Al-Sharq (“The East”) began publication on April 1 – just weeks into violent conflicts between pro-democracy protesters and the government in Syria.
The conditions have meant setbacks for Al-Sharq. “We are licensed to publish monthly, but due to the crisis in Syria, it will be every three months for now,” Al Ali said. “And a factory that was to advertise with us is now closed.”
But long term, she believes a magazine that does a good job telling the social, economic and cultural news of the region and its people will fill a big gap in current media offerings.
“I thought, I can cover society, and I can do that in a magazine that cares about journalism,” she said.
Al Ali brings her considerable professional experience with her. She is still an anchor on Syrian TV Satellite. She has also worked for the Dow Jones International Newswires in Doha, Qatar; she established CNBC Arabiya’s Doha bureau; and she has been a reporter or editor at at least five other television stations or newspapers.
But she gives much credit for her education in high-quality journalism to the four ICFJ Anywhere courses she has taken: Economic Journalism, Investigative Journalism, Building News Websites, and Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age.
“Good journalism comes first in my magazine, which is as it should be, and the ICFJ courses helped me a lot with that,” she said. “They opened my eyes to a world of journalism – like investigative journalism and digital techniques – and they keep me up to date, which is so important.”
Al Ali plans that future editions of Al-Sharq will follow the same model as the first – accounts of life in the region in its many facets. The April magazine contained articles on a notorious child thief in Damascus, foreign investment in Syria, an interview with the famous Qatar painter Salman Almalak, and – on a lighter note – a poll on the prettiest student at Damascus University.
Al Ali has also lined up some heavy-weight columnists, including: novelist Hassan Hamid, winner of the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Award, named for the Arabic Nobel laureate; Ahmed Barkawe, the Palestinian philosopher and philosophy professor at Damascus University; and Riyadh Esmat, Syria’s cultural minister.
The magazine is officially owned by Al Ali’s mother, Amina Bader, and circulates in Syria and Qatar. This is not the first major life change for Al Ali. After training and working in pharmacy, she decided the profession was not for her. So she jumped to journalism.
“I am a pharmacist who changed her career to journalism,” Al Ali said. “I could not have done that properly without ICFJ.” She’s always looking for more training, and for that she turns to another International Center for Journalists resource. “I am thankful to the IJNet email that keeps me aware of the latest news and opportunities,” she said