Mich. Journalism Hall of Fame to Induct Arab Am. Publisher

Mich. Journalism Hall of Fame to Induct Arab Am. Publisher

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Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News, will be inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame Sunday, April 21 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in Lansing. He will be honored alongside longtime Detroit Metro Times editor W. Kim Heron, who recently stepped down, investigative journalist Nancy McCauley, journalism educator Betsy Pollard Rau and former Detroit Free Press photojournalist Hugh Grannum, who passed away this year.

The Hall of Fame honors reporters, editors, publishers, owners, photographers, broadcasters, educators, and others who have made outstanding contributions to the profession.

It has very few members from ethnic and minority media, making Siblani’s nomination more notable.

“Mr. Siblani’s nomination is unique because he’s not the usual nominee. Yet his nomination into the grand palace of journalism history in Michigan will not only send a strong message of journalism inclusion to all communities but also adds a different and an exciting feature to this longstanding journalistic tradition of Michigan’s finest in the media,” writes Michigan Chronicle senior editor Bankole Thompson in a letter supporting Siblani’s nomination.

Joe Grimm, former recruiting and development editor at the Detroit Free Press from 1983-2008, and current visiting editor in residence at Michigan State University, spearheaded the effort to get Siblani inducted by reaching out to people in the profession who all made cases through letters on why Siblani is worthy of the recognition.

Eleven letters including one from Grimm were sent to the Hall of Fame’s selection committee for review. Grimm, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, says in some cases people are nominated more than once before they actually get inducted. This was Siblani’s first time getting nominated.

Other media figures who’ve been inducted in the past include legendary White House Correspondent and Arab American Helen Thomas, WXYZ Channel 7 anchor and reporter Diana Lewis and Neal Shine, former publisher of the Detroit Free Press.

In nearly all the letters Siblani’s colleagues note that his work extends far beyond TAAN. “He wears many hats, he’s not just a publisher,” Chuck Stokes, editorial/public affairs director, WXYZ TV said in a phone interview.

Stokes said he’s known Siblani for more than 20 years, and called him a crusading advocate, and political analyst who’s been sought out by many.

Siblani’s work was also critical to the establishment of the Arab American Political Action Committee, and Congress of Arab American Organizations.

“By every account, the Arab American community in southeast Michigan, would not be in the front row of issues today without the trumpet role of Mr. Siblani, who is the glue that brings that community’s brightest and courageous minds together to bear on the most important issues of the day,” Thompson said.

To members of the local, national and international media he’s been a vital source used to help better understand metro Detroit’s Arab community and the Arab World.

The letters also highlight Siblani’s work as a businessman, and how despite immense financial challenges he’s managed to keep the paper thriving.

Before starting the paper Siblani was an engineer, and while he’s never taken one journalism class he has taught international reporting seminars at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.

Siblani started the paper in 1984 with its co-founder Kay Siblani, who served as its executive editor since the paper’s inception until Jan. 1 this year when she succumbed to cancer.