Am I in the wrong line of work?

Woodward and Bernstein as depicted in an 'All the President's Men' still The latest projections of the US government rank being a journalist as one of the worst jobs for the 21st century, as newspapers cut costs and jobs. Some other of the "worst jobs for the 21st century" include textile workers, file clerks and electric meter-checking guys. But journalists will also have a hard time getting jobs, despite the increase in media outlets. According to the Labor Department, reporting positions are expected to grow by a mere 5% in the next decade, and most of these jobs are expected to be in small – low-paying – markets.
Source: [Editors Weblog]

I have always known that journalism didn’t pay well but I chose this line of work when I was young, motivated and did not care about such things. I hate to say it, but as you get into your thirties and start committing yourself to a number of financial responsibilities you realize that a good paying career does actually matter. All said and done, journalism as a career, is still evolving:

This projection is based on a relatively restrictive definition of journalists, which will probably evolve in the years to come.

Maybe, just maybe, there is still hope that I won’t live and die poor.

On my dearth of blogging

For some reason, I mentioned my blog this morning to the husband during our morning commute. His reaction was something along the lines of the following: people may have forgotten about you in the blogging world by now. Of course, he was referring to my sporadic blogging, which is becoming less and less by the day. I got defensive and started justifying the reasons why I’m not paying too much attention to this side of my life anymore. I went on and on, much to his chagrin, until I decided to change the topic.

As lame as it may sound, I have been really busy. Work is consuming most of my time and then there are after-hours activities. From Spanish class to creative writing classes, I have been swamped. There are also cultural activities and social obligations. I can’t keep track of anything. I’m writing lists and marking my calendar. I have even started using an on-line calendar, which sends reminders to my mobile phone! I’m not sure why I can’t keep up with anything anymore. Is this what being in your thirties is all about?

To de-stress, I have been riding my bike in the woods — an activity that merits a whole post perhaps sometime later this week.  As a result, biking and other outdoor-related activities are consuming a big chunk of the little spare time I have, time that probably would have been dedicated to blogging. I will do my best to pay more attention to Mental Mayhem. I just need to regain a bit more control of my life, which has been moving at a crazy, yet enjoyable pace.

Jordan jails former deputy for ‘false news’

Ahmad Oweidi al-Abbadi A critic of Jordan’s royal family was sentenced to two years in jail on Tuesday for sending e-mails abroad that the court ruled to be carrying "false news" and harmful to the dignity of the state. The verdict against after a two-month trial, comes at a time that human rights groups are voicing concern about what they call an official clampdown on the media. Judicial sources said Abbadi, a right wing former deputy, was found guilty on three charges of undermining state dignity, publishing "false news" on e-mails sent to foreign figures and illegally distributing leaflets. Abbadi had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Before his arrest, Abbadi had stepped up criticism of Jordan’s royal family and accused top officials of corruption on a Web site he ran. Supporters said he had sent an e-mail to U.S. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid decrying what he called a steep rise in official corruption. Source: [MSNBC]

Although I disagree with the ideologies disseminated by Jordanian National Movement leader Ahmad Oweidi al-Abbadi, I was dismayed to see that he received a two-year sentence for carrying "false news." Here is what Human Rights Watch has said about Abbadi’s case:

"The only reason al-Abbadi languishes in jail waiting for his court verdict is that he’s a government opponent exercising his right to free speech," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division.

This is yet another step in Jordan’s moves against free expression, right alongside Jordan’s announcement last month that it would be monitoring online sites. Not to mention that all this is happening while the fate of Jordan’s first independent TV station is hanging in the balance. The sad reality nowadays is that Jordan is taking step after step backwards when it comes to the freedom of the press. I’m of the opinion that for democracy to prevail in any place, the press must be free. Sadly, this is not the case in my home country.

It is also worth nothing, that Abbadi’s accusations of official corruption in the Kingdom came shortly before Jordan was named as a country facing a disturbing increase in corruption according to the Transparency International scale.

Photo essay: “Welcome to Bear Country”

Bear_countryProbably one of the most memorable moments of this summer was when I saw the bear. This happened last weekend during our weekend camping adventure on Virginia’s Skyline Drive. The night before the sighting, the possibility of seeing a bear (a first in my lifetime) was the only thing on my mind. The reason for this was primarily because we were welcomed to our campground by a big sign that read simply: "Bear Country." I could not sleep much that night. I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking about the possibility of a bear hovering outside our tent. Also, seeing the movie about a man being eaten by a bear just a week before did not help things.

The bear sighting occurred the next day around noon during the tail end of a five-mile hike (a hike that alone almost led to my demise). It was surreal. After taking a break, we were just starting down the trail again when we saw it. The bear was some 150 meters away from where we were standing. It was calmly drinking from a creek when my shouts interrupted its moment of peace. Hearing my cries, it raised its head to look at us. While I was busy shouting and cursing the day, the rest of the group were taking pictures. The bear looked up at the animated crowd and then just walked away. Just like that, the mammoth beast was nowhere to be found.

I have to say that although coming face-to-face with the bear gave me the scare of a lifetime, it was exhilarating. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The bear The bear exodus

Interview with award-winning blogger Wael Abbas

For those interested in the development of the Arab Blogosphere, here is an interview I did with Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas, who just last month was named last month winner of the prestigious Knight International Journalism Award. I enjoyed talking with Wael. He was very eloquent and quite determined to expose corruption and human rights violations in Egypt. You can read the full interview on the International Journalist’s Network. Here is an excerpt:

Wael Abbas
For 33-year-old Egyptian Wael Abbas, the Web log is not merely a personal journal; he has a specific mission. He sees his blog as an avenue for freedom of speech in a country that has relatively little of it.

Legal harassment of independent journalism is common. According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, there were 85 criminal cases against the press from 2004 to 2006. It was in this atmosphere that Abbas launched his Egyptian Awareness blog, available at http://misrdigital.blogspirit.com [Arabic].

He says he took it upon himself to expose human rights violations in Egyptian society and shed light on issues of corruption and torture, among others.  In an interview, Abbas told IJNet that what compelled him to start his blog was "the need for real, transparent, independent media that cover stuff often neglected by mainstream media." Armed with a video camera, Abbas sees video blogging as a way to silence skeptics of his reporting. "I focused on images and video footage so that no on can discredit my work," he said. He uses colloquial Egyptian Arabic on his site to appeal to a younger generation that might find traditional reporting "boring."