The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

President Obama names minority and new media team, no Arabs included

CONTACT: White House Media Affairs Office, 202- 456-6238

Office of the Press Secretary

President Obama Announces More Key White House Staff

WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced the following White House Staff: Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, White House Research Director; Daniella Gibbs Leger, Director of Message Events; Macon Phillips, Director of New Media; Christina Reynolds, Director of Media Affairs; Dag Vega, Director of Broadcast Media; Dana E. Singiser, White House Office of Legislative Affairs, Amy Brundage, Regional Communications Director; Cammie Croft, Deputy New Media Director; Jason Djang, Deputy Director for Video; Corey Ealons, Director of African American Media and Coordinator of Special Projects; Shin Inouye, Director of Specialty Media; Jesse Lee, Online Programs Director; Katherine Lyons, Deputy Director of Message Events; Luis Miranda, Director of Hispanic Media; Moira Mack Muntz, Regional Communications Director; Katie Stanton, Director of Citizen Participation; Joelle Terry, Deputy Director of Message Events; Gannet Tseggai, Regional Communications Director; and Samantha Tubman, Assistant Social Secretary.

President Obama said, “Each of these individuals brings deep expertise in their fields, and a strong commitment to public service. I am confident in their abilities to fill these roles with distinction, and I welcome them to our team as we begin the work of bringing the change that the American people need in these troubled times.”

The following announcements were made today:

Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, White House Research Director
Jarvis-Shean was the Head of Research for the Presidential Transition Team. Prior to that, she was Deputy Director of Content for the Obama campaign. She previously worked as a research and communications strategist at CNBC and as Vice President at IMS, Inc., a research consulting firm. A native of Sacramento, California, Jarvis-Shean studied at the University of Cape Town and was the fifth generation of her family to attend the University of California, Berkeley, from which she graduated with high honors in political science.

Daniella Gibbs Leger, Director of Message Events
Daniella Gibbs Leger was most recently the Vice President for Communications at American Progress. At the Center she specialized in domestic and economic policy, as well as the Center's overall communications strategy. Prior to joining the Center, Daniella was Deputy Director of Communications at the Democratic National Committee. She began working at the DNC in June of 2002 in the political department as Communications Director for the Women’s Vote Center. During her tenure at the DNC, Daniella also handled African American and specialty media and was a regional media director during the 2004 presidential cycle. Daniella spent two years at the National Newspaper Publishers Association as their marketing associate and political liaison before joining the DNC. Before moving to Washington, D.C., Daniella worked at Sony Music in New York City for three years. Daniella has been a guest on numerous TV and radio shows and has been quoted in various print publications. Daniella holds a degree in Government and a minor in Sociology from the University of Virginia.

Macon Phillips, Director of New MediaSince the election, Phillips has served as Director of New Media for the Presidential Transition Team, developing and overseeing the transition's overall online communications. Prior to that, he served as the Deputy Director of New Media for Obama for America, managing the day to day operations of the campaign's online program. Before the campaign, Macon led Blue State Digital's strategy practice, working with clients like the Democratic National Committee and Senator Ted Kennedy. A native of Huntsville, Alabama, Phillips is a graduate of Duke University and lives with his fiancée in Washington, DC.

Christina Reynolds, Director of Media AffairsReynolds was most recently the Director of Rapid Response for the Obama-Biden campaign. Prior to that, she was research director and senior communications adviser for John Edwards' 2008 presidential primary campaign, and research director in 2004. She has also served as research director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Tim Johnson's 2002 reelection campaign and as communications director for Tom Daschle's 2004 campaign. Reynolds graduated from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dag Vega, Director of Broadcast Media
Most recently, Vega served as Director of Surrogate Press for the Obama campaign where he supervised the TV booking operation and managed the media outreach for elected officials and policy experts speaking on behalf of the campaign. Previously, he was Deputy Communications Director at the Democratic National Committee where he helped implement Chairman Howard Dean’s media strategy. A veteran of presidential races, he served as Deputy Communications Director for TV News during John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 and a spokesperson for constituency media for Al Gore’s presidential bid in 2000. He also held communication positions in The White House Press Office during President Clinton's administration.

Dana E. Singiser, White House Office of Legislative Affairs
Singiser brings over 15 years of political, campaign, and legal experience to her position as Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs. At the White House, she serves on the team charged with promoting President Obama’s legislative priorities with the U.S. Senate. During the 2008 election cycle, she focused on the women’s vote, first as Director of Women’s Outreach for then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign and then as Senior Advisor for the Women’s Vote to Barack Obama. Her other campaign experience includes serving as Deputy Political Director for Governor Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, and as staff on President Bill Clinton’s campaigns in 1992 and 1996. On Capitol Hill, Dana was Staff Director for the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee under the leadership of former Senator Clinton and Majority Leader Harry Reid. At the Committee, she led the effort to strengthen core constituency support for Democratic party positions. She practice law at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld for five years, and served in President Clinton’s Administration, both in the White House and the Department of Commerce. She grew up in Vermont and received her undergraduate degree from Brown University and her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

Amy Brundage, Regional Communications Director
Brundage most recently served as a spokesperson for the Obama-Biden Transition Team and as the Midwest Communications Director in the Chicago headquarters for Obama’s presidential campaign. Prior to the campaign, she served as then-Senator Obama’s Press Secretary in his Washington, DC office. Before joining the Obama team, Brundage was Senator John Kerry’s National Press Secretary. She also served as the Communications Director for Kerry’s political action committee in 2006. Brundage worked in the scheduling department in the national headquarters during Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, and joined Kerry’s Senate staff in early 2005. A native of Rockport, Massachusetts, Brundage graduated with a B.A. in both English and Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross.

Cammie Croft, Deputy New Media DirectorCroft comes to the White House from the Obama-Biden Transition Project, where she served as the Deputy New Media Director, specializing in online communications. Prior to that, as the New Media Rapid Response Manager for the Obama for America campaign, she oversaw efforts to integrate new media and communications, including managing websites such as and Before joining the campaign, Croft built the tracking and media monitoring program at Progressive Accountability, a rapid-response communications advocacy campaign that provided video of Republican Presidential candidates for the mass public. Croft also worked as the Rapid Response Mobilization Director for Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, where she led their new media efforts, working with’s online tools to mobilize Americans opposed to the war. Croft holds a B.A. in Political Science and Communication from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she graduated with distinction. She is also an alumnus of the New Organizing Institute (NOI), a unique online organizing forum for technologically-savvy, progressive campaigners.

Jason Djang, Deputy Director for Video
Djang served on the New Media video teams for both Obama for America and the Obama-Biden Transition Project as an editor and producer. Prior to joining the campaign, he worked in documentary film and television in New York City and Los Angeles. Versed in all aspects of the production world, his experience includes commercials, broadcast series, and short films. Djang also has a background in church leadership and holds a Masters degree from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. He earned his bachelors degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Corey Ealons, Director of African American Media and Coordinator of Special Projects
Ealons served as director of African American Media during the General Election for the Obama-Biden campaign. Prior to joining that operation he was deputy chief of staff and communications director for U.S. Representative Artur Davis of Alabama for six years. A communications professional for nearly 15 years, Ealons’ experiences include three presidential campaigns and active duty service as the public affairs director and photojournalist for the 3rd United States Infantry (The Old Guard), the Presidential Honor Guard in Washington, D.C. Ealons graduated from the University Of Alabama School Of Communications with a concentration in public relations and political communications.

Shin Inouye, Director of Specialty Media
Shin Inouye was most recently a spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Prior to that, he was the Constituency Communications Coordinator at the Obama for America campaign. In that capacity, he served as the communications officer for a variety of campaign constituency groups, including: LGBT, AAPI, First Americans, Veterans and Military Families, Youth, Seniors, Faith, Jewish, Rural & Sportsmen, Americans with Disabilities, and Ethnic. Before the campaign, Inouye was the Communications Director for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-8), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. A member of the Congressman's Senior Staff, Inouye served as an official spokesperson. Prior to that, Inouye was the Senior Legislative Communications Associate at the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union. During his tenure at the ACLU, Inouye played a key role in their "Keep America Safe and Free" campaign. He graduated with departmental honors from the Johns Hopkins University, with a degree in political science.

Jesse Lee, Online Programs DirectorLee worked in the New Media department for the Transition team doing online outreach, having done online communications for the Democratic National Committee during election season. Prior to that he was Senior New Media Advisor to Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the 110th Congress, having worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee online from 2004-2006. Lee graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 2002.

Katherine Lyons, Deputy Director of Message Events
Lyons most recently served as the Southwest regional spokesperson for the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee. Prior to that, she served as the Obama campaign’s Director of Message Events for the general election. During the presidential primaries, Lyons was New Hampshire Deputy Communications Director and spokesperson in a number of other states. Before joining the Obama campaign, Lyons coordinated communications and grassroots strategies for Dewey Square Group in California. A native of Sacramento, California, Lyons graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Luis Miranda, Director of Hispanic Media
Miranda was most recently Deputy Communications Director at the Democratic National Committee, overseeing regional and specialty press. In that capacity Miranda was the Democratic Party's lead spokesperson for Hispanic and Spanish-language media. Prior to joining the DNC, Miranda worked for John Kerry’s presidential campaign, first starting the campaign’s internet communications program, and later working as a liaison to Hispanic media. Miranda has also worked with organized labor at the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Florida State Council, among other things reaching out to the union's Hispanic members. Miranda has also worked on campaigns at the local and state level, served as a Research Analyst at the DCCC, and worked as the Miami-Dade Field Director for the 2000 coordinated campaign in Florida, where he also worked on operations for the Florida recount.

Moira Mack Muntz, Regional Communications Director
Mack has advised and managed earned media strategy for numerous political, ballot initiative and issue campaigns. Most recently Mack served as deputy national press secretary for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, managing the candidate’s national interview requests. Mack spent three years at Hildebrand Tewes Consulting where she advised non-profit organizations, labor groups and U.S. Senate campaigns on communications and served as spokesperson and communications director for the multimillion dollar Iraq campaign advocating a timeline to end the war. As researcher and program coordinator at Campaign for America's Future, Mack drafted policy materials on a variety of issues and coordinated the simultaneous release of television ads and state reports in nearly 50 states. A native of Albany, NY, Mack is a graduate of the George Washington University.

Katie Stanton, Director of Citizen Participation
Katie Jacobs Stanton joins the New Media team as Director of Citizen Participation. Prior to this role, Stanton was at Google where she was a Principal in the New Business Development team responsible for OpenSocial, Google Moderator, and various election-related initiatives. Also at Google, Stanton managed several real-time vertical products including Google Finance, Google News, and Blog Search. Stanton joined Google from Yahoo! where she helped build the investing program on Yahoo! Finance as well as lead Yahoo Finance's growth internationally. Prior to Yahoo!, Stanton worked for Chase as an Associate in the Corporate Emerging Markets group. Her professional experience also includes a Fellowship at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, a volunteer position in Kenya, and a teaching role in Japan. Stanton has an MA in International Affairs at Columbia University and a BA in Political Science from Rhodes College.

Joelle Terry, Deputy Director of Message Events
Terry most recently served as the Director of Communications Planning for the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee and as the Deputy Director of Surrogate Press during the General in the Chicago headquarters for Obama’s presidential campaign. In the Primary Terry served as the Surrogate Press Secretary. Prior to the campaign, she served as an Associate in the Dewey Square Group’s Sacramento office. In 2004, Terry worked in the regional press office in the national headquarters during Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and later as a member of the national advance team. A native of Sacramento, California, Terry graduated with a B.A. in International Relations from the University of California, San Diego.

Gannet Tseggai, Regional Communications Director
Tseggai started on Obama’s presidential campaign as the Iowa Deputy Press Secretary in 2007 and worked in five states during the primary. During the general election, she served as the Northeast Communications Director in the Chicago headquarters. Before joining the Obama campaign, Tseggai served as Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s Deputy Press Secretary from 2005 to 2007. Prior to her work for Senator Kennedy, Tseggai spent the 2004 election cycle working for Missouri Governor Bob Holden’s re-election campaign and John Kerry’s Presidential Campaign in Missouri and Ohio. Tseggai is a Rolla, Missouri native and graduated with a B.A. in both Political Science and Communications from the University of Missouri.

Samantha Tubman, Assistant Social Secretary
Tubman served as a Press Wrangler for President-Elect Barack Obama’s presidential campaign beginning in January 2008. She first joined the campaign as a member of the Scheduling and Advance Team in February 2007. Tubman previously served as Deputy Press Secretary for Governor Edward G. Rendell’s gubernatorial campaign in 2006. Prior to this, she worked as a legal assistant at Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, DC from 2001-2004. Samantha received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Haverford College in 2001 and received her Master’s degree in Governmental Administration from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bridges TV noble mission collapses under weight of its founder's tragedy and stereotypes

When Bridges TV first launched in 2004, there was great hope that it would do two things: First, open the door to Arab and Muslims to portray themselves accurately through engaging and professional journalism. And, more importantly, address the stereotypes that weigh down objective reporting in the mainstream American media which includes not only the news media but the entertainment media of Hollywood and TV and the communications media which includes organizational PR. But over the years, Bridges TV became a kind of challenge to itself.

Instead of promoting a positive image of the Arabs and Muslims, the Cable TV station fell into the community habit of playing to the divisions in the community, siding with those who fit into its religious perspective and pushing out those who did not fit.

In other words, Bridges TV became just like the mainstream media it hoped to change, discriminating against Arabs and Muslims who were too secular, weighing down the issues facing secular Muslims and secular Arabs, pushing out those whose views challenged the rising religious zealotry and political extremism that continues to plague the community.

And audiences started to see this as programming tended toward political spheres and away from the Cable TV's stated mission, which was (with their emphasis):
"Bridges TV aims to foster a greater understanding among many cultures and
diverse populations. Through our high-quality, informative, 24-7 programming in
English; we seek to become a unifying force that can help people understand our
diverse world through education and entertainment."

On Friday Feb. 13, 2009, their web site was brought down. Not by computer Internet hackers, but by the conflict that apparently not only consumed the cable TV's mission, but by internal conflicts involving the personal life of the owner and the individual who championed its creation, Muzzammil Hassan.

Muzzammil Hassan, 44, was charged with Second Degree Murder in the grusome the beheading of his wife, Aasiya Hassan, 37, at the Cable TV studios of Bridges TV in a suburb of Buffalo New York on Friday night. (Read story?) Orchard Park is just south of Buffalo New York which also dominated the headlines on Friday when a Continental plane carrying 49 people crashed just outside of the city's airport (Read story?) on its way from Newark Liberty Airport.

Hassan was such a nice person. I spoke with him often about the challenges he faces. He understood that he was fighting two battles. The first against stereotypes in the mainstream American news media and public that oppress Arabs and Muslims. The second in our own community which is divided by an internal war of political extremism versus moderation, rivalries nurtured by years of a community that has been pushed down to the furthest depths of victimization, and rising religious activism which often dictates what is and is not acceptable these days in the Arab and Muslims community.

No one can navigate through those turbulent community waters -- a common denominator across the board in the Arab and Muslim community from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles -- while also having to face up to the persistent challenges of righting the notions of America towards Arabs and Muslims which is drawn with stereotypes of hatred, suspicion, fear, lack of education, ignorance and politics is impossible.

You can't but help to acknowledge the irony that Muzzammil Hassan's tragedy involves one of the most heinous stereotypes that is constantly used to demean Arabs and Muslims. We don't know all the circumstances outside of the charges filed and the victim's remains. We do know that the stereotype runs even deeper, as his wife, who was listed on the now removed Bridges TV web site as "General Manager," was filing for a divorce.

Over the next few days and weeks, we will see the chatter in the mainstream media shift as it always does when it involves Arabs and Muslims from the facts of the issue and crime to the more prevalent stereotypes fueling the racism and ignorance in this country.

Mr. Hassan is innocent until proven guilty. But the circumstance of the events in this tragedy will reach far beyond logic and the damage this will inflict on Arabs and Muslims in America will not yet be fully felt immediately.

Tragically, it will set back and derail the forward movement of Arab American journalism. And it will separate even more the American public from the understanding of the Arab and Muslim community in this country, serving only to reinforce the extremists in the internal battle with the besieged and abandoned moderates that are the majority but who also have come to accept that the challenge of righting the keel is insurmountable and futile.

This is one of the most disturbing setbacks I think I have seen in years in the battle to change the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim stereotypes in this country. Instead of achieving the noble goals stated in the Bridges TV Mission, this event has served to make that road far longer and more difficult.

-- Ray Hanania