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Obama administration shows respect to American Arab journalists
By Ray Hanania — Although there is much to debate about the ability of President Barack Obama to bring peace to the Middle East, there is no doubt that he is doing more than any of his predecessors to recognize the importance of American Arab journalists. In the nearly two years since his election, Obama has slowly and steadily opened the White House to access to Arab World and American Arab journalists, a group that has been missing in action in most past White House Middle East peace events.
Although American Arabs were invited to witness the historic signing of the now failed Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton, not invited were American Arab journalists.
Now, American Arab journalists are joining Arab World journalists in obtaining access to firsthand news from the White House, not only in coverage of Iraq but also in coverage of day-to-day news.
The White House has accepted an Arab journalist to be the pool reporter during the restoration of peace talks after a two-year lull between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Although the selection of Yasmeen Alamiri from the Saudi Press Agency to lead the press pool coverage of the Abbas-Netanyahu meeting, the news reports are, for the first time, those pool reports are being made available directly to the American Arab Press. (Read the pool reports at the American Arab News Wire at http://aams.blogspot.com).
Officials at the U.S. State Department have also reached out to the American Arab media to provide thought leaders from the U.S. Government to discuss American policy spin.
Mainstream American media might scoff at the idea of journalists celebrating being put on the government’s PR spin list, but the fact that the government feels it is important now, for the first time, to spin the American Arab media is a significant shift in U.S. Government strategy.
There are more than 103 American Arab newspapers and magazines in the United States today according to an inventory kept by the National Arab American Journalists Association (www.NAAJA-US.com). There are nearly 300 American Arabs in professional journalism, with half working in the mainstream American media and the other half working in the ethnic American Arab media.
American Arabs in the mainstream media, though, are usually assigned to non-Middle Eastern beats and topics, a fact that contradicts the experience of other ethnic journalists like Hispanics and African Americans who are often tapped to cover their own ethnic communities.
American Arab journalists in the ethnic media specifically write about Middle Eastern topics, although as much as 75 percent of the writing is op-ed or opinion commentary content rather than objective news or enterprises feature writing.
These publications reach deeper into one of the most ignored ethnic constituencies in America, Arabs and Muslims, than any other mainstream publication. American Arabs and Muslims do subscribe to, read and watch mainstream American media. But when reporting comes to Middle East topics or Islamic topics, the level of skepticism is higher than the average American.
American Arab publications also have a strong connection to the Arab world media. More often today than a decade before, Arab World reporters and producers are seeking out American Arab journalists in both the ethnic and mainstream media to assist them in identifying sources and stories.
The internet has played a significant role in leveling the playing field between American Arab media and the mainstream American media. More and more, American Arab journalists are also being engaged as commentators on mainstream media panels, interview and news programs. They are being tapped and quoted as resources to round out mainstream media stories.
At some point, American Arab journalists will find their place alongside mainstream American journalists, and their impact in forcing a balanced coverage of Middle East and Islamic topics will continue to grow.
(Ray Hanania is the 2010 winner of the Sigma Delta Chi award from column writing and was named Best Ethnic American Columnist by the New America Media in 2007. He hosts a weekday morning Chicago radio show and can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com.)
This post has already been read 27 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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