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Have you ever thought to yourself, Why are we so misrepresented in the media? For the answer, ask yourself, How many Muslims do you see in the media industry?
“I think the misrepresentation and inaccuracies come from the fact that often we’re not part of the conversation when editorial decisions are being made, because we’re often not at the table,” journalist Tasnim Shamma said.
Shamma is a reporter at WABE 90.1 FM, Atlanta’s NPR local affiliate. When she was a high school student, Shamma liked to read The New York Times as she was commuting from Queens to Brooklyn. This inspired her to start writing for her school newspaper.
“I was blessed to be accepted into the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program when I was a rising high school senior,” Shamma said. “The program exposed me to the role journalists play in our democracy, the ways they influence policy and how they keep people informed.”
Shamma marked that as a lightbulb moment that made her hopeful that she had found a career path where she could contribute to society in a meaningful way and at the same time have a lot of fun doing it.
“We might not be consulted because we’re not trying to participate in the conversation or at least make ourselves available as resources,” Shamma said. Shamma noticed that she’s the only Muslim reporter where she works, and that has been true for almost every place she’s worked.
“Muslims can reduce inaccuracies by being at the table,” Shamma said. “The public is informed through the media, so making sure that there is representation or outreach to mainstream media outlets is important.”
Shamma believes that it is common for Muslim families to expect their children to go into the medical or science field. However, increasing the diversity of newsrooms with journalists like Shamma is important.
“When someone has a question about Islam, if I don’t know the answer, I can quickly connect them to an imam or scholar who can provide context to publish an accurate and fair report on the subject. I’m also able to give the producers and my bosses a heads up when there’s something going on in the Muslim community that otherwise would not be reported on. That way, there are more Muslim voices in our reporting and Muslims are included in the community conversation and not overlooked.”
Of course, journalism is not for everyone. We all have our own skills and interests, but it is important to use any skill you have to make yourself included included in the dialogue, and not the topic of it.
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