Posted by Fadel Nabilsi on March 21, 2016 in Blog
For the Arab American Generations program, AAI arranged a gathering and discussion with journalist Hannah Allam of McClatchy Newspapers. Over 50 attendees gathered at our office in Washington, DC, where they networked and enjoyed some great Arabic food like falafel, shawarma, hummus, and tabbouleh. Our Executive Director, Maya Berry kicked off the discussion with engaging questions to Ms. Allam who shared stories on her dream job growing up (which just so happens to be the same one she has now), memories of her role model, the late Anthony Shadid, her proudest moments, and her vast experiences of working on-the-ground in Iraq from 2003-2008 as the Middle East Bureau Chief for McClatchy.
Allam is an Egyptian American who grew up in Oklahoma, similar her role model Mr. Shadid, who also happened to grow up in Oklahoma. During her time at the University of Oklahoma, she became exposed to other Arab and Muslim journalists and aspiring Arab and Muslim journalists, which further ignited her passion to want to go into the journalism field. She interned at the Washington Post as a college student and moved to Minnesota for a full-time job with the McClatchy Newspaper in 2003, where she worked on covering the war in Iraq.
After only a short time with the paper, she felt like her presence and her background as an Arab American Muslim, as well as, her fluency in English, Arabic and French, could help change the way Arabs and Muslims are portrayed in the media. Ms. Allam talked about her time in Iraq as well, and how her identity played a key role in getting stories. She highlighted the experiences that seemed to show the most change within the country during the war. In an attempt to create understanding of the severity of the effects of war in the Middle East, Allam tries to relate everything to experiences that all people share. She also recalled that the sectarian divides grew stronger throughout the course of the war.
In discussing her greatest achievements, Allam was proud to be one of the youngest Bureau Chiefs in Baghdad, especially with the amount of staff she had under her wing. More importantly for her, however, was her ability to hire and enable women, especially from Iraq. In 2007, six Iraqi women she hired from her bureau in Baghdad received the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, an award presented by Angelina Jolie. Despite all of this, she joked about how her parents measured her success only by how many special television appearances she had on CNN.Overall the event was a success; the audience was engaged and asked really interesting questions about Ms. Allam’s experiences as a journalist.
Our Arab American Generations program convenes monthly inviting young Arab American professionals in and around Washington DC, to meet, network, and engage with each other and the guest speakers we host. Click here for more information on our Arab American Generations program and how to get involved.