It's all about an announcement. As short as it is, it can be a life-changing experience.
IJNet has been for long my hub for career development. Since 2007, I've been regularly checking it for different opportunities. I have many qualifications in my resume that can be traced to IJNet.
In 2010, I applied for a fellowship with the World Press Institute (WPI) which i knew about from IJNet. It was a two months program that started in Minnesota, but toured around Chicago, Miami, DC, New York, San Francisco and Iowa. The program included visiting some media entities. Beside the big names like CNN, Washington Post and the New York Times, we also visited the hyper local model like the Bay Citizen and Chicago News Coop. Back then, they looked successful and gaining ground. For me, it was a turn over.
I got interested in the hyper local theme in journalism. I foresaw its impact on Egypt and how it can support development in marginalized and remote areas by engaging the community. I returned to Cairo in October 2010 full of hopes, ideas and dreams. We had Parliamentary elections in November and we witnessed an unprecedented fraud. I became unsatisfied with my full-time job. I worked at a daily state-owned newspaper where I was the Deputy Head of the Foreign Desk. I felt I could do more than this. I quit.
One month later, people took to the streets. Persistent we were, Mubarak stepped down. I was glad I made my choice. Now it's time to build. I would build an independent local media portal in Upper Egypt.
I formed the team, worked on the website, explored ideas for sustainability, held meetings with media experts and did administrative work. I was selected for a fellowship at the Tow Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at City University of New York (CUNY). There, I was able to finalize the business model. We are a non profit but we have a responsibility towards our community that we can't solely depend on grants.
Today, we are officially registered as Mandara Media Foundation; an Egyptian Media NGO committed to improving the media landscape in Egypt. We were awarded two grants so far; first by the International Press Institute (IPI News Contest - 2012) and the second by Tow Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism after 'graduation'.
We have planned a training program for local journalists in the 11 governorates (states) of Upper Egypt that will start this November. It will include News & Feature Writing, Local Journalism, Photojournalism, Investigative Reporting and Social Media. After completing the trainings, they will work at the portal in a "Learning and Practicing" module.
I always mention the WPI fellowship as the 'secret sauce'. But, in fact, it's through IJNet that offered me the information in the first place. Thank You for being free!