Here is an article I wrote for MYN/One Voice. This time I am writing about the history of the newspaper and next week I will write about why it is significant to me
The Birth and Evolution of One Voice
One Voice is a rapidly growing newspaper established by Muslim Youth initially in NJ for Muslim Youth across the states. It is published on quarterly bases with 3000 copies distributed to over 50 locations, throughout the tri-state area. Youth from as far locations as South Brunswick, Paterson, Newark and the many small towns in the tri-state area all contribute in each issue to make this newsletter a success and a true representative of the Muslim Youth.. However where did such a successful enterprise originate from and where did the concept of Muslim Youth Newsletter (MYN) originate from?
The concept of MYN began in the fall of 2007 by three youth who spent about 3-6 month discussing how to establish a youth newspaper, who is the target audience and what are the vision and goals of such an enterprise. From these discussions, they concluded that the vision of the project was to unify the Muslim community in NJ. This was accomplished by giving the youth a chance to know each other, find out what going on in each other institutions, and give youth an opportunity to share their ideas and to reach out to the Muslims in public Schools. The target audience were be highschoolers and they hoped that by making this a youth only project they will help the Muslim youth develop communication, leadership and management skills necessary to succeed in college and life afterwards. These ideas are still core to MYN/One Voice, except that was expanded it to include college as well. The only main principle that changed from those early discussions was the fact that it was initially planned that highschoolers will lead the organization, something that turned out to be almost impossible to sustain and maintain.
In spring of 2008 the organizers of MYN started outreaching to different communities about MYN. They initially had a target of reaching out to about 4-5 communities, but then scaled it down to two communities, ICPC in Paterson and IIS near Trenton and held seminars/workshops and launched the organization. Initially MYN was established it as clubs, where each location had a managing editor, and their own section editors. The managing editors worked together and combined had the role of editor-in-chief. The organizers took the positions of advisors and were responsible in distribution of MYN newsletters. To support the writers, they organized a group of adult mentors/copy editors that where in charge of editing each article and giving out suggestions to the readers on how they can improve. The youth chose Shabab as their newspaper name (which means Youth in Arabic) and the managing editors were able to successfully work together to develop the first issues of the newsletter. The concept of section editors was not yet fully developed and the content and theme of the newspaper was determined by the managing editors. The newspapers at this time did not follow any particular theme and it articles range was extremely diverse covering topics such as Ramadan, election of Obama, Highschool Musical 3 and sports. While each article was viewed for grammar and other writing issues, as long as each article did not directly violate one of the tenants of Muslim belief it was approved for publication.
Under the high-school students two issues were successfully published under the name of Shabab. However, the process of smoothly transitioning the knowledge to the next generation of high-school turned to be extremely difficult. To add to the situation, the initial originators of the idea were no longer able to commit the time needed for the newspaper success. To resolve these issues the responsibility of MYN was transferred to Emad Hamdeh as the new advisor/director of MYN.
In the fall of 2009, Emad was able to reorganize the organization, selected new managing editors and took the role of Editor In Chief. He moved away from the model of giving highschoolers total control of the organization to more mixed and balanced structure. He instituted section heads and successfully made them responsible for their sections. To address major issues the newspaper will face he established a core team and made them in-charge of major decisions for the paper. He took advantage of the contacts and links that were established earlier and was able to successfully expand the organization to more masajid and introduced it into MSAs. The MYN team also discussed in detail how to rebrand the newspaper and they decided on naming it One Voice. The decision was based on making sure that the newspaper becomes a symbol of the youth here in America and make sure that it name feels local and not a foreign name that most youth cannot relate to. The MYN team published their first issue of One Voice in January of 2010 and since January of 2010, they have been successful in publishing issues on a quarterly basis and in expanding the base of readership for the newspaper and in increasing the quality of the newspaper overall. Also, the newspaper incorporated themes in each of its issues that focus on the needs of the youth such as time management and gender interactions. The newspaper focused on the concerns of Muslim youth and moved away from the earlier model in Shabab where the articles covered a wide variety of articles. This gave the newspaper a special edge in reaching out to Muslim youth and gave it the capacity to be a platform to raise and address these issues.
The future of the newspaper appears very bright as it continues to grow and expand into Masajid, schools and MSAs all over NJ. Insha’Allah I hope that Allah will give us all the reward of this endeavor and make it among the good deeds that we continue to receive long after we all leave this earth.