U.S. launches Arabic Gen-X mag
From Elise Labott
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new Arabic-language magazine sponsored by the State Department and distributed throughout the Arab world seeks to sell young adult readers on American culture, the State Department said Tuesday.
Hi magazine, a glossy monthly aimed at 18- to 35-year-olds, is "designed to engage people in that generation in a constructive, interactive dialogue on many aspects of American society," said State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker.
"We think it's an opportunity to establish this type of dialogue and opportunity for younger people in the Middle East who are interested in these topics to read some interesting stuff."
The magazine and its Web site contain sections on music, sports, education, technology, careers and health, as well as feature stories and profiles of celebrities. The most recent issue features a profile of singer Nora Jones.
The magazine is distributed to subscribers in Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, Cyprus and Greece. It is also sold on newsstands.
Reeker said the government laid out an initial $4.2 million for production of the magazine, but the State Department hopes the magazine will eventually be a profit-making venture through newsstand and ad sales and paid subscriptions.
Chocolate companies Cadbury and Lindt have already placed ads in the magazine.
Reeker said the magazine is produced by The Magazine Group, a Washington-based company that custom designs magazines with "strengths in production and graphic design."
The company produces magazines for more than 60 clients, including the March of Dimes, the American Diabetes Association and Hilton Hotels, according to its Web site.
The Levant Group, a Beirut-based distributor of American magazines in the Middle East, is distributing the magazine and managing subscriptions, and the United States is working with regionally based advertising firms on promotion and marketing.
The content is written by U.S. public diplomacy officials and contractors, as well as freelance writers, and is approved by a State Department editorial board before it is published.
The magazine is the latest product of U.S. public diplomacy, which has been a priority of the Bush administration to counter growing anti-American sentiment since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The United States already has an Arabic-language radio station, Radio Sawa, and has in development an Arabic-language satellite television station -- both of which are heavy on U.S. culture.
Critics of U.S. public diplomacy efforts say it is not U.S. culture, but rather U.S. policies in the Middle East that contribute to anti-American sentiment.
But Reeker said the United States already has publications that focus on U.S. foreign policy, and Hi magazine better serves its target audience.
"Perhaps targeting that audience with a dense and comprehensive foreign policy journal is not going to be a best-seller on the newsstands," he said.