ACOR Profile: Journalist Saeb Rawashdeh
Saeb Rawashdeh is a journalist and style editor for The Jordan Times newspaper. He is a familiar face at ACOR, where he is often to be found working on his writing at one of the computer workstations in the lower library.
Believing journalists should be specialized in order to present the most accurate information, Rawashdeh sticks to what he knows and has studied in the past – political history, anthropology, archaeology, and science, art, and cultural events in Amman.
Long before he started working at The Jordan Times, ACOR was a place where Rawashdeh could investigate subjects that interested him and meet other researchers. The ACOR Library offers over 45,000 books and periodicals and vast collections of maps and photographs. Especially appealing to him was the fact that researchers at ACOR cycle through in a constant flow and arrive with prior knowledge of the Middle East, some with 50 years of professional expertise and personal connections to the region. For Rawashdeh, the ways that ACOR “bridges the gap between different regions” and “connects different academics and projects” constitute a dynamic international cultural presence in Jordan.
Similarly, Rawashdeh aims to promote culture through the news, an idea that is considered unique. Despite his editors’ uncertainty about focusing too much on academics and publishers claiming that people only want to read about politics and celebrities, he has been able to pursue his own journalistic initiatives because of his persistence. He believes that media around the world does not emphasize the science and arts enough, and has taken it upon himself to “influence people in the long run by focusing on fundamental issues and successful scholars, especially local ones who don’t get recognition.”
“The role of the media in the world should be to emancipate, lead, educate, cultivate and inform the public,” Rawashdeh says. “Unfortunately, we are witnesses that the media can also mislead, overlook, and misinform. The responsibility for the sad state of the media worldwide lies on editors and journalists. Each individual who operates in the printed or electronic media has their share of responsibility. Consequently, when I started working for The Jordan Times in the fall of 2014, I knew from the very beginning that my task should be to use my position to promote science, art, and culture.”
In the recent past, Rawashdeh has written about archaeologists of various nationalities exploring such topics as ancient rock art in Wadi Rum, studying the Nabataean civilization, examining an early Christian presence in Jordan and Palestine, and testing different approaches to research. Often working from 6 AM to midnight, Rawashdeh is clearly dedicated to his trade. This dedication is also evident in his reflection upon his work: having published over 150 stories, he prefers to look at them “as a whole” rather than differentiating between the articles. “All the stories are interconnected, but have different main ideas that are all significant to me,” he explains. Asking him to pick a favorite or most impactful story, he asserts, is “like having ten children and picking a favorite – you can’t.”
For the future, however, Saeb Rawashdeh hopes to do more independent work outside the confines of the newspaper, to be able to “vent and discuss different topics in [his] own way.” This goal, along with his focus on science and culture, is what makes him a “maverick journalist,” one who enjoys pushing the boundaries set by traditional media. “If one is doing exactly what everyone else is, there is no point,” he concludes, unabashedly proud and determined to make a difference.
Written by Victoria Friend, Amideast study abroad student from St. Lawrence University and ACOR intern, Fall 2017.