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Beginner’s tips for reporting from the Middle East

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Three lessons from a novice freelancer’s time in Jordan

Payton Bruni is a journalism student at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, who is also minoring in Arabic Studies.

Throughout the summer of 2018, I spent my time in the Jordan capital of Amman – my first effort at reporting in a Middle Eastern country.

I went in as a novice freelancer, having a few published stories here and there, but I saw this as a stepping stone towards a career as a Middle Eastern reporter. While I had some grasp of the Arabic language, I knew nothing about what to expect or where to begin.

One of the first questions I needed to answer was how the journalism industry in Middle Eastern countries differed from the West. Did Jordan have robust press freedom or was it heavy-handed on journalists? Were there any cultural considerations I needed to bear in mind throughout my reporting?

In order to get to grips with reporting from this region, I wanted to consult active professionals rather than Google, so I did some homework. I sought the advice of just about every journalist in Jordan who would speak with me, from veteran freelancers to an editor at Syria Direct, and a reporter with Roya News.

By doing so, I learned a number of tips that any journalist looking to report in Jordan or any other Arabic countries could find useful, so here are my key lessons learned and takeaways:

Avoid angering the government

Know what topics the government is sensitive to and understand the consequences before covering them.

The first piece of advice I received was also a warning. In Jordan, you soon learn not to report anything negative about the country’s ruler King Abdullah II.

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