LONDON — Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed is going where no Arab leader has gone before by attempting to train a generation of Arab journalists and writers by creating the Mohammed Bin Rashid Media College, launched in partnership with USC’s Annenberg School of Communication.
The college, which will initially open its doors in September by offering short courses, will eventually expand to offer graduate and postgraduate courses in both English and Arabic in journalism across print, radio, TV and new media, as well as a visual fictional storytelling strand that will attempt to become the Arab world’s foremost center for scriptwriters.
The college, which will be located within the American U. of Dubai campus, will seek out the best and brightest in Arab students from across the region, offering 75% of successful applicants a full scholarship.
The move fits into the wider strategy of Sheik Mohammed, widely respected across the Arab world as a visionary for the way he has diversified Dubai’s economy away from dependence on oil revenues toward a knowledge-based economy, to foster and encourage new talent.
Ali Jaber, the managing editor of governmental media net Dubai Media, has been tapped as dean of the new college.
“This is the first time in the Arab world you have a school of communications teaching the indigenous population in their indigenous language how to work within their own countries,” Jaber told Variety. “It is only when you tell your own stories to your own people that you’ll be able to tell them to others. This is very important. There’s a big philosophy behind the school.”
The state of journalism in the Arab world is a mixed bag at best. While TV and print outlets across the region are plentiful, all too often the news reported in the papers, and on the 200-plus free-to-air satellite channels, are adversely influenced by the views of the outlets’ wealthy owners.
It is no accident in Lebanon, for example, during the recent outbreak of civil violence earlier this May that opposition forces attacked the media outlets of the pro-government Future TV station. The subsequent Doha Accords, which sought to lay out the conditions for a national unity government, made toning down the heated partisan rhetoric of the rival media outlets in the country a key demand to establishing a modicum of stability and order.
The new college will attempt to tutor students to maintain standards of ethics and integrity in their reporting.
“The students will be told to respect the ethics and laws of journalism,” said Jaber. “If this happens, they will become more courageous and push the envelope as they become more responsible.”
The college will also have a media research center associated with the Norman Lear Center adjacent to it.
It is USC’s second entry into the Middle East. Later this year, the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts — the region’s first fully fledged film school — will open in Aqaba in Jordan. That college is a partnership between USC and the government of Jordan.