February 24, 2013

Students experience real-world journalism and PR at Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated and Amnesty International among others

More than a dozen journalism and communication students from Northwestern University in Qatar are touching down in major cities all over the world this week to kick off their journalism residency program.

The program will see the students take on full-time jobs at global media powerhouses for the next 10 weeks. Journalism residencies have been ongoing at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus for 40 years, a practice that NU-Q has carried on for the past three years in Qatar.

Residency locations for this year include top-tier news organizations such as Time MagazineSports Illustrated, and one of the most innovative news outlets of the web-era, Huffington Post, where the resident journalist will work in the multimedia unit.

According to NU-Q CEO and Dean, Everette E. Dennis, the goal is for students to obtain hands-on experience that helps them develop new skills, test recently-learned skills, work under deadline and build confidence in their capabilities.

“Immersive engagement with the top thinkers and institutions in media is ingrained in the design of our curricula, and the journalism residency program is a capstone of these efforts,” said Dennis. “It provides students with a practical understanding of the modern workplace that gives them a competitive edge in the job market once they graduate.”

As many students in the journalism program choose to focus on public relations, some of this year’s residents are joining world-class PR firms such as BLJ Worldwide in the US, Grayling Momentum PR, and Fleishman Hillard International Communications in Paris. Others are placed in media departments at Bloomsbury PublishingQatar Foundation International and Amnesty International, where journalism junior Yara Darwish Fakhroo said she had chosen to spend her 10 weeks at Amnesty because “it merges my passion for human rights with journalistic elements.”

“I’m excited about putting all the skills I gained at NU-Q to the test, because this is where everything really comes to play,” she said. “I’m excited about the internship as well as getting to know more about DC. I think it’s going to be a great experience.”

Richard Roth, NU-Q’s Senior Associate Dean who oversees the program, explained that the process of matching up students to NU-Q’s media partners around the world begins as early as eight months in advance.

“We select organizations where we are confident students will learn because the editors are people who we would bring on here as members of staff, and there is an understanding that our students will be treated just as any member of staff in their magazine or office.”

For future residency placements, NU-Q is increasingly looking at opportunities in the Arab world, such as Lebanon and Dubai’s Media City, for opportunities where students could garner the same experience and remain closer to home, Roth added.

Journalism senior Ismaeel Naar, spent his residency last year at the Financial Times in New York, where he interviewed CEOs and CFOs of major companies and “learned how to make [business] stories that might sound very boring and mundane to the every-day reader sound much more human.”

“I learned how to have that journalistic mindset and attitude one has to have while working professionally,” he added.

Naar commented that, although he has applied to graduate schools abroad, he is hoping to apply the knowledge he has acquired to a career in Qatar. “It’s an exciting time to be working in Qatar and my top choice would be to stay in Qatar and help build the media industry.”

Roth also expressed his confidence in the prospects for students returning from their residencies. “The students are carefully selected for residencies – we know when they go there that they are prepared to succeed, and that this will open up career paths for them that they may not have previously considered.”