Wednesday, December 26, 2012
American Arab media gets nod from PEW Research Center
Chicago, Il/NAAJA – The PEW research Center through its Project for Excellence in Journalism releases a detailed overview of the successes and challenges of the American Arab news media at the end of November.
The overview is one of the first of its kind by a major mainstream American media center and it showcased several successful Arab media and the challenges American Arab media face.
The National American Arab Journalists Association, which monitors American Arab media, applauded the PEW Research Center and urged them to do more.
“One of the big challenges facing American Arab media is that they are ignored and marginalized through this intentionally act of exclusion by major news media and that only selected sources that are ‘politically correct’ or correlate with political opinions are addressed,” said NAAJA national coordinator Ray Hanania.
“Marginalization and exclusion are the means in which minority groups are often excluded from mainstream participation. It mutes the voices of American Arabs and minimizes their significance. The PEW Research Center’s work is important because it puts a spotlight on the American Arab news media which continues to grow.”
Hanania said that growth is particularly significant because of the set-backs caused by post-Sept. 11 hate and discrimination backlash that occurred. Many American Arab newspapers closed permanently and some temporarily in the wake of the attacks which provoked a widespread wave of discrimination against anyone who looked or appeared to be ‘Arab’ or ‘Middle Eastern’ in this country.
“If you are excluded from the American table, you don’t exist in this country. That creates a particularly difficult circumstance for American Arabs who exist in a dual and contradictory states. The only time American Arabs are ‘seen’ by the mainstream public and media is when they are being attacked and vilified as terrorists. When we are not being vilified, we are being ignored. That reinforces stereotypes and hatred,” Hanania said.
“What PEW has done is help pull the curtain away from these discriminatory practices which are accepted as being ‘normal’ and often ignored as being part of the larger picture of racial and ethnic discrimination that exists in America. Arabs are American and we are a major part of this country. Our community media is a significant showcase for who we are. If you ignore our community media, it is an effort to ignore and marginalize the larger community.”
The PEW Research Center study, completed on Nov. 28, 2012, is available on the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s web site at Journalism.org.
“The study is just the tip of the iceberg. More research needs to be done. It’s only shortcoming was its failure to look at the bigger picture of American Arab media,” Hanania said.
“While it captured some important facts about the community, it missed a lot.”
The study identified several or the nearly 100 American Arab print publications including several weekly newspapers like Aramica and the Beirut Times, which are considered the most significant voices of the American Arab community.
It also identified Radio Baladi and Good Morning Michigan, hosted by Laila alHussini in Detroit as being among the pre-eminent American Arab radio programs broadcast in the country.
“There are many American Arab newspapers, some publishing weekly but most publishing bi-monthly or monthly that are very important to our community,’ Hanania said. “And while there are only a handful of radio shows and a few cable TV shows, more needs to be done to showcase and augment their hard work.”
Hanania said NAAJA has worked hard to bring American Arab media together to not only strengthen the voice of American Arabs but also to strengthen the American Arab community media.
“An ethnic community is only as strong as its community media,” Hanania said. “When the mainstream society and Americans recognize the American Arab media fully and with understanding, they will be better able to understand the American Arabs who live and work among them in American society.”
A lot of the success of the American Arab media is dependent on the support of many sponsors and advertisers. The majority of the Advertisers and sponsors are of American Arab origin – such as the Law Offices of Joumana Kayrouz in Detroit and Ziyad Brothers Importing in Chicago. American businesses might advertise more if they better understood the power this media offers in terms of marketing and information.
“The Arab World and the Middle East consume a lot of our attention as Americans. Our fuel and oil is closely tied to the Middle East. The entire world of terrorism and violence is directly linked to the Middle East. You would think that Americans would want to better understand the Middle East in order to better address all of these concerns,” Hanania concluded.
“Americans have a long way to go to better understand the Arabs and the Middle East and they need more factual and complete information in order to do that. The PEW study is a step forward in that direction.”