Arab American Women in Television News
By: Ivey Noojin/Arab America Contributing Writer
In the last couple of years, there has been a growth in the discussion about representation on television. Many people are starting to speak up about the lack of race, weight, or gender in shows and movies. They are tired of seeing one type of person, specifically one type of woman, on the screen and want better for their daughters. These little girls internalize what society projects to them on television, and it is heartbreaking when they cannot be like the female character on the screen. This is why the existence of Arab Americans, especially women, on television news should be celebrated; they represent their community to little girls and show that they too can be in front of the camera.
Female Representation in Television News
These women are a part of the movement that increases female and minority representation in the United States that has started this generation. In 1976, Barbara Walters became the first female co-anchor for the evening television news in this country. As an African-American, Carole Simpson was the first female person of color to be an anchor of a major news network, starting in 1988. The first Asian-American, who also happened to be a woman, to co-anchor an evening news broadcast was Connie Chung in 1993.
However, it took until 2006 for a woman to be the sole anchor, as in there was no main beside her on the screen. That woman was Katie Couric. In 2013, Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill were the first co-anchors who were both women. It was only last year when Noor Tagouri was the first person to wear a hijab on television news.
We have a long way to go in terms of representation, but it is finally happening, especially within the past decade. Here is a list of strong, influential women in the United States who are depicting the Arab American community and women to the rest of the country.
Hala Gorani (CNN)
Gorani is an anchor and correspondent for CNN International in London and has been working for the company since 1998. Gorani earned an undergraduate degree in economics from George Mason University and was born in Seattle. Her parents were Syrian, and her husband is German.
Hoda Kotb (TODAY)
Kotb is the co-host with Savannah Guthrie for the opening hours for TODAY since January. She joined the network in 1998 as a correspondent for Dateline. She was born in Ohio to Egyptian parents and went to college at Virginia Tech University, earning a degree in broadcast journalism.
Nicole Vowell (Scripps)
Vowell is a national correspondent at The E.W. Scripps Company, located in Washington, D.C., since August. She worked as a reporter and anchor for the local news network in Salt Lake City, Utah for four years before that. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in broadcast journalism at Wayne State University.
Dena Takruri (Al-Jazeera in San Francisco)
Takruri is a senior producer and presenter of the digital video news network of Al-Jazeera: AJ+. Previously, she was a host and producer for HuffPost Live, which is an online streaming network for Huffington Post. She was born in San Fransisco and is a fluent Arabic speaker. Takruri received a bachelor’s degree in international development studies from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in Arab studies from Georgetown University. She is of Palestinian descent.
Paula Farris (ABC)
Farris is an anchor and senior national correspondent at ABC, a position she recently acquired after leaving GMA and The View. She began her career as an editor and producer. She was born in Michigan and went to college at Cedarville University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting with a concentration in television production. Farris’ paternal grandfather was from Lebanon.
Ameera David (Detroit, MI)
David currently works for WXYZ Channel 7 in Detroit as the reporter for Taking Action and weekend anchor. She is most well known for her reporting with RT as a White House correspondent. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in political science, Spanish and anthropology and a master’s degree from Columbia University in journalism. Her parents have ties to Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.
Sandra Ali (Detroit, MI)
Ali is an anchor for Local 4 News. She was born in New York City, but spent much of her childhood in Egypt. She was an anchor for Fox 2 News at 6 and Fox 2 News at 10 in Detroit and then the main anchor at NBS in Cincinnati. Ali graduated from Syracuse University at 20 years old with a degree in journalism. She then completed a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
Tamsen Fadal (New York, NY)
Fadal has worked for PIX11 News since 2008, first as a morning anchor and then as a night anchor. She currently hosts the network at 5, 6, and 10 p.m. She has won 11 Emmy awards for her journalistic works. Fadal co-founded Shansen Jewelry, which donates some of the cost to animal rescues and breast cancer charities. She graduated from the University of Florida with an undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism. She is of Lebanese descent.
These women have been groundbreaking in their visualization on television, whether local or national, and social media. Because of them, little Arab American girls know that they too can be on screens across the country.
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