National Arab American Journalists Association Blog. This site is intended as a networking tool for American Arab journalists around the country. Please send us your notices, press releases, activities and anything involving professional Arab American journalism so we can post it here.
The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.
Monday, July 09, 2012
Why mainstream news media keeps American Arabs out of the system
Tragically, most American Arab journalists are so under siege or have been intimidated and bullied because of their Arab heritage that they are gun shy about defending the idea of increasing American Arab presence in the mainstream American media.
We know that many American Arabs are excluded from mainstream American media jobs. But when they are, they are targeted and even bullied to discourage them from addressing issues related to being Arab or the Middle East.
Every other ethnic and racial group is encouraged to address and cover their own heritage on the premise that ethnic and racial minorities in journalism can bring an experience that mainstream journalists do not have and therefore offer insight into issues involving race and ethnicity.
But that's only for the "accepted" minorities in mainstream journalism, which are African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American, the four core members of UNITY: Journalists of Color. Although the Black journalists have broken from UNITY, it is over power and funding, not representation or diversity among the minority institutions.
The truth is, minority groups that have power do everything they can to prevent other minority groups from sharing that power. There are only a limited number of seats set aside for minority groups and those minority groups at the "table" do more to prevent other minority groups from sharing in their seats than they do advocating for more minority voices.
That's why the National American Arab Journalists Association is so important to American Arab journalists. Because no other minority group is so ostracized from the mainstream news media than American Arabs. They are the number one targeted ethnic group when it comes to news media discrimination, bias and exclusion.
The mainstream news media is biased against minorities. It is a White-driven institution. The media has its hands full dealing with minority groups that are already around the table, like Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans. It's their token way of saying. "Hey, we are addressing the issue of diversity."
But their "diversity" practices are limited diversity. Diversity is narrowly defined to keep unwanted minority groups out, like American Arabs.
Why? They know that being at the media table gives minorities a voice and a say in how the mainstream news media covers major stories.
For example, if American Arabs have a seat at the table -- and they were not intentionally excluded by UNITY and the mainstream news media -- the news media would be going crazy with coverage of the story of the death of two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Anthony Shadid. Shadid died on Feb. 16, 2012, everyone was told, because he had an asthma attack while secretly entering Syria to cover the conflict there. But, it turns out, the New York Times where he worked, did a poor job of preparing his entrance into Syria, where Shadid was a wanted man. Before he died, Shadid told his wife that if he died, she should blame the New York Times. (Click to read more. Click to hear radio podcast on topic.)
Here's an example of how being a part of the media can influence the media and why the mainstream media takes this entire issue so seriously, not from the standpoint of doing something about it but from the standpoint of their energetic refusal to keep American Arabs out of news media ranks.
Politico was forced to hire an African American, Joe Williams, two years ago to respond to charges that Politico lacked diversity. But recently, when Joe Williams made some critical comments of Mitt Romney, he was fired. The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) which was a part of UNITY and has backed policies excluding American Arabs from joining UNITY as equal partners, attacked Politico and questioned their journalism ethics. Politico is in a dilemma today. (Click to read the story.)
Apparently, diversity is only important in the news media when it involves Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.
That's why American Arabs need a professional journalism organization like NAAJA. NAAJA can be their voice to put a spotlight on the absence of diversity in the news media. NAAJA can be the platform from which demands to investigate the circumstances of Anthony Shadid's death can be made. NAAJA is the empowerment of American Arabs.
That's why the Society of Professional Journalists worked so hard to eliminate the voices of American Arabs in their ranks. They didn't want American Arabs to have a voice. Their leadership, which consisted of anti-Arab haters and biased, compromised presidents with self-serving political agendas, worked hard to destroy the American Arab presence at the SPJ a few years back.
American Arabs can't rely on UNITY or SPJ to defend our rights or fight for justice. We have to do it ourselves.