Ayman Mohyeldin on identity and global reporting at Dean’s Global Forum

November 02, 2022
Ayman Mohyeldin, journalist and host of MSNBC’s weekly primetime show, Ayman, discussed how his identity and cultural experiences shaped his reporting on global events at the latest Dean’s Global Forum at Northwestern Qatar.
Joining Northwestern Qatar Dean and CEO Marwan M. Kraidy in a conversation on his career trajectory and global reporting, Mohyeldin examined how his upbringing in the Middle East and the U.S. contributed to his understanding of journalism's role in the coverage of world politics and global events.
In opening the conversation, Kraidy asked Mohyeldin about his early years and what inspired his interest in media and politics. He responded with humor, noting that his parents are Egyptian and Palestinian, “What do you think a dinner conversation was like growing up in the 80s and 90s talking about everything going on in the world?” he asked.
As a result of that early introduction to the world of global news, he said he used to make home videos during the first Gulf War reporting on the daily developments as he watched them unfold on television. “It was really there that I began getting the journalism bug, and that’s really where I began being drawn to journalism as a possible career path,” he said.
Early in his career, as a news desk assistant at NBC News, his knowledge of the region and the Arabic language played a key role in his career. “Because of my linguistic skills, I was basically taken off from my assignment [at the news desk] and thrown into the investigative unit where I started working on investigating the 9/11 attacks with much more experienced journalists,” he said.
According to Mohyeldin, his identity continued to play a significant role in shaping his career as he advanced professionally. First as the Middle East news correspondent for Al Jazeera English and years later when he returned to the U.S media scene, ultimately hosting a primetime commentary show on American politics. “At different phases of my career, my identity has been at the forefront of my ability to compare what I see happening in the U.S. with what is happening overseas, and at the same time, provide commentary about the United States and its foreign policy,” he said.
In moving from news reporting to opinionated analysis, he said he builds on his experience reporting from the ground to help people make sense of the news they are consuming in an increasingly polarized political landscape. “We are in a very interesting inflection point because information and facts have become ubiquitous,” said Mohyeldin. “You can feel sometimes that the trend is that people are looking for affirmation and want to have their own views affirmed as opposed to challenged.”
He went on to highlight the risks of this trend, pointing out that people are consuming and processing information in silos. “Much of journalism depends on the consumer […], but we don’t spend much time asking about the information we are consuming. The media has a tremendous responsibility, but in this day and age, consumers of information have a very important responsibility in terms of what they put in their minds as well,” he said.
When asked about the representation of Global South voices in international news and mainstream media, Mohyeldin pointed to the increased diversity that is taking place. “We are seeing a lot more diversity in the newsroom, so when you have more diversity in the newsroom,” he claimed, ”you are going to get more viewpoints represented in the coverage, but also because the world is now much more interconnected, you cannot ignore what is happening in places like the Global South.”
The conversation with Mohyeldin was part of Northwestern Qatar's signature event, the Dean’s Global Forum, which features eminent leaders from academe, the media, the art, and public affairs in conversations with Dean Kraidy about their career trajectories and addressing pressing issues and enduring matters.
To watch the recording of the Dean’s Global Forum with Ayman Mohyeldin, click here.