Monday, June 23, 2008

What We Want in a Newsman

A Columbia Journalism Review piece opines about what all the Tim Russert replacement talk says about what we as viewers are looking for in newscaster. I know I'm never looking for an anchor, but rather a reporter who just happens to be good in the anchor seat. And you couldn't ask for a better political reporter than Tim Russert. That's becuase he cut his chops as an indispensible news source - first as chief of staff to Senator Patrick Moynihan, then as counselor to NY governor Mario Cuomo. And unlike so many of today's entertainment newspeople, who won't let inconvenient facts get in the way of their "good story," Russert never tried to manipulate us. Tom Brokaw is a reporting legend, too, but still, when I watch my Tivo recordings of "Meet the Press" on Monday nights, I'll be sorry to see him sitting in Tim's seat...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Iraqi Refugees Struggle to Find Jobs in America

On Saturday afternoon forty-eight Iraqi refugees who have resettled in the U.S. arrived at Reagan International Airport. The men wore pressed suits and ties and the women had freshly polished fingernails and high heels. They were clearly dressed to impress. In their luggage they carried a most prized possession - resumes detailing their work with American companies, the American military and the American government in Iraq. While they are a unique refugee group -- all are college-educated professionals -- they face the most common refugee problem: continuing their careers in America.

"I helped Army soldiers understand the Muslim culture. I trained them. Why can't I do that same job here in the United States? Before the soldiers go to Iraq?," one middle-aged Iraqi man pleaded with a job advisor from Upwardly Global, a non-profit organization that partnered with The List Project to organize a job search skills conference in Washington, D.C. this week.

Iraqis learned the hard truths about hunting for a job here: human resources managers spend an average of 20 seconds on every resume, personal stories (even the heart-wrenching ones they all have to tell) have no place in a job interview, the economy is terrible, resumes should be limited to a page or two (most of theirs are 3, 4 and 5 pages), and, most difficult for them to hear, don't expect their employers in Iraq to hire them in America.

"Iraqis are having a hard time coming to terms with the reality that while their education and skills were valued in Baghdad, Fallujah, and Basra, they are not valued here," says Jane Leu, Upwardly Global's founder and president. "These people were leaders in Iraq, and they will be leaders here if given the chance. The idea that all immigrants have to pull themselves up by their boot straps is outdated."

Titan Corporation, the single largest employer of Iraqi translators, has not hired even one single Iraqi who has has resettled in America. And while study after study shows how a lack of Arabic translators hurts national security, no Iraqis who worked for the government in Iraq have been hired by the State Department.

"I don't want focus on the negative. I need to move forward," says Emam Al-Timimi who worked for the State Department in Baghdad. Emam may not have her career back yet, but, she says, she does have a job: setting an example for Iraqis who come here in the future. "I want to show them that it is possible to succeed here. I know it is. I hope."

(Listen to NPR report "Iraqi Refugees Struggling to Rebuild Life in America.")