CNN Academy director on first breaking-news simulation and future … – Arab News

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DUBAI: Earlier this month, CNN added a simulation to its academy training program for the first time.
Held over five days, the simulation saw 88 students from the network’s various academy programs participate to refine and use their skills at the twofour54 Yas Creative Hub in Abu Dhabi.
Arab News spoke to CNN Academy director Alireza Hajihosseini to learn more about the initiative and how this and other CNN Academy programs are designed to prepare students for journalism in an increasingly tech-driven environment.
“At CNN Academy, we’re always thinking of new ways to enable our students to apply the journalism skills we empower them within a real-life setting,” Hajihosseini said.


Alireza Hajihosseini CNN Academy Director. (Supplied)

In the past, the academy has sent out students with CNN photojournalists to shoot and edit a story or allowed a select few to shadow CNN teams as they put a news broadcast together.
“This year, we wanted to take that experience one step further and tapped into CNN’s legacy of innovation to create an industry-first opportunity that allows every single one of our program participants to refine and test their skills as journalists and storytellers,” he said.
During the five days, participants worked in teams to explore a fictional scenario that allowed them to act as reporters, news writers and content producers.
They were required to verify sources, attend mock press conferences, conduct mock interviews, respond to email updates, and decipher documents.
There were multiple factors to be considered when designing the fictional simulation to ensure that the scenario “was rich enough and complex enough to provide participants with multiple alternative angles they could pursue,” Hajihosseini said.


CNN Academy Logo. (Supplied)

It was also critical that the mock press conferences, interviews, etc were inter-connected to fill out the story as it developed.
“Above all, we had to recreate the pressures of a real-life breaking news environment while building in ethical and storytelling challenges with the narrative to achieve our pedagogical objectives,” he said.
To ensure this, CNN journalists partnered with Prof. Rex Brynen, from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and Jim Wallman, director of game design company Stone Paper Scissors.
Both are “thought leaders in their field and have worked with global organizations and governments across the world to design and deliver simulations that help players map out strategies and get a real-life sense of the impact of their decision-making,” Hajihosseini said.
But for him, there was also a personal reason, having studied at McGill University where he took some of Brynen’s courses. He remembers one in particular, peacebuilding simulation, which was one of the “most memorable and intense learning experiences” of his academic career.
“So, when we started thinking about designing an industry-first journalism simulation I knew I had to reach out to Rex and see if we could collaborate together, as I wanted to recreate that experience for CNN Academy participants,” he said.
The program is aimed at helping students walk away with journalism as well as life experiences, but also developing soft skills that only come with experience. The best-performing teams, said Hajihosseini, weren’t necessarily the ones with the sharpest journalistic members, but they “knew how to read an interviewee and the way in which they should conduct themselves in the field or in a press conference to unlock more information.”


CNN Academy simulation week masterclass. (Supplied)

“Those are skills that you can only pick up when you do something and cannot be developed by simply sitting in a workshop or in a lecture theater,” he said.
Participants also had to navigate a custom-made social media platform, which was updated throughout and included evidence, bots, decoys and news.
Hajihosseini explained: “When news breaks today, it often breaks on social media and platforms like Twitter. So, we wanted to recreate a platform that emulates that, and which combines text and multimedia content.”
Prior to the simulation, CNN had created fictional characters on its social media platform, with backstories and a pre-set series of posts. Some of these were helpful to the overall scenario and some were just noise.
The platform also featured accounts for the role players the participants met in real-life as well as troll accounts that were designed to flood the space with noise in a breaking news setting.
“Throughout the five days, the social media (platform) was updated with pre-written posts as well as posts that we wrote and content we produced to feed the scenario as it developed,” he said.


CNN Academy simulation group working. (Supplied)

The inclusion of the custom social media platform is critical at a time when social media is the primary news source for many people.
“The past 15 years have seen a profound change in the way newsrooms operate, and social media has played a central role in that,” Hajihosseini said.
Much has changed in that period, from the rise of citizen journalism to the establishment of social discovery teams, to forensic open-source analysis that plays a key role in many investigations now, he said.
What has not changed is the need for accuracy, especially when social media is pervaded by false news and misinformation.
False or misleading stories have become “an enormously problematic aspect of not only the media but also society in general,” which is worsened by the social media platforms encouraging the spread of such stories and creating echo chambers, Hajihosseini said.
“The difficulty in this area for journalists and news organizations is not only to push back on these false narratives, but also to break through to people who receive their news from unreliable or deliberately misleading sources,” he said.
“Fake news,” on the other hand, is used by certain people or organizations, particularly governments and politicians, to try and discredit reporting that is true but which they don’t like, Hajihosseini said.
“This is particularly dangerous and challenging; it undermines the vitally important role of journalism in holding the powerful to account and can even present safety issues for journalists who are going about important work legitimately,” he said.
His vision for CNN Academy is to help “seed professional skills and ethics in more new journalists, all of whom we hope will ultimately help to address this issue in the real world.”
 
WASHINGTON: Barbara Walters, one of the most visible women on US television as the first female anchor on an American network evening news broadcast and one of TV’s most prominent interviewers, died on Friday at age 93, her longtime ABC News home said.
Walters, who created the popular ABC women’s talk show “The View” in 1997, died at her home in New York, Robert Iger, chief executive of ABC’s corporate parent, The Walt Disney Co. , said in a statement. The circumstances of her death were not given.
Walters interviewed an array of world leaders, including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, Russian presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, and every US president and first lady since Richard and Pat Nixon.
“Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself,” Iger wrote.
In a broadcast career spanning five decades, Walters interviewed an array of world leaders, including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, Russian presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, and every US president and first lady since Richard and Pat Nixon.
“I never thought I’d have this kind of a life,” Walters said in a 2004 Chicago Tribune interview. “I’ve met everyone in the world. I’ve probably met more people, more heads of state, more important people, even almost than any president, because they’ve only had eight years.”
Walters’ critics said she too often asked softball questions and she was long skewered for a 1981 interview in which she asked Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn what kind of tree she would like to be.
Walters pointed out that she only asked because Hepburn had first compared herself to a tree.
She knew how to ask tough questions, too.
“I asked Yeltsin if he drank too much, and I asked Putin if he killed anybody,” Walters told the New York Times in 2013. Both answered no.
Celebrity interviews also were an important part of Walters’ repertoire, and for 29 years she hosted a pre-Oscars interview program featuring Academy Award nominees. She also had an annual “most fascinating people” show but dropped it when she decided she was weary of celebrity interviews.
SPEECH IMPEDIMENT
Walters reached the top of her field despite difficulty pronouncing R’s — a trait that made her the target of a biting “Bawa WaWa” impersonation by Gilda Radner on the “Saturday Night Live” sketch comedy show in the 1970s. Walters said the spoof bothered her, until her daughter told her to lighten up.
Walters was born in Boston. Her father, Lou Walters, worked in show business as a nightclub owner and booking agent, and was credited with discovering such talent as comedian Fred Allen and actor Jack Haley, who would go on to play the Tin Man in the motion picture classic “The Wizard of Oz.”
After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, she worked in public relations before joining NBC’s “Today” show as a writer and segment producer in 1961. She began getting air time with feature stories — such as a report on her one-day stint as a Playboy bunny — and became a regular on the program.
It was then that she began encountering resistance. “Today” show host Frank McGee resented her presence and tried to limit her role on the show.
After 13 years on “Today,” Walters was given an unprecedented $1 million annual salary to move to rival network ABC in 1976 and make history as the first woman co-anchor on a US evening newscast. Her unwilling partner, Harry Reasoner, made his disdain for Walters obvious even when they were on the air.
“These two men were really quite brutal to me and it was not pleasant,” Walters told the San Francisco Examiner. “For a long time, I couldn’t talk about that time without tears in my eyes. It was so awful to walk into that studio every day where no one would talk to me.”
After her unhappy run on the “ABC Evening News” ended in 1978, Walters established herself on the network’s prime-time news magazine show “20/20” and stayed with the program for 25 years. Being interviewed by Walters on “20/20” or on her numerous specials became a distinction — and guaranteed exposure — for her subjects.
In 1977, she scored a joint interview with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin before they made peace.
Walters became so prominent that her star quality sometimes overshadowed the people she was questioning. The New York Times called her “arguably America’s best-known television personality” but also observed that “what we remember most about a Barbara Walters interview is Barbara Walters.”
Critics sometimes found her cloying, but she also could be blunt, such as in asking Martha Stewart, the lifestyle guru who went to prison in an insider-stock-trading case, “Martha, why do so many people hate you?“
In 1997, Walters launched “The View” on ABC, a popular roundtable discussion show for women that was sometimes riven by disputes with her co-hosts Star Jones and Rosie O’Donnell. She made her final appearance as co-host of the show in 2014 but remained an executive producer of the program and continued to do occasional interviews and specials for ABC News.
Walters’ three marriages — to businessman Robert Katz, theatrical producer Lee Guber and television executive Merv Adelson — ended in divorce. She also had high-profile boyfriends such as Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, and John Warner, who would later become a senator from Virginia.
Her love life made headlines in 2008 when her autobiography, “Audition: A Memoir,” revealed an affair with then-married Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, the first black senator since post-Civil War Reconstruction.
Walters underwent heart surgery in 2010, which provided material for an ABC special in which she and former President Bill Clinton, actor Robin Williams and other high-profile heart surgery patients discussed their conditions.
She earned 12 Emmy awards, 11 of those while at ABC News, the network said.
 
DUBAI: One proof of the former Manchester United player’s magnetic charisma was the surge in followers of Al-Nassr’s followers on Twitter to 3.4 million, from only about 834,000.
In less than 24 hours, around 2.5 million users have started following Al-Nassr’s Instagram account, proving that the loyal fans of The Don will follow him everywhere.  
The account is said to have witnessed a 400 percent increase following the announcement.
The club gave a warm welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo on its Instagram account, describing the occasion as “more than history in the making.”
“This is more than history in the making. This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves. Welcome @cristiano to your new home,” the club posted on Twitter.
Football website @Transfermarkt which focuses on player transfers and market values described it as “biggest Transfer in Saudi Arabia’s history!”
“One of the best players in the world officially joins the Saudi Professional League,” wrote the official account for the AFC Champions League. 
A post shared by نادي النصر السعودي (@alnassr_fc)
JERUSALEM: The Israeli press gave a tentative, if not cold, reception to Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government on Friday, fearing changes to judicial powers as the prime minister’s ongoing corruption trial proceeds.
After winning the November 1 election, and following weeks of negotiations with ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties, Netanyahu was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, heading the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.
Of all the ministerial appointments announced, the one receiving the most attention on Friday was the justice portfolio handed to Yariv Levin, a close friend of Netanyahu.
Yediot Aharonot, the country’s top-selling Hebrew daily, said Levin’s appointment “should frighten most” those who fear “drastic change to Israel’s system of government.”
The mooted changes to the justice system “will completely transform Israel’s character as a democratic state,” it added.
“This is why Netanyahu made all the concessions to his partners… to put Yariv Levin in the justice ministry, the man for the job. Netanyahu talks about Iran, but his thoughts are about his trial,” the newspaper said.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara warned that the new government’s legislative program threatens to turn Israel into a “democracy in name, but not in essence.”
For the freesheet Israel Hayom, the country’s most-read title and generally supportive toward Netanyahu, Lavin’s appointment is “a clear signal that the prime minister wants to move forward with changes in the judicial system.”
Among the agreements signed between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and its coalition partners are proposed laws authorizing businesses to refuse service to people on religious grounds, and also allowing gender segregation in public places.
In Israel, which does not have a constitution, the Supreme Court has the authority to repeal laws it considers discriminatory.
But some within the new government consider the judiciary has accumulated too much authority and seek to implement a “derogation clause,” allowing politicians to reinstate laws overturned by the courts.
Makor Rishon, a right-wing daily, sees a “fight” looming between the Supreme Court and supporters of these new parliamentary powers.
“Yariv Levin will not have 100 days of grace, barely 10,” it predicted.
“In a few days, he will have to… clarify his intentions and the government’s legislative program.”
In recent days, lawmakers hastily passed legislation watering down standards required to hold ministerial office — allowing people convicted of crimes, but not sentenced to prison, to serve as ministers.
The move paved the way for the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Aryeh Deri, a long-time Netanyahu ally who was convicted of tax evasion earlier this year, to be appointed to cabinet.
The introduction of a derogation clause would allow lawmakers to maintain the controversial law even if the Supreme Court were to overturn it.
Analysts say such a clause would also allow lawmakers to uphold any annulment of the corruption charges against Netanyahu, should parliament vote to absolve the prime minister and the Supreme Court then rule against it.
For the left-wing Haaretz newspaper, Justice Minister Levin’s mandate is clear: “destroy the rule of law and its institutions, and with them, the entire system” by allowing parliament to “override” the judiciary.
“Fighting a government like this one, which is emptying democracy of all its values, isn’t sedition… it’s a duty incumbent on both the opposition and civil society. This is their great time of trial,” Haaretz said in an editorial.
BUCHAREST: Former professional kickboxer and controversial influencer Andrew Tate appeared in a Romanian court Friday following his arrest for alleged human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal group.
The move came just days after Tate had a heated Twitter exchange with Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg which Internet users speculated helped Romanian police to locate and arrest him.
Tate, who holds British and US nationality, and his brother Tristan were detained for an initial “24 hours,” a spokeswoman for a Romanian body fighting organized crime, Ramona Bolla, told AFP on Friday.
A court hearing in Bucharest to decide whether to put the four suspects — the Tate brothers and two Romanian citizens — in pre-trial detention for 30 days began at 2:00 p.m. (12:00 GMT).
Viral Twitter exchanges between Tate and Thunberg this week on subjects ranging from cars with “enormous emissions” to pizza boxes, fueled speculation on social media that the arrests followed Tate’s spats with the Swedish activist.
Internet users speculated that the brand of pizza featured in a video posted by Tate in his angry exchanges with Thunberg helped police confirm Tate’s presence in Romania.
Thunberg quipped on Twitter that “this is what happens when you don’t recycle your pizza boxes.”
“It’s not related,” spokeswoman Bolla told AFP.
“To determine whether a person is in the country or not, we use a whole range of means,” she added, stressing that “arrest warrants and searches” had already been in place.
Greta Thunberg’s spokesperson confirmed to AFP that her tweet this morning, which garnered about 1.6 million likes so far, was in fact a “joke,” adding that the Romanian authorities “have not been in touch with her.”
Since the beginning of 2021, the prosecution has been investigating the suspects and had already searched Tate’s villa in April.
According to a DIICOT statement issued Thursday, the influencer, his brother and two Romanians are suspected of “organized crimes,” “rape” and “human trafficking” in several countries.
So far six potential victims have been identified.
The suspects recruited and exploited women by coercing them into “forced labor… and pornographic acts with a view to producing and disseminating such material” online to “obtain substantial financial benefits.”
Five locations were raided across Romania as part of the investigation.
Tate appeared on the Big Brother television show in 2016, but was removed after a video emerged showing him attacking a woman.
Tate, who moved to Romania several years ago with Tristan, has been banned from many social media platforms for misogynistic remarks and hate speech, but was allowed back on Twitter after Elon Musk bought the company.
PARIS: Nearly 1,700 journalists have been killed worldwide over the past 20 years, an average of more than 80 a year, according to an analysis published by Reporters Without Borders.
The two decades between 2003 and 2022 were “especially deadly decades for those in the service of the right to inform,” said the Paris-based media rights campaigners.
“Behind the figures, there are the faces, personalities, talent and commitment of those who have paid with their lives for their information gathering, their search for the truth and their passion for journalism,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
Iraq and Syria were the most dangerous countries to work as a journalist, accounting for “a combined total of 578 journalists killed in the past 20 years, or more than a third of the worldwide total,” RSF said.
They are followed by Mexico (125 killed), the Philippines (107), Pakistan (93), Afghanistan (81) and Somalia (78).
The “darkest years” were 2012 and 2013, “due in large measure to the war in Syria.” There were 144 killings in 2012 and 142 the year after, the report said.
This peak was “followed by a gradual fall and then historically low figures from 2019 onwards.”
But deaths increased again in 2022, in part because of the war in Ukraine. So far this year, 58 journalists have been killed doing their jobs, up from 51 in 2021.
Eight journalists have been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February. This compares to a total of 12 media deaths there over the preceding 19 years.
Ukraine is currently the most dangerous country in Europe for the media, after Russia itself, where 25 journalists have been killed over the past 20 years.
“Since Vladimir Putin took over, Russia has seen systematic attacks on press freedom — including deadly ones — as RSF has repeatedly reported.
“They include Anna Politkovskaya’s high-profile murder on 7 October 2006,” the rights group said.
Elsewhere in Europe, Turkiye was ranked third most dangerous, followed by France “as a result of the massacre at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris in 2015.”
Reporters run the greatest risks worldwide in areas where armed conflict has occurred.
But, RSF stressed, “countries where no war is officially taking place are not necessarily safe for reporters and some of them are near the top of the list of those where killings have occurred.
“In fact, more journalists have been killed in ‘zones at peace’ than in ‘zones at war’ during the past two decades, in most cases because they were investigating organized crime and corruption.”
The Americas accounted for almost half of journalist murders, many in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Honduras.
“America is nowadays clearly the world’s most dangerous continent for the media,” RSF said.

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