Since the late 70s, many Arabs and Muslims in the United States have been frustrated and discouraged by the portrayal of their culture and society in the Western media. As the chasm between the United States and the Middle East has continued to grow, this frustration has only become worse.
Arab and Muslim Americans with satellite connections, and the ability to read, write, and understand Arabic as well as English, have continually voiced their concern over the disparity between the stories, images, and opinions that come out of the Arabic and Persian papers and news programs and those that come from Western news sources.
Until recently, there has been no affordable and timely translation source for non-Arabic-speaking diaspora Arabs or Westerners to read the Arabic press. Certainly the Internet has made it possible to log on to a website and read a translation of an article that has been featured in Al Hayat, for example, but to do so on a daily basis can be time consuming and tedious, not to mention costly, as many of the publications require readers to sign up for a paid subscription. Since there are 22 Arab nations, each with numerous daily papers, having a subscription to more than one would prove expensive, not to mention overwhelming.
Mideastwire.com was launched on June 15th, 2005. The service (currently free to subscribers) provides a daily email newsletter with the days headlines (translated and summarized) from all the top Arabic and Persian newspapers. Since the service is operated and dispatched from Beirut, Lebanon, the correspondents (who are scattered worldwide) and editors have the entire workday to get the newletter finished and into the inboxes of American subscribers by midday/late morning in the United States.
In just under four months of daily operation, the service has enlisted 1,700 subscribers from all over the world. As predicted, most of these subscribers are from the United States, and they range from government officials to Americans of Iranian and Arab descent. But surprisingly, many of Mideeastwire’s subscribers are Arabs residing in the Middle East. The four founders of the service, experienced journalists Majdoline Hatoum, David Munir Nabti, Maha Al-Azar and Nicholas Noe — all of whom are either Lebanese, American or both — admit to being pleasantly surprised by the eclectic nature of their readership.
Part of the reason they are succeeding is the fact that their newsletters are thorough, incorporating — the key political, cultural, economic, and opinion pieces appearing in the media of the 22 Arab countries, Iran and the Arab Media Diaspora — and not just the most sensational headlines from a handful of papers, as in the case of the polemic MEMRI.
Eventually the service will be able to provide personalized newsletters, so that the subscriber can choose the news from the county or countries of his choice, in the category (economics, politics, society, arts, etc) of his choice.
As this satisfied subscriber can attest, mideastwire.com is a remarkable service that is long overdue.