Influential Arab American Journalists
By: Emily Devereaux/Arab America Contributing Writer
Journalism is a crucial skill. This medium has one of the most important roles in society because it is the ability to share news, influence opinions, and contribute to the dialogue on a macro level. Because journalism is so essential to the way people think about and understand the world, representation is key in conveying all points equally. This article recognizes several influential Arab-American journalists that mastered this crucial skill in America.
The National Arab American Journalists Association is comprised of about 250 members. A significant number of these members work for Arab-American ethnic news organizations. Therefore, there are not many Arab American journalists in mainstream newsrooms, which is detrimental to the voice and platform for the Arab-American community. This is primarily attributed to industry bias, but we also must encourage Arab-American people to participate in media.
The following journalists have climbed their way up the ladder and worked to provide platforms and dialogue for Arab-Americans.
Arab American Journalists
Yasmeen Sami Alamiri
For the past ten years, Yasmeen Sami Alamiri has been covering U.S. Politics and Foreign Policy. She has reported on many regions, such as the Middle East, Guantanamo Bay, the White House, and several presidential campaigns. Her topics are as diverse as her areas covered. Whether she was explaining the story of the Venezuelan economy, the U.S.-Chinese trade war, or public services in Iraq, Sami Alamiri has displayed an understanding of the context of her stories and delivered accurate portrayals of a plethora of issues at hand.
Dena Takruri was originally born in the United States and is of Palestinian descent. Hailing from San Francisco, California, she earned a Bachelor’s in International Development Studies from UC Berkeley and went on to earn a Master’s from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Her fluency in Arabic helped her earn a spot at Al Jazeera Arabic in Washington D.C., where she produced its chief political talk show entitled, Min Washington, which gave her the opportunity to interview influential political figures, such as Donald Rumsfield, John McCain, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She also covered a vast range of topics, from Middle Eastern affairs to domestic affairs.
Today, she is a Senior Presenter and Producer at AJ+, which is a news outlet known for challenging the status quo. Similarly, Takruri is also known for her bold reporting, and the coverage of groundbreaking subjects, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, refugee crises, and other social justice concerns.
Helen Thomas was born to a family of Lebanese immigrants in Kentucky. Her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, very early in her life where she faced racial tensions over her Arab heritage. She got her foot in the door of journalism when she became a copygirl for the Washington Daily News; however, after joining a strike she was fired, but this did not hinder her career. She served on multiple media outlets, such as the United Press and the Women’s National Press Club. Her long career of covering a plethora of topics pertinent to the government was one of the reasons she earned the role of Presidential correspondent.
Thomas became known as a very active reporter, who was always the first or second to be called on by the President at press conferences. Known for her tough questions, Thomas prioritized honesty in all of her reporting. While she was very active in domestic reporting, Thomas was also known for breaking barriers down when she was the only female print journalist to travel to China with President Nixon and she bluntly challenged President George W. Bush’s administration on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thomas is a specifically notable figure due to all of her “firsts,” such as being the first female president of the White House Correspondents Association and the first female member of the Gridiron Club.
Born to Syrian parents, Hala Gorani prides herself on her international background but identifies as an American. She moved between Seattle, Paris, and Algeria, and eventually received degrees from both George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and Sciences Po, in Lille, France. Her career started in France, where she became a reporter for both regional and international news outlets.
Her career took off even further when she joined CNN, London’s team as an anchor for CNN Today. Since then, she has reported from every country in the Middle East, where she covered issues such as the 2006 Lebanon War and an Al Quaeda attack on Jordan. She also climbed up the ladder and became a correspondent, as well as winning the News and Documentary Emmy for her coverage of the 2011 Egyptian revolution which ousted then-president Hosni Mubarak. Gorani has become a voice and critical analyst of various international issues. Whether they be devastating national disasters to specific policy questions, Gorani contributes to the international dialogue with her diverse perspectives.
Hailing from Jerusalem, Dajani belongs to a prominent Palestinian family. However, Dajani completed his earlier studies in France, at a LaSallian school. Following his graduation, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Columbia University in New York. Through his Vice Presidency of Internews Middle East and North Africa, an international non-profit that works to empower local media worldwide, Dajani played a crucial role in connecting and amplifying voices across the world.
Dajani has also had large roles in numerous series such as Mosaic: World News from the Middle East and Arab Talk Radio, which helps spark and inspire conversation surrounding the Middle East and the Arab world. Specifically, Mosaic won the 64th Annual Peabody Award for excellence in radio and television broadcasting.
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Barbara Nimri Aziz has a particularly interesting role in the dialogue surrounding Arab Americans. As a freelance journalist and an anthropologist, Aziz plays a crucial role in understanding the origins of certain issues today, such as gender equity, which has paved the way for her to understand issues differently from these male-dominated fields and sets her dialogue apart.
She also co-founded and is the Executive Director of Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI), which is a network of writers of Arab descent. In her weekly program entitled TAHRIR, Nimri Aziz makes a conscious effort to feature Arab writers from throughout the United States and abroad on her show weekly. Nimri Aziz demonstrates a clear understanding of various topics and encourages diverging perspectives and dialogue about such topics.
Manhattan-native Susan Chira was born into a Syrian-American family. She highly prioritized and took advantage of her education at Phillips Academy and then Harvard College. Following her graduation from Harvard in 1980, she exercised her skills that she built up from her role as the President of the Harvard Crimson and joined the New York Times in 1981 as a correspondent and then bureau chief in Tokyo, where she worked for five years.
Chira has had a great influence in national education correspondence, deputy editor for the Foreign Desk, and many other roles, including regional, national, and international coverage. In 2018, Chira earned the Gerald Loeb Award for Investigative Journalism for her reporting on the Me Too Movement, in which she used her platform to shed light on the sexual predator allegations against Harvey Weinstein, but more specifically on women impacted by sexual abuse that do not receive the same platform. Chira is also responsible for covering various gender equity topics in the New York Times and gives minority women a greater platform.