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Dan Rather Chair Takes Expertise Overseas

Aug. 2, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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As mass anti-government protests flare across several countries in the Middle East and North Africa, citizen journalists are playing an important role in the coverage of these important events.

They are long on courage, but often short on training, according to Sam Houston State University’s Dan Rather Chair Kelli Arena.

Through teaching basic journalism skills and establishing ethical guidelines, Sam Houston State is playing a role in helping these brave men and women inform the world about what is going on in their countries.

Arena recently met in Beirut with citizen journalists from eight countries in North Africa and the Middle East. As the lead trainer of a conference hosted by the National Democratic Institute, Arena helped equip attendees with basic tools as they attempt to write the "first draft of history."

The workshops focused on everything from how to interview to publishing stories online, she said.

"The conference attendees are all active communicators, using blogs and social media sites to report from the front lines often in defiance of government restrictions," Arena said.

As part of the initiative, Arena helped put together a code of ethics for citizen journalists to be disseminated throughout the region in Arabic, French and English.

"This training was essential to helping these journalists establish and maintain credibility,” she said. “In many cases, the only way to get accurate reporting out of a country is through citizens acting as journalists.

“I was humbled to play a small role in the big things they are doing," she said.

Arena is the first recipient of the SHSU Mass Communication Department's Dan Rather Endowed Chair of Broadcast Journalism, a position she has held since January 2009. Since joining the university she has worked on a variety of NDI projects in the Middle East and North Africa, a region she covered extensively as a reporter for CNN.

"It is an awesome responsibility to help shape the next generation of journalists,” she said. “I take it very seriously, both in the work I do at SHSU and overseas."

 

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