Credit: Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Four young journalists from across the Middle East and Africa have won the Journalism Now Team Challenge.

The competition, set up by the Thomson Foundation, attracted entrants from across the world. Their challenge was to set up a media brand online and through social media for a chance to win a one-week UK media study tour.

The winning team, Youth Media, used both Instagram and Facebook to tell compelling stories, including a report about disabled rights through the perspective of a bakery worker with Down syndrome, recognised as a stand-out piece by the Thomson Foundation.

Some of the tasks set for more than 600 competing teams included interviewing members of their target audience to learn about their news habits; finding and publishing stories; promoting content on social media and creating a social media strategy.

Hosam El Nagar, director of learning and innovation at the Thomson Foundation, said that the competition allowed younger reporters to create innovative content for online and social media.

"In many countries, when students are learning about journalism, they’re learning through very theoretical and academic courses, so they don’t get cutting-edge insights or chance to practice. The competition was fundamentally a way of giving people the situation where they have to engage with digital tools," he said.

Mobile journalism was central to content produced for the competition given that smartphones are increasingly available across the world.

"You can do everything with just a smartphone and we’re encouraging people to use the tools that they have available and to show them [how] to use them to produce content to a high standard," he said.

Smartphones were also helpful for keeping in touch throughout the competition. Although entrants could communicate through their group page on the competition’s website, WhatsApp was a common way to talk to each other.

The competition was built on the premise of collaborating with journalists within a group but working with and supporting other groups was also rewarded in the scoring system which determined the winner.

El Nagar said that collaboration has an important role to play in journalism, not only in terms of pooling resources, but also through learning new skills, inspiring peers and providing moral support to those working in challenging environments.

"When we look at countries with lots of difficulties, such as strong censorship and persecution, some journalists figure out how to push boundaries in ways that are safe, and often journalists in a similar country might learn a lot more from them than they would from us. By learning from people in similar situations to you, you can share best practices and overcoming problems," he said.

For those who are worried they have missed out, the competition is likely to go ahead next year.

"My vision is to turn this model into an international journalism qualification where you go through this program and come out with lots of practical skills," El Nagar said.

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