January 6, 2023, by Communications

UNM visits the CNN Academy in Abu Dhabi and its pioneering breaking news simulation

Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of signing a partnership with the CNN Academy, built by one of the world’s leading news organisations, to empower future journalists. As a result of this partnership, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) introduced the first Masters degree (MA) in Media, Communications and Culture programme, culminating in a first-of-its-kind trip to the CNN Academy in Abu Dhabi.

UNM students at the Yas Creative Hub CNN Academy in twofour54, Abu Dhabi

Spending five days at Yas Creative Hub CNN Academy, located at the region’s leading media and entertainment hub, twofour54, students gained a unique journalism training experience via the academy’s inaugural breaking news simulation programme. Alongside participants from other universities =worldwide, our students got to learn and work in a realistic breaking news environment with experienced CNN journalists and media experts acting as their mentors and peers.

Students experienced a realistic breaking news environment through the simulation

Students were split into teams and tasked to act as reporters, news writers, and content producers in a fictitious scenario. In their respective roles, they had to verify sources, attend mock press conferences, conduct mock interviews, respond to email updates, and decipher documents. They were also responsible for navigating a simulated social media platform that was updated in real-time throughout the event, presenting the students with additional evidence, bots, decoys, and news to analyse.

As part of the investigation and news gathering, participants interacted with CNN journalists who played eyewitnesses, activists, and corporate representatives on a scene built on a film set. Specially designed by CNN journalists and professional game design expert Jim Wallman, the simulation encouraged strategic thinking, team building, tact, and decision-making.  Despite being educational, it was a fun few days!

Like in a CNN newsroom, students had to pitch their ideas to a panel of senior CNN staff at the end of the simulation. Six teams were selected to write, produce and edit the final packages to round off the event.

In helping to prepare students for the fast-paced world of professional journalism, this simulation offered students a safe space to learn and make mistakes. It gave participants a taste of what working as a journalist may look like, the challenges they may encounter, and some ways to overcome them.

Becky Anderson, Managing Editor of CNN Abu Dhabi and anchor of ‘Connect the World with Becky Anderson’

The five-day trip also included masterclasses chaired by Becky Anderson, Managing Editor of CNN Abu Dhabi and anchor of the Connect the World with Becky Anderson programme. The masterclasses shared valuable insights into CNN’s operations, the responsibilities of a photojournalist, and how they maximise their tools in the field.

Further, UNM students could work alongside peers from different nations, each with their own unique media landscapes. Our students had the opportunity to network and exchange ideas with other aspiring journalists, further broadening their understanding of journalism in a global context.

Students from the Loyola University Seville, Spain; Chu Hai College of Higher Education, Hong Kong; and the University College Dublin, Ireland, were also invited to the Yas Creative Hub CNN Academy. There were 88 participants from 28 different nationalities in total.

We’re excited to see how this partnership will continue to grow and explore how it can further elevate the teaching and learning experience for our MA in Media, Communications and Culture students.

The partnership between UNM and CNN Academy was officially signed on 23 September 2022, with Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Associate Professor, Dr Hazel Melanie Ramos, as UNM’s signatory. Learn more about the partnership here and the MA in Media, Communications and Culture programme here.

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