Leading her own Caravan

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Twenty six year old Sarah Wally is a young American-Egyptian AUC undergraduate and the Managing Editor of the AUC newspaper “The Caravan”. Having set her sights on many world issues in her articles and her appearance on Al Qahera Al Yom TV show shed some light on this young journalistic talent.
The Caravan is a student-produced community newspaper published by the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the AUC. It delivers news, features and provides a forum on community issues as well as acting as a workshop for journalism students. Wally was born and bred in the United States and joined a Saudi school there. Living a schizophrenic lifestyle made her mingle into cultural conflicts as living within two total different cultures. As a Muslim living in the States after the 911 attacks, she was subjected to forms of stereotyping and “you’re a terrorist!” was a phrase that turned to become familiar over time. She couldn’t live in a world that hardly knew or accepted her identity and arrived to Egypt last year. That’s when the cultural shock emerged when she started living in the overcrowded Cairene society. She decided to become a member of The Caravan for she was always passionate about writing and her passion for capturing suppressed voices and searching for perfect ways to a better life made her major in journalism. We met with Wally to talk about her collected views towards Egypt’s society, people and of course the media.
Tell us about your experience in “Al Qahera Al Youm” when you were invited to present the 12am news with famous journalist Hamdy Rizk?
Well, Dina Bassiouny, The Caravan Editor-in-Chief was the one who was supposed to appear on the show but she couldn’t make it, so the producers called me to fill in her place and I agreed. The date was postponed twice and I told myself on the third time I was able to make it. I arrived late and I had slept in the car so I didn’t have time to freshen up or even discuss the headlines that will be on our script, in addition to my poor Arabic, the thing that made me panic but everything went well thank God and I received positive feedback.
Do you think a perfect writer must major in journalism?
I don’t think so. Writing is like running the more you write, the more you get there. You have to read a lot as well as writing a lot as no writer would become a professional unless he reads constantly. You could be a graduate from the faculty of medicine but on the other hand you write influencing articles. Majoring in journalism is considered an easy access for getting a job. People see your name on a certain article and start offering you vacancies in the journalism field.
In your point of view, what are the Egyptian media flaws?
Unfortunately we have a lot. The main problem we are facing in Egypt is the lack of investigative journalism. It is very difficult to gather credible information especially from governmental officials. They never give you the right information; they rarely agree to respond to your questions. You never get a straight answer and you gather lots of contradicted information. You might risk your life for the sake of publishing a certain story and if you have kids you will think more than once. Journalists in Egypt mustn’t place plan B for worst case scenarios they must place plans C, D and E too. Talk shows aren’t very much objective and both sides of the story aren’t mostly set to meet together.
Who are your favorite TV presenters?
I admire Amr Adib and I like his work and his way of presentation. I also watch “Al Beit Betak” on national TV. I like anyone who is objective and capable of touching people’s hearts. It is very easy to ask “what do you do” but isn’t when you ask “how do you feel” and that what’s important. I mostly adore Barbara Walters; she is a magnificent lady with very interesting perceptive and she is my media guru. I like Oprah Winfrey too as she realizes the importance of field work and team work and not her love for the camera that brought her to success. She is very confident and influential, I guess if Oprah became vegetarian everyone will become one too!
Do you think about hosting your own program in the future?
Yes why not?, but I have to work at an Arab-English channel like at Al Jazirah English channel for instance, as my Arabic might bring misconception to some people. I want a real program that provides real analysis. If a producer asked me to put on a sexy dress rather than discussing the script with me I’ll never accept the promotion.
Why aren’t you working at an Egyptian newspaper in the English department?
I have too many tasks right now at The Caravan I don’t have time for even enjoying a social life as I study and work at the same time, but in the future I’d like to work in an independent newspaper. I do other activities today also like I’m filming now a documentary that discusses the daily life of children with different social standards living in Egypt and how those standards affect their lives and creates a social gap between different children and their lifestyles in working, studying and even playing.
What do women want from the media?
Women want to see something that shows that they could integrate their careers and families and also show audience that women are capable of handling both at the same time. If men continue to see female figures that live as housewives and not accomplishing anything in their lives except taking care of their homes, they won’t allow their women to enjoy a healthy social life as they got used to the fact that their wives have always been living indoors. The media shouldn’t target women by fashion and cooking only, there are other issues that could be taken into consideration.
How do you find Egyptian people’s different attitudes towards “their career” in general?
Prophet Muhammad (pbuH) raised awareness to the subject of being devoted to work and how that is of major importance. Most Egyptians, especially who work within governmental sectors, never abide by that, and you always get to hear “move to the next window” from officials sitting lazily on their desks. The Egyptian government is Egypt’s biggest employer and its employees behavior makes us face a serious problem. Not all Egyptians behave like that there are people who are passionate about their work and are devoted totally to their tasks.
Why do you think our people’s attitude reached this state?
We have lots of social problems and a number of people in Egypt are living with less than a $1 a day, but that doesn’t mean we should act like that. People aren’t satisfied with anything and they are always thirsty for more. You could live with 200LE a month and you could also live with 200,000 LE the other month but unfortunately most Egyptians don’t have a goal to die for, they believe that money is the perfect living and their goal is “money” not how to make money. You should work on people’s strings first in order to live in a healthy society.
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