Journalist ◆ Filmmaker ◆ Academic | How Safe Are You? NU-Q Students Launch Website About Qatar’s Fire and Safety Regulations


Posted by Christina Paschyn in News & Updates

How Safe Are You? NU-Q Students Launch Website About Qatar’s Fire and Safety Regulations

The building you live or work in may feel safe and look strong from the outside, but have you ever wondered how sturdy it really is? How about the people who built it – how safe were they during the construction process? Was anyone injured? Or worse…did anyone die?

I’m proud to announce the release of my students’ latest major reporting project: Qatar Under Construction, a multimedia website that features an array of print, video, photo and data visualization reports on Qatar’s construction and fire safety crisis. The site was produced as part of Advanced Online Storytelling, an intensive 5-week journalism course I teach every spring semester.

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From our press release: “This is a topic that captured international attention when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup,” says Christina Paschyn, instructor of Northwestern’s journalism course, Advanced Online Storytelling. “But perhaps more importantly, since the tragic fire at Villaggio Mall last year, which killed 19 people, including 13 children, Doha’s citizens and residents have recognized the country’s poor safety standards to be a pressing issue that must be addressed.” 

The site, which offers in-depth investigative analysis of the issue, has gotten wonderful reviews from local publications in Doha, including the Peninsula and Doha News. Some of the comments we received about the website’s video report on the Villaggio fire aftermath (on Doha News) were truly touching. Like this heartfelt one from Jane Weekes, who tragically lost her triplets in the fire.

“I would like to congratulate, thank and commend the students of NU-Q for the making of this excellent video. As the film states, we are still looking for answers and justice for the negligence of the Villaggio Mall owners and management, Gympanzee owners and management, as well as the authorities who allowed the mall and nursery to operate when they continuously breached so many safety standards. We hope the evidence of the trial will be shared transparently, and those responsible are held truly accountable for causing the deaths of 19 people. Of equal importance we hope that the authorities take heed of the points raised in this video and step up to making country wide improvements to safety in Qatar. Buildings should be built with the safety of those who enter them as the first priority, and those people who breach basic safety standards because of greed must be shut down before they cost the lives of more people and no other families need suffer the completely avoidable loss of their loved ones.” 

Jane – Mother to Lillie, Jackson and Willsher died age 2 on 28 May, Villaggio Mall.

And this comment from Biella Qatar:

“Based on your video – I think you guys should be congratulated – a great way to highlight the poor standards here. The more this goes viral the more the message will get out. We noticed that many malls did not learn their lesson – systems and equipment are no good unless you educate your people to reduce fire risks and know what to do in such situations. We trained all of our people on fire safety and a very short time later had a potential incident where thanks to the training given was managed without any loss of life, injury or loss of property. Mall management may vary but the general feeling is they are more concerned with press statements but ineffectual with poor attention to detail when it comes to rectifying the problems. It always seems to be someone else’s job. The country seems to have confusing standards and really needs to clear things up, clarify its regulations and then educate businesses – other countries have dedicated websites, government liaisons who openly give information – here the volunteering of information is next to non existent. I would like to congratulate the team that put this together and Doha news for its pure journalism with clear unbiased reporting.”

The Peninsula also gave us a great spread in the February 20, 2013, PLUS section of the newspaper. So dear readers, please check out Qatar Under Construction. You can read the rest of our press release here.

Hungry for more great reporting? Visit last year’s acclaimed reporting project on Qatar’s diabetes and obesity crisis, Qatar Sweet Epidemic.

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