“What will you say when you go home about Saudi journalists,” Leila asks at the end of our class. Her question is a gift. Yani, kismet, too.
She is the only woman and a very smart journalist. She thinks like a journalist, looking ahead, figuring where the news, the scene, the human situation, the reality will take you next and is preparing her thinking to do so.
I’ve been thinking how to end our session and this is the perfect doorway. I want to leave them with hope and I want also to say how much some of them have moved me. Their determination to learn, to do a better job, and to make journalism more respected than it is today in Saudi Arabia.
So, I tell her that the journalists I have met in the last few days are very different from those I met nearly twenty years ago when I wandered across the Kingdom meeting journalists.
You are braver today, I say. You take on more challenges. You know more about our profession. You know our rules. You and I may come from very different cultures but we share the same professional standards. We care about what is right and true and our responsibilities as journalists.
But you tell me also that you face great challenges. Your pay is low and your training is barely enough to let you get started. You have few specialized reporters and far too many of you work part-time. Your profession doesn’t get the respect it deserves and so many do this work part-time because that is enough to do it.
You say many of your bosses often do not understand you or nurture you or know how to make you do your best. You face red lines where there are no red lines and red lines where there shouldn’t be any. You know what I mean.
I hear all of this from you and yet I’m optimistic. I see a difference. And you have no choice but to do better. No choice.