I have never met Iqbal Tamimi, but she inspired me when I connected with her seven years ago.
We connected digitally then and I was amazed and delighted to get an update on her last week.
My first blog, from 2004 to 2008, was Training Tracks, published first on No Train, No Gain and later at the American Press Institute‘s website. It didn’t draw nearly the traffic or the comments that I get on this blog, but one comment stands out.
Iqbal commented on one of my posts (alas, the original post, with the comments, is not available online any more, but I wrote a subsequent post that recounted our exchange in the comments and subsequent emails). Here are some passages about Iqbal from the second blog post:
My last post expressed frustration at journalists who say they “don’t need to know” data analysis skills. Iqbal’s response, which is posted online with that post, said some reporters in the Middle East “still write their reports by hand and fax them because they don’t know how to handle the simple keyboard.” I guess at any stage of technology, some reporters think they don’t need to know how to use the tools of their trade.
Iqbal is a reporter with Alarabiya TV station in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She expressed frustration with some colleagues: “I found out that even though we spent huge amounts of money buying high tech devises and invested millions in the media business still we failed to represent ourselves well, for the very simple reason, that we don’t know how to benefit or get the most out of such high tech devises, hence we miss the opportunity to have a balanced dialogue with other nations, some of us even don’t know the basics and don’t want to learn.”
She could be writing about American reporters.
Iqbal provides the perfect illustration for something I’ve preached for a long time: Don’t let obstacles become excuses.
We face obstacles as we pursue stories, as we plan our careers, as we pursue our dream jobs. The obstacles are real. They frustrate us. They challenge us. They hold us back. They delay us from reaching our goals. But by the time we’re done, we have to make the obstacle part of the war story of our success, not the excuse for our failure.
Iqbal faces more severe obstacles than most journalists I work with. She has survived a stabbing. She told of seeking data to support or refute claims made by her government about sport programs helping combat crime. She lamented the lack of crime data available in the Arab world and finally found some information from Australia about sports and crime. Wherever you are, whatever your level of technology and data availability, resourcefulness distinguishes the best reporters. …
After her initial message, Iqbal and I exchanged some more e-mails.
Want to know where she learned her computer skills? Unlike American journalists, she doesn’t have access to the dozens of courses taught each year by Sree (Sreenivasan, about whom I also wrote in that blog post) and other journalism professors and by the National Institute of Computer-Assisted Reporting.
“I never had the courage to do any work while my husband was alive,” Iqbal wrote. After her husband died, “First thing I learned English, then my son who was very little showed me how to use the computer. He was 4 (my first teacher) … from there I started building up my new world. I have published two books this year, one is a book of poems, the other is of International Affairs.”
Her 4-year-old son taught her how to use the computer. What’s your excuse for not mastering it?
Well, guess who I heard from last week? Iqbal’s no-longer-4-year-old son, Tim Tamimi. Here’s the email he sent me:
Hi Mr Buttry,I’m Tim, Iqbal Tamimi’s son. I stumbled upon your WordPress article about when I was 4. It was quite odd reading it from my point of view – almost nostalgic. I showed it to my mum and she told me a little about what you guys were up to a few years back when we were in Dubai – We’re in the UK now.Anyway, the reason I wanted to email you is to let you know that I’ve been running a graphic design business over here, called MangoGraphics.co.uk – so please feel free to let me know if you need any graphic work done – a logo, a wordpress banner, letter head design, or anything like that, I’ll be happy to do it free of charge. … I actually designed mum’s current network, journomania.netLet me know if I can be of any help.Mum sends a hello to you.Sin Cera,Tim
We campaign to support training and updating the skills of Arab women journalists.
Provide inspiration and empower Arab women journalists through highlighting news of awards and journalists’ achievements around the world.
I got to meet some Arab women journalists when Carol Ann Riordan and I visited the Prince Ahmed Applied Media Institute in 2008, representing API. The women worked on a different floor from the men in the Saudi newsroom we visited. Carol Ann spent some time visiting privately with them (below) and came away touched by their courage and their commitment. We resolved to insist that any training programs we did in Saudi Arabia would include opportunities for women. I am pleased that Iqbal is working to provide training and inspiration for Arab women journalists. She certainly has inspired me.