. Increasingly people are getting news on mobile apps. We are developing a lower price app called Need to Know that shows the top ten-15 stories in the NYT every day.”

In contrast to the relative chaos of New York, the students met with key figures at Dubai Media City to discuss the benefits of a centrally-planned and subsidized media “free zone,” and considered the career prospects at one of the region’s largest media hubs. In a visit to Dubai Studio City, they observed another unique operation to the region: an organization that censors and edits content for a Saudi Arabian outlet.

Despite the wide range in experiences in the very different cities, Alexander found surprising areas of overlap. “I was very interested to see more similarities than differences between Dubai and New York, especially in the way different types of media interact and the general level of journalism,” he said.

The trip included a dinner at the prestigious Harvard Club, hosted by Dean Dennis, at which the students met and networked with top media leaders and distinguished Northwestern alumni such as Peter Dangerfield, vice president of national publicity at Universal Pictures; Alexis Alexanian, cofounder of Elixir Films; and Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor at the Associated Press.