With more than one blog created every second, there seems to be a lot of ‘noise’ on the web to sort and navigate through. If you’re looking for a destination where smart people discuss issues that matter to the young and savvy Arab-American community, we invite you to explore the world of Arabisto.com. Founder Nadia Gergis, 30, a young Business Reporter by day, became increasingly frustrated with the lack of online middle eastern resources. Instead of shrugging off her frustration, she took action by creating a now popular destination for Arab Americans – providing daily breaking news and commentary on the Middle East. Learn more about Nadia and her extraordinary team of notable bloggers as we feature them in this week’s Young & Professional Profile.
Founder and Publisher
New York, New York
M.A. Seton Hall University
Strategic communication and leadership, 2005
BA Florida Southern College
Broadcast and print journalism, 1999
American University in Cairo
I.G.C.S.E. Manor House British School
Business reporter for a mid-size newspaper in Florida; 2003-present; Reporter, Tampa Tribune, 2000-2002
What is Arabisto.com?
Arabisto.com is the leading online destination for Arab Americans on the web providing daily breaking news, blogs and commentary on the pan Arab region.
We offer an appealing balance of breaking news on the Middle East, blogs, thought-provoking commentary and a nationwide Arab American community calendar. Arabisto.com is the only Arab American news service geared towards an informed audience seeking news and blogs on all things Middle Eastern.
I created Arabisto.com for Arab Americans, Muslims and open minded Americans interested in following events in the Middle East and the surrounding region from a pan Arab perspective.
The bloggers are a group of professional, progressive Americans (in academia), Persians, South Asians, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Arab Americans in the diaspora who follow and comment on interesting events pertaining to the Middle Eastern region and the US.
We’ve had over a million clicks since our launch on Sept. 25, 2006. Overall, since January we’ve had 328,695 visitors from 169 countries and territories. The biggest of course is from the US with 135,798 visitors.
These countries, respectively, have provided the bulk of our visits since January: US, Canada, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, China, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, Japan, Spain, Australia, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Jordan, Republic of Korea and Egypt.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Every morning before I go to my regular day job, I update the site with RSS feeds and links that I feel are newsworthy, stories that are not necessarily carried by your typical mainstream news organizations in the US. For example, did you know that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refused Oliver Stone’s offer of making a documentary on his life? That was one of our top stories last week. It was carried by several foreign media outlets, but almost none in the US.
Another example is a story by one of our bloggers Rima Abdelkader. She examined an online poll conducted in the Middle East that showed people in the Middle East favored Hillary Clinton for president while a nationwide Zogby poll found that Arab Americans favored Barack Obama. That’s the kind of news you’ll find on our site.
I also actively recruit writers for Arabisto.com. Some have contacted us and some I have sought out personally. Additionally, I also do the marketing and recruit advertisers to the site.
Most notable milestones
Back in November, just weeks after we started, Barry Lando agreed to join us as a blogger. Lando spent 25 years as an award-winning investigative producer with 60 minutes and is the author of a new book is titled “Web of Deceit: The History of Foreign Complicity in Iraq from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.” Being a journalist by profession, I was extremely honored that he decided to blog with us. He also blogs at other major news sites.
Several of our bloggers have also had their blogs carried by some major news organizations as editorials. Dr. Aref Assaf’s expert analysis on Fatah-Hamas infighting, which appeared first on Arabisto, was selected as the feature op-ed piece in the Herald News, one of north New Jersey’s largest papers.
Blogger Rima Abdelkader met presidential candidate Barack Obama this month and even managed to get into his VIP room. Her story on Obama’s rock star treatment in New York City got picked up by several Obama blogs including his official site. Her additional reporting on polls concerning Obama and Clinton were picked up by dozens of election blogs as well.
Arabsito blogger Eman Ahmed, an attorney specializing in employment discrimination, wrote a series of blogs on being Arab American, which was also featured by PBS online and resident Arab media expert Courtney Radsch, has had several blogs picked up by National Public Radio, Islam Online and the Daily Star in Egypt and Lebanon. She’s a Ph.D. candidate at the School of International Service at American University in Washington, D.C.
We were also recently contacted by Global Voices Online for a Q & A about Arabisto.com.
What’s the niche?
The reason I created the site is because I couldn’t find a site like this anywhere. I wanted to find a site that featured blogs by a variety of well known, professional Arab Americans, professors and experts in Islam and the Middle East — but I also wanted to get my all my news on the region in one place. That’s what we are. There are sites out there that offer blogs, but I like to think our bloggers are very unique and have the credibility that makes us different from other sites. You also get your daily does of news from the Middle East at your leisure. You can spend hours reading the stories or just scan the headlines in five minutes.
People like convenience and that’s what we offer, one-stop shopping for all news and blogs Middle Eastern. Where else can you find the blogs of the Arab American King of Comedy Dean Obeidallah, a former Kashmiri government employee Ather Zia, former Christian Children’s Fund director Dr. Ghassan Michel Rubeiz and American Ramadan director Naeem Randhawa in one place?
What’s the biggest challenge?
I am not one to sugarcoat things so I am going to be completely honest.
When bloggers agree to join I usually ask if they can commit to at least one blog per week and as time passes it’s a disappointment when they don’t post weekly — not only for me but for readers who follow their blogs. I am their biggest fan so I do read their postings. Like any reader, I wish they would post more often.
Another challenge is keeping up with all the new technology. Just when I think we it’s time to make some costly changes on the site, technology changes and it’s tough keeping up with that.
Also, my day jobs keeps me extremely busy so my mornings, nights and weekends are consumed by Arabisto.com. If I had a dime for every time I said, “I wish there were more hours in the day,” I’d be a millionaire.
What’s in store for the future?
I hope Arabisto becomes the homepage for every Arab American household not only here in the states, but also in other countries in Europe, the Middle East and Canada.
What keeps your time professionally outside of Arabisto.com?
By day, I am a business reporter for a midsize daily newspaper in South Florida. I cover everything business from aviation to insurance and the housing market. I love my day job and everyone that I work with so when I am there, I give them 110 percent. One day I am covering a story concerning the homeowners insurance crunch and the next day I am covering the opening of an organic supermarket. You have to love your job to have the same passion for it as they day you started – I am fortunate enough to love writing and journalism.
My love for writing and news started when I was in high school in Cairo. My first job was writing movie reviews for an expat publication called Heliopolis Magazine. In fact, my first movie review was for Kevin Costner’s Waterworld. I really have my father to thank for that. He always had English newspapers and magazines lying around. So as a teen, I started to read because during the day in Cairo, there is nothing to do. The action there happens at night and my friends and I would go to movies and the local clubs (not dancing but sporting clubs) at night. In retrospect he probably wanted to keep me busy during the day. I remember him telling me that his first real job in Cairo when he graduated from college was being an editor of publications at the Ministry of Culture. When you’re that age you really do idolize your parents and I wanted to emulate my father – so I took his advice and started writing these movie reviews.
My love for writing grew and eventually when I transferred to from the American University in Cairo to Florida Southern College here, I started writing for the school newspaper. Eventually, I worked my way up to news editor and then finally managing editor my senior year. After graduation, I did a year of public relations before moving on to a paper in Tampa. I was there for about two years before I moved over to my current paper.
So, I bring that same dedication and love for journalism to my day job and Arabisto.com.
If you could go back in time and change a business decision you made, what would it be?
I would have done more research on the maintenance of the site as it’s very labor intensive. I would have done more to promote the launch of the site.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Read, read and then read some more. Owning a small business is tough but can be very rewarding. Keep on top of what other sites are doing, read the Wall Street Journal and don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t succeed. I am also learning that networking is key as well.
To be in business and to succeed in the corporate world, you’ve got to develop thick skin. If someone tries to put you down, don’t let it get to you. Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
I think success is what you make it. Yes, we do hear about the overnight success stories, but no one likes to talk about how much work you need to put into a small business. It takes time and dedication. Yeah, someone else may have thought of something you haven’t and some may even steal your ideas. Don’t let that get you down, just keep on keeping on. You’ll catch a break soon, sometimes it’s just a matter of timing and luck – always remember that the stars may align for you tomorrow.
Guiding principle in life
Mahatma Gandhi said, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I want to change the world’s perception of Arabs, Arab Americans and Muslims. We’re not all crazy fundamentalst terrorists. I also like to tell people, not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are from the Middle East.
Yardstick of success
Getting noticed my The Cultural Connect is a definite milestone. Growing from only five bloggers during our launch to our current number of 30 bloggers. Lately, we’ve been contacted by some Arab American publications that have asked to be linked to our site.
Goal yet to be achieved
We’re real big in the US, Canada and Europe but we haven’t really penetrated several countries in the Middle East, maybe it’s because they really know what’s going on – on the ground – there.
Best practical advice
You can do it – via my loving and supportive husband.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
Be strong and don’t let anyone discourage you. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing, worry about you and what you do. Of course, that’s from my husband again.
What keeps you motivated for success?
Changing the public’s perception of Arab Americans. Being the only site like ours on the Internet. Also, proving people wrong. Those that thought Arabisto.com wouldn’t work, well here we are 30 bloggers strong with or without your support.
Like best about what you do?
The fact that I get to write different stories everyday at my day job. Everyday at my desk is something new and I am never bored. Trust me, I’ve had jobs where I’ve watched the clock ticked and waited for 5 p.m. to rush out the doors. I do what I love by day, so that makes the day goes by fast.
As for Arabsito.com, seeing the letters to the editors thanking us and reading the blogs of our writers. Watching our growth at Arabisto. We hardly had 200 people a day on our site at the very beginning, and now we have anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 visits from a variety of different countries and states.
Like least about what you do?
In the world of journalism, a news story can break at 4 p.m. and you have to do a full story, so you can end up picking up fast food for dinner, which I really try to avoid, but you just can’t sometimes.
As for Arabisto.com, keeping up with the latest technologies is tough to keep up with. Trying to grow the site in the most cost effective way.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be Lois Lane, from Superman.
What was your first job?
Part-time I wrote movie reviews in high school but my first real paying job was during a summer I spent in New York, I worked at the Sam Goody (music store) near the UN.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Cooking. I love Middle Eastern and Indian food.
One of my best friends from the American University in Cairo lives not to far from me in Orlando so I talk to her almost everyday on the phone. Is that a pastime or guilty pleasure? Well, she keeps my sanity and always puts everything in perspective for me.
I am still a real family girl at heart, so spending time with mom, dad and my brother is also important to me.
Person most interested in meeting and why?
ABC reporter Diane Sawyer, whose brought us several stories from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afganistan this year.
Even before the world scolded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria, Sawyer was there talking to the county’s leaders and the everyday people. She tasted the foods, walked in the markets and showed the world that Middle Easterners are normal people.
Leader in business most interested in meeting and why?
Really there are two – Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google.com.
I’d ask them about their success, where they think the Internet is going. I’d ask them for some coaching on making an online business venture succeed.
Three interesting facts about yourself
1. I interviewed CNN’s Anderson Copper covering hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in Florida.
2. I use meditation and breathing techniques when I have trouble falling asleep at night.
3. I know how to change a tire.
Three characteristics that describe you
2. Hard working
Three greatest passions
1. My family
2. Beating the competition at work
3. Making Arabisto.com succeed
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
When I was a teenager in Cairo my mother spent some of her days in a place not known to many Americans who visit Egypt. It’s called the Mokattam where the zabaleen (garbage pickers) live. Now when I look back I wish I had gone with her, but when you’re that age you just have no idea of how much you should be grateful for and why you should give back and help the less fortunate.
Almost no one in the states knows about the “zabaleen” of Mokattam in Egypt. Zabaleen literally means garbage handlers in Cairo Arabic. These families are mainly Christian Egyptians who personally pick up garbage from outside of the many apartments in Cairo for very little money. And yes, they do carry the garbage literally in large baskets on their backs – even the children who can be as young as 5 years old. They’re really kind of trapped in a way because there’s no way out for them. They make money by picking up the garbage and recycling what they can. It’s kind of a hidden secret of Cairo that tourists don’t know of.
When Arabisto becomes a financial success, I’d like to start or partner with a non-profit organization that would be able to financially assist those families and educate their children.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Anyone that is looking for a voice that can speak as an authority on Arab American issues, anyone with an interest in Arab American issues, bloggers that would like to join us at Arabisto.com, other sites that are looking for strategic partnerships and alliances with us. Those who have an interest in proving wrong the stereotype about Arabs and Arab Americans.
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You’ll see a community of warriors of light sharing ideas, dreams and most importantly following their personal legend.
See you there and have a great day!