Overview and mission
Launched in 2013, Syria Direct is a non-profit journalism organization that produces timely, credible coverage of issues in Syria by training a small group of Syrian and American citizen journalists in professional information-gathering and unbiased, in-depth reporting. Syria Direct publishes original news reports, interviews, photographs and videos from inside Syria that are disseminated through social media and published in international news outlets.
Syria Direct’s mission is to foster civil society among the Syrian diaspora and eventually within Syria by building a corps of trained journalists who understand objective reporting and use it to fight government oppression. By training exiles and refugees in the principles and practices of independent, professional journalism, Syria Direct gives them the tools to help their communities and the world better understand the realities, issues and choices the Syrian people face.
“The most unique component of Syria Direct is our highly collaborative work environment. Syrians and Americans work side by side, making each other better reporters by sharing insights and exchanging ideas. Our newsroom is a hub for the free exchange of ideas about the future of Syria.”
Keenan Duffy, Managing Director
GPD has provided $365,000 over four years to help launch and establish Syria Direct. Syria Direct’s journalism training emphasizes the tenets of professional journalism, from identifying sources and checking facts to providing balanced, well-rounded reporting on contentious issues. This organization is unique in that is it committed to using the highest journalistic standards to allow Syrian citizen journalists to tell their own story, set the news agenda and instill principles of independent, critical thinking and integrity into local media.
The conflict in Syria poses a challenge to journalists across the world whose coverage of the events often lacks the historic, cultural and religious background needed to navigate the complex situation. With nearly three million Syrian refugees hoping for a new and unified Syria, freedom of the press and a transparent, credible media are significant steps towards peace.
Impact to date
Syria Direct trains twelve aspiring Syrian journalists every six months. Their stories have been featured in USA Today, CNN.com, Radio Free Europe and other major international media outlets including Le Monde and The Toronto Globe and Mail. The organization also engages popular social media platforms to build audience. Syria Direct’s Facebook page has been attracting and informing a growing young and largely Syrian, Arabic-speaking user community, and the Twitter account has thousands of followers, many of whom are journalists, diplomats, and other thought leaders who shape the debate on Syria.
“Without our Syrian trainees, Syria Direct would not be able to report the latest news from Syria. Without our American translators, we would not be able to craft that information into professional quality news items. Syria Direct offers a work environment that none of our Syrian journalists have ever experienced before: respectful, dynamic and highly collaborative.”
Keenan Duffy, Managing Director
Syria Direct plans to launch an Arabic-language website which will extend the content’s reach to a new audience and will give the Syrian trainees an opportunity to build a portfolio in Arabic, thus increasing their likelihood for professional success in the field.
Over the next few years, Syria Direct will continue to tackle the biggest challenge of transforming the Syrian media ecosystem: professionalizing citizen journalists’ news-gathering skills. While the citizen journalism model succeeded at providing behind the scenes coverage during the Arab Spring, the videos and reports produced lacked significant context and background. Training will give these news stories the credibility necessary to be impactful.
“I was inspired to work with Amjad Tadros to develop and fund Syria Direct due to the significance of the events in Syria as well as the need to develop and maintain a credible source of information and perspective on the ground. By creating a program focused on reporting and training journalists, we are able to inform decision-makers and build the basis for what will hopefully become a free press in the future.”
John DeBlasio - Founder of GPD Charitable Trust