Courtney Radsch (Lebanon)

Courtney Radsch (Middle East Reporter, Lebanon) Courtney was studying in the Master of Science in Foreign Service program at Georgetown University when she volunteered for Middle East Reporter (MER) in Beirut, Lebanon and placed articles in the Daily Star newspaper. The Reporter published a daily English-language digest of Arabic news from Beirut and offered training to journalists in the Middle East. In her evaluation Courtney wrote: “While at the Daily Star I confronted the prospect of self-censorship and political pressure, and learned how to work as a team in a high-pressure deadline situation. I also gained a lot of practice making news decisions and writing news stories. I discovered that I am very interested in journalism, and perhaps in advocacy journalism. Working for a respected and independent paper in a region that is often portrayed in a hostile manner by the American media made me realize that even the most lauded media organizations must make difficult decisions about what to publish, what words to use and which details to include where."

Beating Censorship

09 Apr

“We have to decide whether this is important enough to put in since it means we won’t get into Syria,” said Nissrine as we met for our daily news meeting, during which we decide what stories to cover on which pages. On this particular afternoon Rami, the editor, was sitting in to see what we do.

The story about which Nissrine was talking involved a Kurdish student in Syria who was arrested while sitting for exams. It was a small story, but clearly implied a much larger and important issue. The article off the wires, however, did not go beyond a description of what happened or put the story into the larger context of the Syrian treatment of Kurds or the political issues surrounding the Kurdish minority in Syria.

“You have to know that we won’t get into Syria tomorrow if we publish this story, even if it’s a brief, and I don’t think it’s worth it,” Nissrine told Rami.

But this is not the standard that should be used to judge whether the paper covers a story or not, explained Rami. We must decide whether our readers in Kuwait or Jordan need to know this story – if it is newsworthy in and of itself regardless of the potential effects on distribution. We decided that it wasn’t worth an inside story, so we had to decide whether to run it as a brief. Rami once again explained that the distribution criteria should not play a role in this decision process, but that since the article was limited in scope and we didn’t know if this was something that happens often or had happened in the past in Syria we would not run the story.

I think the decision not to run the story was a good one because the article lacked context. I suspected that the arrest of this Kurdish minority student is important and potentially reveals a more profound issue in Syrian politics. But the story did not explain what this was or add any value beyond reporting an isolated event. The conversation about censorship and distribution demonstrated first hand the challenges of publishing a free and independent newspaper in an authoritarian country. I learned a lot from this experience about the issues the Daily Star grapples with on a daily basis that newspapers in the United States and other Western countries do not face. It made me appreciate this bastion of free expression in the Middle East even more.

Posted By Courtney Radsch (Lebanon)

Posted Apr 9th, 2007

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