The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

American Arab media gets nod from PEW Research Center

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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

“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.”


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Critics unfair to New York Post photographer

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Critics unfair to New York Post photographer

R. Umar Abbasi captured a photo of a man seconds before he was struck and killed by a subway train in New York on Dec. 3, 2012. Abbasi, who is described as a "freelance photographer," said he heard the gasps of people on the train platform when the victim, Ki-suck Han, was apparently pushed onto the track during a scuffle with another individual as the train approached the station.

Abbasi's photo shows the man with his arm on the ledge as the train approaches only a few yards away. Han was immediately killed.

Immediately, the critics came out of the woodwork to attack Abbasi because he snapped the photo. They claimed he should have run up to the man and helped pull him out of the way of the train.

But when you look at the photo, you see that Abbasi was further from the man than the train.

Abbasi claimed he took the picture to fire the flash to warn the train conductor, but that sounds more like the excuse of someone who is being pilloried and the criticism must certainly be painful, because a man lost his life.

I really doubt he shot the pictures to flash the light to warn the conductor, although maybe that was a hope he may have held as the drama unfolded before his lens.

Still, even though he might be bending to the huge international criticism and pressure of critics to make that claim, the truth is there was nothing Abbasi could do. His job is to record events in the lives on human beings. Photographers have joined the military in wars snapping pictures as the enemy and our soldiers were killed.

Of course, we don't mind showing the corpses of the enemy who have been killed but we suddenly find a moral thread when the victims are our soldiers.

That's the kind of hate that has permeated today's America. It's a country built on racism and now fueled by political hatred. Our hatred allows us to attack people not based on what they have or have not done, but rather based on who they are or where they are from.

I suspect a part of the hatred against Abbasi is because he has an Arab and Muslim name. I don't know him and he may not be Arab but the name is a very common Arab and Muslim name. In today's America, facts do not matter. Most Americans couldn't tell the difference between a Mexican or a Palestinians. We both look the same. Americans are the most educated people on the planet but the least educated about the people who live on this planet. They make judgments and stereotypes and there is no doubt in my mind that people who have read this story have concluded that Abbasi is "one of them." A Muslim. An Arab. 

So it doesn't really matter of Abbasi is an Arab or a Muslim. What matters is that most people believe he is. That is how justice is achieved in today's America. American justice is not only blind these days, it is stupid, uneducated and unfactual.

Regardless, though, Abbasi did nothing wrong. I believe that if he were close enough to the many, standing right next to him, he would have reached down to help lift him out of the way of the train. He would have become a hero. Although because he is or is perceived to be an Arab or a Muslim, he wouldn't have been given a heroes' welcome or praise for his actions. Arabs and Muslims only get attention when something is wrong. We're not seen as heroes but rather as terrorists or potential terrorists.

I salute Abbasi for his photograph. It is the most important thing that remains of the victim, Han. It depicts his last moments of life before he was struck and killed.

When I was a young reporter, I would cover tragedies like home fires that took the lives of people including children. The hardest thing would be to go up to the relatives of the people who were killed and asked them for their comments. It seemed so insensitive to do so considering they were in the midst of grieving for their loss. But I would always explain that the story I write might be the only story ever written about your child, husband or wife. When time passes in weeks and months, you will cling to this story as your last connection to the deceased. I wanted to make that story the best I could not only to report the facts but to insure the family had something left that they could cling to to reinforce our frail and fading memories as human beings.

-- Ray Hanania