What’s the most memorable event you covered?
On September 11 2001 I wasn’t working on that day. I was at home but I knew that was going to change the way I did my work for years. So I watched it very carefully because it changed everything. Until then my background and my work were separate things. After September 11, my background and my work became very heavily involved with each other because I was one of the few people in Western newsroom who could read Arabic, could understand Arabic, knew about Islam beyond what people know about Islam in the newsroom. I have grown up with it. So it is familiar to me. Also, I knew about the political history behind a movement like “ Al-Qaeda”. It was not strange to me. I knew that history, I studied it. Suddenly, my career and my life were in one track. So that’s so memorable for me. What the Western media called the Arab Spring in 2011 and 2012 was very memorable for me as well. Watching the changes then and hoping there would be more changes. Of course there weren’t changes but the memories at that time were very strong for me.
Do you have a favorite interview?
Some years ago, I interviewed an Israeli journalist (who) is very famous for interviewing people and I think I learned a lot from that interview. I didn’t change my mind about anything, but what happened was he and I talked to each other, he said things that made me think about what I already was thinking about much clearer so that one I am pleased with. Another one I am pleased with is from one or two years ago at the time when the Kurds in Iraq were having a vote to decide whether to become independent. I interviewed about seven Kurds who live here and I was very pleased with these interviews and how they went, because I have lots of different people voices and I was trying to make them into one story.
What drove your interest in becoming a journalist?
First of all, because I am the son of an Arab father and a British mother, I am always interested in differences between people so wherever I look in the world, I don’t see strange people. I don’t say ” I’m normal and this is strange”. To me, everyone you meet is a lesson, everybody can teach you something and their experience and your experience are related. For example some people, when they see Muslims or whatever, they would day this is totally strange. The second thing is because I come from two different backgrounds, I’m always interested in people’s backgrounds. I love to read and when I was young, my father was a good storyteller and so I grew up on his stories and I grew up reading stories. Therefore, I became very interested in telling stories and with that, it got me into journalism and the desire to find out about people’s stories. The third thing is that because I read a lot, I am good with words and what I am doing here, I’m not a reporter, I don’t go out and get the stories, the stories come to me and I’m an engineer with words.
What change do you think we’ll see in the industry?
The changes are happening now. This newspaper when I first joined it in 2003, it was a newspaper. All the stories you were doing, we’re going into a printed page and the morning you woke up and they were there. Now, we are a website and a newspaper. We publish things in the morning, the afternoon and the evening and then we put them in the newspaper. For about five years ago, everybody is expecting by now, there will be no newspaper and there would only be the website because now no one I reading the newspaper. When the generation who still buy newspaper die when they grow old and then disappear, the newspaper stops and that’s what we think. That change is still happening and it is not clear which way it is going to go, but it is suddenly true that when I first started working here, I would go work in the train in the morning and people would be seen reading it. Now, everybody is reading it on their phones. Six or seven years ago, people had ipads and we have an addition that is only made for ipads and we thought this is going to be a big thing, this is going to make us lots of money and everybody is going to read online on their ipads. At that time, phones still used to be simple and too small to be used for reading news. However, now no one is using an iPad, because new phones are big enough and the screen is sharp enough and you can read everything on it. We have to make sure everything we do online, works well on any shape of any phone.