Qatar’s high school students get a taste for careers in media

Northwestern Media Institute combines lectures from Qatar’s ‘media makers’ with courses led by NU-Q faculty to introduce high school students to the world of media

 Doha, 14 July 2012 – Students from 21 high schools around Qatar got a glimpse of life in the media industry this week at Northwestern University in Qatar’s Summer Media Institute.

 With a fortnight of samplers from the media and academic worlds, the high school students got a taste of what it would be like to work as a producer, entrepreneur, journalist, editor, and filmmaker. Dr. Everette Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q, said the institute aimed “to give students a taste of university life and media professionalism, as well as to contribute to the overall development of Qatar’s next generation by teaching 21st century skills. At NU-Q, we believe that media literacy is a crucial element in the success of tomorrow’s leaders, whatever field they choose to pursue.”

 A ‘Media-Makers’ series introduced the students to potential careers in the field through a line-up of speakers from established media institutions in Qatar.  The speakers described how they found their own paths in the competitive field of communications through trial, error, innovation and a series of realizations about what it means to be a media professional.

 Khalifa Haroun, founder of “iloveqatar.net” and head of innovation at Vodafone Qatar, left investment banking to devote his time to creating a guide about Qatar that “gives its people a voice and shares information” about the country.

 With a mind for business, Haroun said his work was an example of the opportunities for entrepreneurialism brought on by new media, saying “normally, hardly anyone knows what’s happening until it has already happened, but community-generated content has made people in Qatar more comfortable with blogging and getting stories out.” Haroun also revealed during the session that iloveqatar would be expanding to include an events guide, radio station and magazine.

 Haroun’s enthusiasm for breaking new ground with media was echoed by Bilal Randaree, founder of Doha Tweetups and Al Jazeera International’s online editor. “The atmosphere in Al Jazeera’s newsroom when [Egyptian President] Mubarak was toppled was as electric as it was in Tahrir Square,” he told the students. “Now is the most exciting time to be in the media.”

 Following his family’s wishes, Randaree became an accountant in London for several years until he realized the public’s need to understand the intricacies that had led to the global financial crisis. He began blogging online and eventually, realizing his passion, returned to university to study journalism.

 Other ‘Media Maker’ speakers included filmmaker Waheed Khan of the Doha Film Institute and Roula Ayoub, creative director at Firefly Media.

 When they weren’t hearing from Qatar’s media professionals, the Northwestern Media Institute students were participating in field trips and courses led by NU-Q faculty on understanding media, photography, curating content, critical analysis of media, and media technology, with the ultimate goal of creating their own news broadcast. The final product –with segments covering local issues from the medical effects of shisha to pet center conditions in Qatar and the perspective of a watch mender in the souq –was presented at a closing ceremony on July 12, which also launched a website for sharing the broadcast with wider audiences: http://mi2012.qatar.northwestern.edu/.

 Dean Dennis commented on the quality of the student work produced after only two weeks, adding, “Our work in developing the media industry begins with reaching out to the local community and in particular high school students, who, in a world of fast-moving and accessible media, may have already tapped into some of the massive potential that new media has.”

 While the final work produced demonstrated the extent of the technical skills they acquired, the students also seemed inspired by the personal interactions they experienced through the Institute.

 “What really struck me about the speakers was how they encouraged us to do what we feel is right,” said Nazareno Hossfeldt, a student from Qatar Academy. “They encouraged us to follow our goals even if they seem miles away, and people like Haroun are truly successful examples of this.”