The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Monday, August 28, 2006

NAAJA at SPJ Annual Convention in Chicago with photos

Arab-Jewish comedy highlights Journalists ConFab
Arab American Media Syndication

(Chicago/August 28, 2006) -- The Holy Land Comedy Tour performances of Jewish American Comedian Aaron Freeman and Palestinian partner Ray Hanania were featured this year at the annual convention of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Hanania also manned a booth at the SPJ Convention on behalf of the National Arab American Journalists Association and worked with a handful of Arab and Muslim journalists to lobby mainstream reporters to "report smart" on the American Arab and Muslim community.

"If we want to correct the flaws that exist in American mainstream journalism, we have to be at the frontline in every way from addressing serious issues to also engaging in more subtle ways to change negative perceptions that are written in American stones," Hanania said.

More than 600 professional journalists from around the country attended the four day convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago. NAAJA’s booth featured fact sheets on the Middle East, Arabs, Muslims and political issues, and distributed copies of the best Arab American newspapers and magazines from around the country. NAAJA volunteers also distributed copies of resumes to editors and publishers on behalf of about 15 Arab American journalists.

NAAJA has several chapters that are in formation and works closely as a caucus with the Asian American Journalists Association. Hanania serves on the AAJA Media Monitoring Committee which challenges unprofessional references to Asians, Arabs and Muslims in the mainstream media.

NAAJA remains in contact with about 147 Arab Americans working fulltime in either mainstream American journalism positions, or in the Arab American ethnic media for newspaper or magazines. There are about 70 Arab American newspapers and magazines, according to NAAJA records that are updated each month.

"The convention attendees were very interested in obtaining contact information for editors and publishers at Arab American media because these editors and publishers can be their best and most reliable sources," Hanania said.

"The biggest complaint I heard from mainstream journalists is that they cannot find reliable resources, sources or community representatives and no one is more representative or reliable than the publisher, editor or reporter for a quality Arab American newspaper or magazine."

Hanania noted that "The biggest complaint I heard from Arab American journalists who attended the SPJ Conference is that they are targeted by hate groups like Little Green Footballs,, Daniel Pipes and other anti-Arab hatemongers simply because they happen to be Arab American or Muslim and they have very few resources to turn to in order to counter the pressure often exerted on their media employers.

"Arab American journalists need support. The reason we are targeted is that these anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate groups know that if we enter the mainstream journalism system and press for true professionalism, the coverage of the Middle East will change from the one-sided bias that it is today," Hanania said.

Now celebrating his 30th year in Journalism, Hanania has won two SPJ Chicago Headline column writing awards and two Chicago Newspaper Guild column writing awards. He entered standup comedy after Sept. 11 and performs for Arab, Jewish and mainstream American audiences across the country appearing on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, NPR and at such clubs as Carolines on Broadway and the New York Comedy Club.

Hanania partnered with Aaron Freeman and Sandy Shea to perform the hit comedy show "The Holy Land Comedy Tour." Information on their show is available at or

The SPJ Convention also featured a panel discussion on "Improving Coverage of Arab and Muslim Communities" that included Chicago CAIR Director Ahmad Rehab, Islamica Magazine Senior Editor Firas Ahmad, Columnist and author Hesham Hassaballa, MPAC Communications Director Edina Lekovic, NAAJA activist Ray Hanania and moderator Doris Norrito of the Tampa Bay Weekly Newspapers.

Ahmad spoke about the need to add greater "depth of coverage" to the Arab and Muslim community by expanding beyond politics to include more social and cultural events. Rehab said that journalists must seek a broader understanding of the communities they cover and "do their leg work."


An Arab journalists stops by to say hello and get resource and network information.

Ray Hanania and Aaron Freeman

Materials at the NAAJA booth

Panel: discussion on "Improving Coverage of Arab and Muslim Communities" that included Chicago CAIR Director Ahmad Rehab (2nd right), Islamica Magazine Senior Editor Firas Ahmad (2nd left), Columnist and author Hesham Hassaballa (3rd left), MPAC Communications Director Edina Lekovic (right), NAAJA activist Ray Hanania (3rd right) and moderator Doris Norrito of the Tampa Bay Weekly Newspapers (left).


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