Newswise — Middle East meets West in a new, slick magazine designed to show what America is really like.
Samir Husni, University of Mississippi journalism professor known internationally as "Mister Magazine," describes the publication as his biggest professional challenge and a sentimental journey. Husni is the magazine's consulting editor.
"It gives me an opportunity to serve my adopted country in a way I never dreamed I would do, in my native language," said the native Lebanese about Hi magazine, whose first edition is just off the presses.
Published completely in Arabic, Hi is funded by $4.2 million from the U.S. Department of State as part of a multi-faceted program to improve the Arab world's opinion of the United States. Beginning this month, 50,000 copies of the magazine are distributed monthly to offices and newsstands across the Middle East.
"The magazine showcases America to the Arab world in a way no other American magazine has ever done," Husni said. "It's a window on America." Aimed at readers ages 18-35, it sells for the equivalent of about $1.95 per issue on newsstands or by subscription.
Christopher Ross, the State Department's senior adviser for Arab World Public Diplomacy, said the idea for a new magazine aimed at a younger generation in the Arab world came as the agency "looked for ways to rebuild a two-way dialogue" after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Richard Creighton, executive vice president of The Magazine Group, which won the contract to produce Hi, said it "will focus on what our cultures have in common" instead of the differences brought into focus by much of today's media. "Our Arab and Arab-American journalists highlight those commonalities in the magazine."
With his expertise in consumer magazines and his knowledge of Middle Eastern culture, Husni is the ideal editorial consultant for Hi, Creighton said.
The name Hi was chosen because it has become a popular word for "hello" to young people throughout the Arab world, company officials said.
Stories cover a broad range of topics that are of shared interest by American and Arab audiences " news, arts, celebrities, relationships, technology, careers and health. The first edition's cover story is about the American college experience through the eyes of Arab students in universities from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania. Inside stories include features on Tony Shalhoub, Golden Globe actor and star of the television series "Monk," who talks about his ethnicity and values as an Arab-American, and on the American popularity of sand boarding, which has roots in ancient Egypt, with tips for good locations for the sport in the Arab world.
Another story focuses on smoking, which still is popular among Arabs. Texts examine how to quit smoking, questions of individual rights and scientific analysis of using tobacco water pipes, which some users believe makes smoking less hazardous to their health.
Husni admits that Hi may be criticized by some as government propaganda because of its sponsor. "But if we're in the business of selling content and creating customers for the magazine, it will be judged by the way people react to it and the feedback we get," he said.
The Levant Group, one of the largest distributors of American magazines in the region, will distribute Hi and manage subscriptions. Saatchi and Saatchi in Beirut, with Appteck of McLean, Va., is responsible for regional advertising, promotion and marketing. The magazine will be printed in Manila.
CUTLINE: 'Mister Magazine' Samir Husni with first edition of Hi.* * * *
Photo of Husni and magazine available upon request: firstname.lastname@example.org
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