This year Medill is strengthening its global ties by helping create a new Center for Excellence in Journalism in Karachi, Pakistan. The center, funded by the United States Embassy in Islamabad through the State Department, will provide training sessions to established and professional journalists throughout Pakistan, with workshops on technology and refining journalism skills.
About a year ago after the embassy’s request for the proposal of a journalism center was accepted, Northwestern began working on the development of the center in collaboration with the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi and the International Center for Journalists, stationed in Washington, D.C. The physical space of the center is still under construction.
Medill Professor Craig Duff, who has worked with the International Center for Journalists in 2006 in Cairo, is heading Medill’s collaboration on the project.
“I did the first workshop in late September, early October,” Duff said. “We did a mobile reporting workshop for a couple weeks and that got the ball rolling and now on the IBA side our staff are getting up to speed. I had trainees from all over Pakistan. All working journalists in newspapers, digital and television, ranging in ages from 20s to mid 50s.”
The center hopes to give Pakistani journalists a needed push in the professional direction. Nadia Zaffar, the Director of CEJ, says that she sees the need for training and refining journalism in Pakistan, personally and professionally.
“In recent months there have been instances of Pakistani media that have been met with a great deal of reaction and criticism whether its about balance, whether its about bias, taking sides or just taking part of the political process, so all that kind of feeds into the idea that we recognize and realize that there is a need for a respectable center that deals with professional journalists and helps them achieve quality,” said Zaffar.
With improving technology and an expanding journalism field, the center hopes to sharpen not only quality but also technological skills of Pakistani journalists.
“TV news media is still fairly new in Pakistan, that’s where most of my experience is,” Zaffar said. “As TV and multimedia come together, there is a need for instruction to keep up with technology, to use this technology to be able to report better.”
The center is designed and catered to those already working in the journalism field, with a curriculum of eight to ten workshops throughout the year, each one lasting about two to three weeks. After three years, the government grant for the center will end and the IBA hopes to continue expand the center and masters program in journalism, opening the door for aspiring writers to receive a thorough journalism education.
Zaffar said the center is “a very remarkable aim for Karachi, for Pakistan, to develop such a high standard masters program in collaboration with a school like Medill and a center like ICFJ here in Pakistan, so that’s very exciting for us.”
With one workshop completed and several more to come, the response to the center’s work has been positive and on the last day of the workshops the trainees presented Duff with a Pakistani handicraft as a thank you.
“I’ve done a lot of this type of work before, but this was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences I’ve had training and doing a workshop,” said Duff. “It was their keen interest in learning the skills that I was teaching, the conversations we had during break. They helped me understand, I learned a lot from them about the media in Pakistan.”
The center will also strengthen Northwestern’s ties with Pakistan. Duff hopes to that the university will provide future opportunities for students from Pakistan to study at the Evanston campus and anticipates bring some Pakistani students to the graduate journalism program this year.
“Not only am I hoping that it can be a great resource for journalists, I also imagine that as we expand and get set and the center establishes itself within the journalism community here in Pakistan, it can serve as a greater hub for different kinds of activity, for other ICFJ projects, for other parts of the world,” said Zaffar. “I’m hoping it will become a place where journalists will feel that they have help and also a place where they can have conversations and build a community together.”
Next Wednesday, Duff will speak about the center at a faculty colloquium in Fisk.