Currently viewing the tag: "Asmaa Malik"

Jan. 24, 2017

By AMANDA POPE
Staff Reporter

Asmaa Malik, an assistant professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism, discussed her involvement with the Journalism and Media Lab (JAMLAB) in South Africa. (Amanda Pope/RJRC)

 

A South African news wire service that links community radio journalists with mainstream news outlets is among six media start-ups being supported by a new media innovation program run by Canadian and South African partners.

The goal of Volume News, led by veteran South African broadcaster Paul McNally, is to boost the amount of local news content on radio stations from the current level of only 14 per cent to the 60 per cent required by law.

Asmaa Malik, an assistant professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism, said encouraging journalism entrepreneurs to pursue projects like Volume News is one way to address the many challenges faced by South African media: “There are so many different languages, there are so many complications for niche markets in South Africa,” she said. “Everyone is struggling with people paying for information. The program is giving [innovators] who are thinking differently about media a voice and a way for them to think creatively about these challenges.”

Malik is part of the team behind the Journalism and Media Lab (JAMLAB), an accelerator run by Wits Journalism with the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering in partnership with Ryerson University and Journalists for Human Rights. Also on the team is Wits University lecturer Indra de Lanerolle, director of the JAMLAB.

JAMLAB, which launched in June 2017, is a six-month accelerator program that provides journalism innovators with tools, facilities, contacts and support as they build their media startups. It also produces an online magazine to showcase innovations and innovators, share experiences of using new technologies and tools, and provide access to research. At the end of the program, the six teams pitched their innovative companies to a panel of investors at the Nov. 15 JAMLAB Demo Day. The advisory team is currently working to raise funds to organize the program again next year.

“JAMLAB is helping to amplify voices and giving people access to resources and expertise that can help them build their ideas,” said Malik, who was on the advisory board for the project. “The idea for this was what kind of training do journalists get [in South Africa] and how can we look forward for new models for journalists?”

After a call for applications, six teams were chosen from a field of 40 applicants in June 2017. The adjudicators included Romeo Kumalo, the tech investor and chief executive of Washirika Holdings; Ferial Haffajee, editor-at-large at HuffPost SA; Koketso Moeti of Amandla.mobi; Mathatha Tsedu of the SA National Editors Forum and a professor at Wits Journalism; Barry Dwolatzky, the director of the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering and JAMLAB director; and Indra de Lanerolle, a Wits Journalism lecturer.

Malik said teams of women and Black South Africans had a better chance of being selected because adjudicators wanted to introduce new voices into a tech landscape currently dominated by white men: “Tech companies can be very homogeneous.”

In addition to Volume News, the other teams are:

African Tech Round-Up

African Tech Round-Up, led by Andile Masuku, is a podcast focusing on technology, digital and innovation news and insights from across Africa. The startup’s goal during the six-month accelerator program was to extend its existing podcast into video and develop a business strategy.

Black Girl Fat Girl

This online lifestyle magazine, led by Siphumelele Chagwe, challenges media stereotypes. The magazine’s blog says it is written for ‘the fat ones, the skinny ones, the incredibly queer ones and the ‘I don’t know where I fit in’ ones…”

Global Girl Media

The Global Girl Media team, led by Patricia Hlophe, develops the voice and media literacy of teenage girls and young women, aged 14 to 22, in underserved communities by teaching them to create and share digital journalism designed to improve scholastic achievement, ignite community activism and spark social change.

Media Factory

Media Factory, led by Nelisa Ngqulana, is a mobile and content agency for citizen journalists across South Africa. It is a space where unemployed journalists can work and where mainstream media can access a diverse range of perspectives from first responders on the ground when they are working on a story.

Soul City

Soul City is a social justice organization that produces Soul City, Rise, Soul Buddyz, Kwanda and other television and radio shows. Throughout the program, its goal was to build a new young women’s radio station and to start a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) offering data-free listening.

The six teams attended a lean startup course at the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Zone in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. They received coaching, mentoring and access to investors and funders, Malik said.

When Malik was in Johannesburg, she said she met individually with the groups to talk about where they were at and where they were headed: “They had these monthly check-ins where they’d do a presentation on what they had done in the last month. I helped give them feedback and asked them questions.”

Malik, who teaches entrepreneurial journalism to undergraduates and graduate students in Ryerson’s School of Journalism, also delivered a presentation in August 2017 to the program’s entrepreneurs that focused on case studies of media startups that have emerged from the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson. She was joined by South African media innovators for a discussion on where to find opportunities for digital media startups and what support hubs, universities and others should be offering to grow and improve media innovation.

“One [lecture] was on design thinking and how you create products for people to help them solve problems,” Malik said. “The other lecture was about the link between journalism and entrepreneurship and how journalists make natural entrepreneurs and how we can leverage those skills to build interesting tools or opportunities for journalists.”

In the design thinking lecture, Malik said, partners did an exercise from the Stanford d.School where they created a wallet for themselves and then a customer. Teams began by designing the ideal wallet to fit their personal needs. Then they interviewed a customer and created a wallet for that customer based on the customer’s needs and by looking at a wallet the customer had made, including its contents and functionality.

“They had to work with them and respond to their needs, not their own idea of the customer’s needs,” Malik said. “The same thing applies to startups. It helps people to think of their audience and the consumers.

“A student came up to me and said he realized that, ‘I’m not building something for myself, I’m building it for people to use.’”

In the second lecture to the six startup teams, Malik argued that journalists are natural entrepreneurs because they are curious and engaged with the world around them. Journalists interact with people ranging from pioneers and innovators to corrupt leaders, they know how to adapt and be resourceful, and they understand how to seek out information and advisors, she said.

Dec. 13, 2017

By AMANDA POPE
Staff reporter

Sandbox, a skills development space within Ryerson University’s business incubator the Digital Media Zone, will house five digital news startups. (Courtesy Ryerson University)

Five Canadian journalism entrepreneurs will each receive up to $100,000 in seed money for their early-stage startups as a result of a new program designed to encourage journalism innovation.

In addition to the seed money, each of the finalists in the Digital News Innovation Challenge will receive a Facebook marketing budget of $50,000 to promote their company’s innovation on the social platform. The partnership, between the Facebook Journalism Project, the DMZ and the Ryerson School of Journalism, will support digital news ideas and tech companies that drive innovation for journalism and news organizations.

“A lot of the traditional business models of journalism are floundering and are not finding the readers and audiences they want,” said Janice Neil, the chair of the Ryerson School of Journalism. “ This program will let people explore and create other options and give people a place to think of new ideas– new content that will be appealing, new ways of getting information or new ways of gathering information.”

The program, which will run from April through to September 2018, offers the five startups a place at Sandbox, the DMZ’s skills development space offering support to entrepreneurial ideas and early-stage startups. The entrepreneurs will gain access to high-profile senior mentors; workshops designed by digital news experts in Canada; workspace in Ryerson’s DMZ – the leading university-based business incubator in North America; and the opportunity to work with investors, journalists, experts and researchers.

Neil said the initiative is important for the Ryerson School of Journalism because it offers opportunities to explore new ways of producing quality journalism.

“This is an opportunity to put the Ryerson brand on this program but more importantly, to give our faculty and students the chance to engage with people who have ideas or experts (who are a) part of the process by attending workshops and modules,” Neil said.

Asmaa Malik, an assistant professor at the School of Journalism, said the program is an opportunity for students and faculty members to learn more about journalism innovation.

“There will be robust educational components in terms of a conference talking about frontiers in news and what people are doing across the world,” Malik said. “We spend a lot of time learning about traditional journalism in the classroom so I think this program will bring a different approach to journalism in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship.

“There is a lot for students to learn and for us as a journalism school in terms of looking forward and the changes we need to make as a journalism school.”

The adjudicators, who have yet to be announced, will be looking for projects that tackle a compelling problem within the Canadian digital news and journalism landscape. Successful applicants must have a strong business model, a collaborative leadership team and innovative digital news and storytelling ideas that can be turned into sustainable businesses.

“The money is a great incentive,” Malik said. “We don’t have a robust startup culture like the U.S., like Silicon Valley. So I think when it comes to an investment, this is a great investment for a new Canadian startup.

“It will make the challenge quite exciting in terms of who applies and who shows interest. There will be a lot of competition.”

At the end of the program, there will be a demo day where the startups will present their companies and ideas to a panel of judges, mentors and industry leaders.

Malik, who teaches entrepreneurial journalism to undergraduates and graduate students in the School of Journalism, said the purpose of this Canada-wide program is to drive innovation and find the people who care about the future of journalism and the news.

“The goal is to find unexpected approaches to solving some of the big problems in content, distribution, the diversity of perspectives or access to news and information,” Malik said. “This is a great opportunity to see what people across Canada are up to.”

Applications for the Digital News Innovation Challenge will open on Jan. 25, 2018 and will close on March 9, 2018.

This is one of a series of articles and videos on the June 2017 conference “Is no local news bad news? Local journalism and its future” hosted by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre. Watch the full conference panel below. To read more about the conference and local news, visit:  localnews.journalism.ryerson.ca.

By ABBY PLENER
Staff reporter

While the value of different sources can be subjective, newsrooms have a responsibility to interrogate their choices surrounding which voices get the most coverage, researchers agreed at a recent conference on local news.

Asmaa Malik, assistant professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism, emphasized that in a fast-paced newsroom, reporters rarely have time to question the value judgements they make. Yet, “research shows that news favours powerful people,” who get quoted more often and are featured more prominently in stories.

When the same voices continue to be amplified over and over, readers lose the opportunity to hear from more diverse sources.

“These are the essential stories. The people who journalists talk to are the people represented in stories,” said Malik.

Malik was joined by panelists Catherine Wallace, the 2016-2017 Atkinson Fellow in Public Policy, and Tyler Nagel of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, as a part of a two-day conference on the future of local news. On a panel about how journalists retrieve information and who they interview, the researchers encouraged reporters to think critically about sourcing.

When journalists decide who they interview for stories, they’re sending a message to readers about what kind of information is authoritative. Malik asked the audience to consider, “From whose points of view are stories told and whose perspectives get the most prominence?”

Along with her Ryerson journalism colleague, associate professor  Gavin Adamson, as well as experts in computer science, Malik is developing the Journalism Representation Index, or JeRI app. The software will use artificial intelligence to analyze stories in real time, identifying and categorizing sources with labels such as “authority figure”, “expert” or “citizen”. The story’s “JeRI score” will help readers see which voices the author gives more space to.

For its pilot run, JeRI is focusing on stories about police carding in Toronto.

Malik says carding stories provide a chance to explore how journalists interact with police sources, which are becoming increasingly corporatized.

Journalists used to be able to access all police radio communication using scanners. But since the Toronto Police have moved to encrypted communications, only select information is shared on social media. Plus, when newsrooms are under-resourced, journalists are more likely to pick up language from press releases, or rely on news conferences to  access police information, without the time to do further reporting. For example, when Staff Insp. Mike Earl described a group of bank robbers as “pathetic parasites” at a news conference, that phrase was used repeatedly  by Toronto media.

Once the pilot project is complete, Malik says she hopes the model can be replicated to look at additional matters of public interest, such as climate change.

Looking to other regions of Canada, Nagel says that local northern media outlets highlight voices that are often missing from southern news coverage. As a journalism professor at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Nagel recently did a case study on how mainstream southern media and local northern outlets reported on the same story. With his research partner Alycia Mutual from the University of Northern British Columbia, Nagel examined the coverage of the Crystal Serenity cruise ship, which made its way through the Canadian arctic in the summer of 2016, bringing a massive influx of tourists to remote communities.

The regional differences in sourcing are revealing, said Nagel. Major market media in the south did a poorer job of including northern voices as interview subjects. It was northern media that illustrated the concerns of local residents affected by the Serenity cruise.

“Northern media did a way better job in getting citizens that would not normally have a voice,” said Nagel. “One of the strongest cases for local journalism is that engagement with the community.”

Nagel says that when outlets report on issues in a different region, their lack of connection to the community leads them to rely on expert academic sources instead of local residents. And, because more news organizations are located in southern Canada, northern voices are more vulnerable to being overlooked.

As he put it, if northern newsrooms were to shut down, that region would be incredibly isolated from Canadian media’s infrastructure.

For Wallace, news industry economics were top of mind when she began her tenure as the Atkinson Fellow in Public Policy. She says with newsroom cutbacks, “we need to think of where communities are getting their civic information,” and whether there are reliable sources outside of the newsroom.

Her research focuses on exploring partnerships between journalists, universities, and citizen groups, “so it’s not just the news industry as the gatekeeper [of] the public agenda.” Wallace says that while journalists often interview academics, they may be guilty of cherry-picking information that makes for better headlines.

Echoing the mantra, “if it bleeds it leads,” she says that throughout her fellowship, professors have complained that they don’t get quoted when they have positive points to report.

“We all love bad news and reporting on things being broken,” said Wallace.

Journalists tend to portray civic issues in binary terms, like good vs. evil, says Wallace, but by showcasing citizen voices, journalists can start to disrupt that predictable narrative.

BY: HG WATSON
Special to the RJRC

A screenshot from the This is a Canadian Issue website created by Asmaa Malik's digital reporting class.

A screenshot from the This is a Canadian Issue website created by Asmaa Malik’s digital reporting class.

In a recent article in The Atlantic, Kieran Delamont tells the story of how Indigenous people have had a difficult history of representation in video games.

It’s an important story that had its genesis in a classroom in Ryerson University’s journalism school.

During the 2016 Winter semester, Ryerson professor Asmaa Malik dedicated her masters level digital reporting class to working on Indigenous people’s stories. The result is “This is a Canadian Issue,” a microsite dedicated to telling a wide variety of stories about Indigenous people, from the revitalization of Indigenous languages to an interactive story on the importance of reclaiming traditional naming practices.

“I was kind of trying to figure out what would be one thing that we could all learn at the same pace,” said Malik. To her, learning about digital reporting tools is important but without the reporting to support the tools, it can be an empty exercise.

“What was really important for me with this class is that people understand that reporting for digital is in some ways no different than reporting for print but in some ways very different,” Malik explained.

The recently released Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada final report tasked Canadian journalism schools with teaching students “the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools.” The report was front-of-mind for Malik, and she used the calls to action contained in the report as a springboard for her students to look for their stories.

To help her students prepare for their subjects, Malik worked with Journalists for Human Rights. Hannah Clifford, JHR program associate for the Indigenous reporting program, and program manager Miles Kenyon led a workshop on how to report on Indigenous stories.

“Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem—it’s a Canadian one,” said Clifford, who noted that there has been a lack of education around Indigenous issues in Canadian journalism schools. JHR has been partnering with schools to ensure that journalists have the necessary training before they go into the field.

“If journalists are not able to effectively and accurately report on Indigenous issues, how are readers then accurately educated and able to engage in the conversation fully?” said Clifford. She pointed out that a class project like Malik’s is important to further the discussion, adding that she would love to see similar projects across Canada.

In total, the students spent about four weeks discussing the TRC recommendations and finding resources for the stories, which they then worked on for the rest of the semester.

Malik said they also learned a lot from the process of doing the reporting. “We weren’t just going for the usual sources,” she said. JHR’s staff also helped edit the final pieces.

The resulting stories have drawn attention from several North American media outlets. Delamont’s piece, which was picked up by The Atlantic on June 2, came about after classroom conversations about appropriation. Two stories were published by TVO—one by Steph Wechsler about how urban health care providers provide services to LGBTQ Indigenous people and another by Brittany Spencer about the lack of Indigenous history lessons in Ontario schools.

Malik found some students had some trepidation about tackling these stories. But she told them it was important for them to move outside their comfort zones.

“It’s our job to tell stories and we are often telling other people’s stories,” she said. “If we shy away from telling more complex stories…then we are really doing our readers and our subjects and a disservice.”

And it gave the students an opportunity to have their stories read well outside the confines of Ryerson. “Knowing that actually…it’s going be read quite widely, on one hand it can be scary but on the other hand it’s so affirming and so great to actually have an impact,” said Malik.

This article originally appeared on J-Source. Republished with permission.

Click here to see the live blog transcript for this event.

By SHANNON CLARKE
Special to the RJRC

TransformationsPublicLecturePosterForWebApril22

Changes in how the public consumes news and the implications of these changes for journalism and journalism education will be the focus of an April 28 colloquium hosted by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre.

The meeting of international scholars, journalists and educators is the first in a series of Journalism Transformations colloquia organized by the RJRC. The morning lecture, which is open to the public, will feature presentations that examine changes in local news coverage, audience behaviour and technology.

The day begins with “The Audience Revolution,” a public panel with Philip Napoli, professor and associate dean of research at Rutgers University; Kim Schrøder, professor of communications at Roskilde University in Denmark; Alexis Lloyd, creative director of The New York Times R&D Lab; and discussant, Retha Hill, a professor at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism. Rich Gordon of Northwestern University and Carrie Brown of City University of New York will also be a part of the day’s events.

The panel discussion is an opportunity for journalists and non-journalists alike to hear how newsrooms are adapting to the evolving media landscape and the interests of their audiences.

Asmaa Malik, an associate professor of journalism at Ryerson’s School of Journalism, said the idea for the event grew out of a discussion with co-organizers Gavin Adamson and Ivor Shapiro, and other journalism professors on the changing value proposition of journalism school. As the industry changes, more prospective students (and their parents) question what comes after a journalism degree.

Malik said the job of educators now is to prepare journalism students for careers both inside and outside of traditional newsrooms: “It’s not like we’re training reporters or editors; we’re trying to train people who are fully-equipped for whatever’s ahead and we don’t know necessarily what’s coming down the pipe.”

Napoli, the principal investigator for the News Measures Research Project at Rutgers, will discuss how news has responded to audience behaviour, with an emphasis on how those changes affect local news consumption. Schrøder will contribute his research, the bulk of which was conducted before the digital era began, examining international news consumption shift away from traditional mediums to digital platforms. Alexis Lloyd will discuss her experience at The New York Times, reflecting on how technology engages news audiences and enhances journalism.

Update: Alex Watson, of The Telegraph Media Group in London, will replace Alexis Lloyd on April 28. He is The Telegraph’s head of product and a former technology journalist and led the team behind the creation of the newspaper’s new content management system