CAIR-Chicago’s Communications Coordinator, Amina Sharif and Communications Extern Aymen Abdel Halim visited Columbia College on July 6th to speak to Professor Rose Economou’s media ethics class on the importance of unbiased reporting in today’s media.
In addition to discussing the initiatives of CAIR-Chicago as a civil rights organization and a resource to media outlets, Sharif and Abdel Halim also touched on how to avoid the pitfalls of stereotyping racial, ethnic, and religious groups by performing sound research during the reporting process.
Part of the presentation allowed students to sharpen their ability to identify bias and discrimination in the media. Students watched a Fox News story, which demonstrated what not to do as a credible news reporter. “We let the class analyze what was wrong with the news piece and how the reporter could have done a better job,” explained Sharif.
In addition to learning the do’s and don’ts of diligent and culturally sensitive journalism, the students were also taught terminology necessary for one to know when reporting on issues related to Muslims.
For example, the difference between the terms “Islam”, “Muslim” and “Arab” were discussed, giving the classroom full of future journalists a basic framework of how to accurately and appropriately represent the Muslim community in the media.
Abdel Halim, who noticed some of the students struggling to differentiate between Arabs and Muslims, notes the responsibility the mainstream media has to represent both the Muslim and non-Muslim community accurately.
“Part of being a journalist is being aware. It’s a tough job, but that’s why the great journalists get the recognition that they do,” he said.
Columbia College student Janet Mendoza, a senior Broadcast Journalism major, felt the exercise with the Fox News clip was eye opening to the unbalanced knowledge she holds of Islam and Muslims. She said realized that she hears more negativity about Islam than positive information.
Professor Economou felt Sharif and Abdel Halim’s visit to her classroom was an effective way to raise awareness to her students. “Everybody thinks they’re sensitive to the political and cultural issues of a particular religious or ethnic group but it’s just not true,” explained the professor.
After hearing members of CAIR-Chicago speak, Economou felt her students were “..sensitized to the vocabulary of non discrimination.”
According to Sharif, the conversation was a productive one. “It led to good discussion and students asked great questions,” she said.