x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Search for Emiratis with ink in their veins

Emirates Diaries Magazine, written by and for Emirati teens, will launch in May.

The Emirates Diaries team, from left, Mohammed Al Banna, Zeinab Al Hammadi, Maryam Al Mansoori, and Sarah Al Hammadi.
The Emirates Diaries team, from left, Mohammed Al Banna, Zeinab Al Hammadi, Maryam Al Mansoori, and Sarah Al Hammadi.

DUBAI // When Maryam Al Mansoori was a little girl, she could not wait to get her hands on the latest copy of her favourite magazine every Wednesday.

The bright collection of Arabic cartoons, Majid (owned by Abu Dhabi Media, which also publishes The National) was sold on street corners by newspaper sellers at the time.

Back then, devouring the pages of each issue, Ms Al Mansoori could not have known she would one day launch her own magazine for teenagers.

Emirates Diaries Magazine, a quarterly English and Arabic-language lifestyle publication, is the creation of Ms Al Mansoori, Mohammed Al Banna and Zeinab Al Hammadi, all 18, and Sarah Al Hammadi, 19.

"I've always wanted to go to a petrol station and pick up a magazine like those teen ones we see in the States, but one that is fully local and has local topics," said Ms Al Mansoori.

The team hopes their magazine will become a place for the next generation of Emirati media professionals to learn their craft.

Set to launch in May, the magazine will employ Emirati writers, designers and photographers, and will highlight stories about Emiratis.

"There are so many inspiring Emirati initiatives here that no one knows about,"Mr Al Banna said.

"Foreigners get the idea that Emiratis are only consumers and don't start anything, and yet there are many Emiratis who struggle to get the media attention."

Matt Duffy, an assistant professor at Zayed University's College of Communication and Media Sciences, said Emirates Diaries would be a great addition to local media and agreed more needed to be done to encourage community journalism.

"With 80 per cent of the population expats, we shouldn't expect the media to only cater to locals," Mr Duffy said. "But there is a happy medium and right now, the pendulum seems to swing too far towards the expats."

He said change would only begin with the hiring of graduates.

"Several of my top students will graduate this June from our journalism programme," Mr Duffy said. "I'll be sorely disappointed if some of them don't end up working for the local press.

Ms Al Mansoori notes traditions have been a hindrance to many female reporters.

"There are a lot of families that are very protective," she said. "But they are slowly becoming more OK with letting their daughters go out to do interviews."

The Emirates Diaries team members say several female journalists have shown interest in contributing.

"We noticed a lot of girls are interested in doing interviews and we hope [the magazine] will open the door for more journalists, especially Emirati women," Mr Al Banna said.

"We are also planning to have writing workshops to those who are not eligible to write for the magazine. This way we can help [them] develop their writing skills and be able to contribute to future issues."

AbdulMuttalib Al Hashimi, the managing director of the Emirati recruitment company Next Level, said he hoped the magazine would encourage young Emiratis to create more English content.

"I believe this is imperative in today's globalised community," Mr Al Hashimi said. "Since the Arab Spring the international community has realised Arab youth have a voice and they seek to be heard.

"These youth can serve as Emirati ambassadors to the international community through their writing."

Mr Al Hashimi said English journalism need not undermine Arabic content.

"The way I see it, English content and Arabic content by Emiratis are like the external and internal communications divisions - they complement each other," he said.

Mr Duffy said: "At the end of the day, building a capable corps of Emirati journalists will be a long-term process, not a quick fix."

aalhaddad@thenational.ae

* Find out more about the magazine on Twitter, @EmiratesDiaries