Karim Adel Abdel Kodos 900080069 Interview script Interview conducted with Firas Al-Atrqchi, Associate Professor of Practice and Associate Chair of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department at The American University in Cairo. Karim: Hi, what's your name? Firas: My name is Firas Al-Atrqchi. Karim: And what's your title? Firas: Associate Professor of Practice at Journalism and Mass Communication Department, and also Associate Chair of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department. Karim: Where do you live? Firas: I live in Ma'adi. Karim: How old are you? Firas: 44 next week. Karim: what was your degree in? Firas: I have a bachelors of science and physics. Karim: Okay.. Firas: Which I got in February '94, and then in June '97 I got a masters in journalism. Karim: What brought you in journalism? Firas: Umm, ever since I was like 5 or 6 years old I've had a.. I've had a skill, I've had a talent for writing. I've been very creative. Uhh, and I've loved to read and I loved to write, and you know, I aced papers just because I know how to write well and.. Umm I even wrote papers for people, and so one day umm I was reading the caravan, it might have been 1991 some where there, and there was an article that was written by one of the caravan reporters and basically it was looking at why there is so many cases of cheating on campus and this article basically concluded that there is so mush cheating on campus because it's part of Egypt's social Malays, its part of Egyptian culture and I thought ohh you know I'm not Egyptian but hell this is a really inflammatory statement to make, and it is like your painting with a really white brush all the Egyptian society, and so unfair to say that, and so I was so moved, you know looking back at it now it was like why the hell I was so moved?. But this article must've really pissed me off, that I sat down and wrote a letter to the editor telling them this sucks. Karim: And who was the editor in chief at the time? Fires: His name was Ahmed Eissa, he was a friend of mine, and basically saying this is not journalism this is crap, there is no research, there is no empirical evidence you can't just make a statement like that. So (cough) the advisor to the student newspaper at the time was Steven Grover Allah yerhamo, and, umm, he thought I wrote well, he liked the way the letter was constructed, and asked the editor to ask me if I wanted to write for them free lance, and I was very surprised, and it never occurred to me. Of course when I used to read some of the articles I used to say I can do better than this, and it never occurred to me that that I would be involved in student journalism. So I joined the caravan and they liked what I did and, I liked, I was starting to really develop a sense of appreciation for how these things work. And then one day, probably '92 I can't remember exactly, there was an explosion at Cairo Museum, right next to where the Nile Hilton used to be. So, Tahrir, and this, of course AUC campus was very close but the explosion was so load, so powerful, that it kinda like shook the surroundings, and so I rushed over there, with the first throng of people who were trying to see what happened and of course the cops couldn't keep people away because they were trying to figure out what happened and what was.. it was chaotic, and a few tourists were injured or killed, I can't remember it now, and I observed the scene around me, and I had a piece of paper, and I borrowed a pen of somebody standing around and started to take notes. I started to talk to people, and started to talk to police men and talk to that, and then I went back to caravan, and I wrote a report, which ran of course front page story, and a photographer was there and happened to take a picture so and then they just loved the way I did that so they started to give me more and more assignments until I star.. Until I became the assignment editor for the news paper, and I did such a good job, people, the editors and the advisors sort of recommended that I apply for editor in chief. I did, of course we were interviewed by people, students used to come and watch, they would ask questions too, but it was the caravan board, they asked me a number of questions. I used physics to answer some of them, that's why in 333 I'm always stressing a scientific para dam because I have an advantage over other people, because I come from a scientific mentality, I can look at something and just break it down and organize it. So I used that to my advantage,I, they selected me as editor in chief there was a petition signed by the staff to have me removed as editor in chief because I came from physics, I mean it was before, sorry you wanna ask a question? Karim: Yeah, at what time you decided to go through your masters in journalism? At what point? Fires: Well, after I became editor in chief I asked myself, do I wanna go and do masters in physics? That was the original plan but it wasn't a good idea for me, an Arab, to be going into nuclear physics, which is I really loved and which is I was really good at it. And I said I don't really want to do this hassle, you know, Arab nuclear physicists accomplished once are watched cause it's a very is a very exciting field but it's also a dangerous field. So I said I don't want that hassle, I really like this journalism thing. I'm really good at it. I was started doing a lot of freelancing outside of university so that I was getting my name published now. Let me see what.. how I can improve and what I can develop and tabaan, so, I, that's when I decided to do the masters. I can probably tell you maybe 3 or 4 months before I graduated or the bachelors. Karim: And do you think journalism is not as dangerous as nuclear..? Fires: No, because at that point, I had already developed a sense of being an editor, and being an editor means you don't go out a lot, I mean I mixed a little bit, I, I, I did field journalism, you know I've been roughed up by Egyptian security years ago, nothing really to write home about, I was, I've been threatened a couple of times over really mundane pieces, but, umm, no I f.. I mean I see where you're coming from with your question, and this day and age being a journalist is probably more dangerous, but I didn't really think of it that way, not at all, at that time it was unheard of the, for us to get a reports that 70 journalists had died or something and now we hear that a lot. Karim: Dr. Firas, thank you so much.. Firas: Thank you. Karim: You're such a figure that we should look for. Firas: Oh thank you, thank you very much Karim. Karim: Thank you so much. Firas: I really appreciate it, thank you.