Benazir Karim_Nazneen Zahan
(Left to right): Nazneen Zahan and Benazir Kareem

Three alumni from Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) put their knowledge and skills, working at the new Qatar TV (QTV), recently re-launched with a modern look and fresh content.

The three members of NU-Q’s first graduating class of 2012, Nazneen Zahan, Shannon Farhoud and Benazir Karim, are part of a new breed of locally-trained journalists who are contributing their outlook to the national broadcaster’s transformation, as it tailors Qatari content for global audiences.

‘The skills we acquired at NU-Q are exactly what are expected from us at this channel,’ said Nazneen Zahan, a journalist at the TV Support and Development Committee at Qatar TV. ‘We were trained to work on tight deadlines and to go above and beyond when necessary, work with the latest equipment and switch hats from being a producer one minute to a director in the next. NU-Q was the perfect stepping stone.’

The three graduates of NU-Q have been working behind the scenes for months as part of a wide-ranging revamp that aims to turn the state-run QTV into a top-ranked media outlet, reflective of the aspiration of a country with a fast-rising international profile.

In 2008, Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois partnered with Qatar Foundation to open the University’s first international branch campus — Northwestern University in Qatar. NU-Q offers students the opportunity to study media and earn a bachelor of science in journalism or communication.

Zahan, a Doha-born Bangladeshi national, works on documentaries that tackle both international and local news. She says the best part about her job at QTV, which involves researching stories, pitching ideas, interviews, and writing synopses for broadcast, is ‘still getting to learn so much and working with people who have been in this industry for so many years.’

‘Working between QTV and trying to start my own production company is hard, but passion keeps me and my colleagues going,’ said Shannon Farhoud, who co-founded a production company called Torath with three other NU-Q alumni. The company’s first production Lyrics Revolt, a documentary about Arab hip-hop, received a special mention at the 2012 Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

Formerly a business student in Canada, Farhoud decided to move to NU-Q so she could change to a more creative field of study in a top school that would also be close to her family who reside in Kuwait.

‘Coming into NU-Q, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Now I can’t think of anything else I would rather do,’ added Farhoud.

Together the three have brought fresh new ideas to an organization with its own long legacy, according to Maryam Al Subaiey,  Director of Creation at QTV, who said:

‘The three students from Northwestern continue to add great value to our production team. They showed good skills in terms of handling pressure, being creative and most importantly absorbing everything so quickly and fitting in with the work environment. Their experience has encouraged us to give Northwestern students a priority in hiring.’

Benazir Karim, also a journalist at QTV, attributed her successful contribution to QTV’s re-launch to an education that taught her and her classmates how to be ‘well-rounded journalists who are able to put different skills to use at different stages throughout a project.’

Karim, who hails from Tanzania, advised current students to follow social media and digital journalism closely, a practice she said was instrumental to help her ‘stay up to par with the quick-paced modernisation of this field.’

Zahan, Farhoud and Karim graduated in May 2012, as part of the first graduates of NU-Q, which consists of 36 graduates, whom received Bachelor of Science degrees in journalism or communication, awarded by Northwestern’s renowned Medill School of Journalism and School of Communication. Other NU-Q students have joined top media outlets and departments in Qatar such as Al Jazeera, Ministry of Interior, The Doha Debates, Enterprise Qatar, Qatar Museum Authority (QMA), Doha Centre of Media Freedom, The Youth Company (founded by an NU-Q graduate) and many more.

NU-Q’s second graduating class, class of 2013, will graduate this May.