Chicago newspaper publisher may be first Arab American to succumb to COVID-19

Mansour Tadros, left, joined Daily Herald Newspaper columnist Burt Constable, American Arab journalist Amani Ghouleh, and WBBM TV Reporter Jay Levin in receiving ADC’s 'Excellence in Journalism' Award in Chicago in 2010. (Photo by Ray Hanania)
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Updated 30 March 2020

Chicago newspaper publisher may be first Arab American to succumb to COVID-19

  • Mansour Tadros, 69, fell ill last week with a suspected case of COVID-19 and died on March 28
  • Tadros worked Saudi Arabia for an overseas export company from 1975 to 1991

CHICAGO: An Arab American newspaper publisher who immigrated to the US from Jordan with his parents in the 1950s may be the first Arab American to succumb to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Mansour Tadros, 69, died on March 28 after battling the coronavirus for a week, his family confirmed. Tadros fell ill last week with a suspected case of COVID-19. A family member said he died in an ambulance returning to hospital.

This week, the US surpassed China with the most reported cases of coronavirus, recording 125,313 cases and nearly 2,385 deaths according to a report prepared by Johns Hopkins University.

“He fell ill last week with symptoms that we suspect was the virus. All the symptoms led us to believe it. We are waiting on the coroner to confirm,” said his son Fadi, who was at his father’s side when he died on the way to the hospital from their home in Tinley Park, a suburb of Chicago.

After immigrating to the US with his family in 1968, at the age of 17, from the Amman suburb of Na’ur, Tadros settled in Logan Square on Chicago’s North Side, a popular neighborhood for Arab American families. Tadros left in 1975 to take a job in Saudi Arabia for an overseas export company.

Mansour Tadros

It was in the Kingdom where he found an interest in news, writing that the region needed to counter the negative anti-Arab stereotypes by doing a better job of sharing their real stories with Western audiences, particularly in the US.

“While I was in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region, I found a side job working as a co-publisher for several booklets and books, and also newsletters and trade magazines. We developed several books,” Tadros said. He returned to America in 1991 with a desire to get into writing and journalism and that year joined the newly founded National Arab American Journalists Association.

He first launched a glossy magazine reporting on the advertising industry in 2000 but closed it down in the face of the anti-Arab backlash after the 9/11 attacks.

After a year-long hiatus, Tadros invested his money in a new media project, launching a bilingual newspaper, “The Future News” (Al-Mustaqbal Chicago) which circulated throughout the Arab American community in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. It focused on the everyday lives of Arabs and Muslims in America.

“Publishing wasn’t easy at all. It was difficult to get Arab American and Muslim companies to advertise. The community would pay for American newspapers that constantly attacked us with negative stereotypes, but they wouldn’t pay for an Arab American newspaper,” Tadros said during an interview in 2014.

To make the newspaper succeed, Tadros had to find other work, earning a living heading a roofing company and later working with another son, Faris, offering home mortgages.

“We Arabs in America don’t have a lot of respect for ourselves, but we sure do complain a lot,” Tadros explained.

“We pay to purchase mainstream American newspapers that are filled with anti-Arab hatred, criticism, lies and distortions about our people, yet we won’t support a newspaper that is a reflection of our own community that is published in English and in Arabic. I think that must change if we are going to improve.”

Tadros was recognized by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in 2010 for his achievements in building his ethnic newspaper reporting on the daily lives of the Arab American and Muslim community.

Laila Alhusini, a Detroit-based Syrian American journalist and the only Arab in the US to host a weekday morning radio show — “the US Arab Radio” — called Tadros a pioneer in Arab American journalism and his death a community tragedy.

“Mansour’s newspaper was well-read. You would get stories about Arab Americans and Muslims that the mainstream news media always ignored,” said Alhusini, whose Detroit show broadcasts live every morning on WNZK AM 690 radio and on several other Midwest radio stations.

“Journalism is a struggle for Arabs in America, but we have to succeed to get our story out there, the real story about who we really are. We can’t allow the mainstream news media to constantly portray us in a negative light all the time.”

Alhusini said that although there have been 2,856 COVID-19 cases in Michigan, which has a large Arab American population, there have fortunately been no reported cases of deaths so far in the community.

Tadros converted his newspaper in 2014 from print to online after struggling to get Arab Americans to pay for subscriptions.

“I really felt we needed to establish an Arab American media. I was tired of hearing and reading things about our community that were inaccurate. We needed a newspaper that could present our own story not just to mainstream Americans but also to the mainstream news media. There were many young people who I could see wanted to get into journalism and communications and I thought they needed some place to work and learn,” Tadros recalled.

He added: “Journalism is not natural to American Arabs because of the lack of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. But there is a strong urge on the part of our people to want to tell the true story about who we are to the American people.

“But how do we do it? That urge is in every one of us. But not everyone wants to give up their careers to enter journalism. It is a new field. And it is a tough field.”

Family members said Tadros was feeling ill and went to the hospital on Wednesday night. He returned home to be quarantined but his illness worsened.

Fadi Tadros said that because of restrictions, they cannot have a public wake or funeral, but they hope to hold a memorial service when the pandemic passes.

Mansour Tadros is survived by his wife Lidya and three adult children, Fadi, Faris and Nadine.

Private schools and universities in Lebanon are in economic crisis

Updated 20 min 35 sec ago

Private schools and universities in Lebanon are in economic crisis

  • Education centers risk closing or reducing costs after nationwide disruption

BEIRUT: The future of thousands of Lebanese students is at stake as private educational institutions assess their ability to continue operations in the next academic year, due to the economic crunch facing Lebanon.

“If the economic situation continues, private schools will be forced to close down for good, a move that will affect more than 700,000 students, 59,000 teachers and 15,000 school administrators,” said Father Boutros Azar, secretary-general of the General Secretariat of Catholic Schools in Lebanon, and coordinator of the Association of Private Educational Institutions in Lebanon.

Over 1,600 private schools are operating in Lebanon, including free schools and those affiliated to various religion societies, Azar said.

The number of public schools in Lebanon, he added, is 1,256, serving 328,000 students from the underprivileged segment of society and 200,000 Syrian refugee students.

“The number of teachers in the formal education sector is 43,500 professors and teachers — 20,000 of them are permanent staff and the rest work on a contract basis,” Azar said.

This development will also have an impact on private universities, whose number has increased to 50 in the past 20 years.

Ibrahim Khoury, a special adviser to the president of the American University of Beirut (AUB), told Arab News: “All universities in Lebanon are facing an unprecedented crisis, and the message of AUB President Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri, a few weeks ago, was a warning about the future of university education in light of the economic crisis that Lebanon is facing.”

Khoury said many universities would likely reduce scientific research and dispense with certain specializations.

“Distance education is ongoing, but classes must be opened for students in the first semester of next year, but we do not yet know what these classes are.”

Khoury added: “Universities are still following the official exchange rate of the dollar, which is 1,512 Lebanese pounds (LBP), but the matter is subject to future developments.”

Lebanese parents are also worried about the future of their children, after the current school year ended unexpectedly due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Dr. Tarek Majzoub, the minister of education and higher education, ended the academic year in public schools and gave private schools the right to take a call on this issue.

He said: “The coming academic year will witness intensification of lessons and a review of what students have missed.”

But what sort of academic year should students expect?

Differences have developed between school owners, parents, and teachers over the payment of tuition fees and teachers’ salaries.

Azar said: “What I know so far is that 80 percent of the Catholic schools in Lebanon will close their doors next year unless they are financially helped. Some families today are unable to pay the rest of the dues for the current year either because their breadwinners were fired or not working, while others do not want to pay dues because schools remain closed due to the pandemic.

“Lebanese people chose private schools for their children because they trusted them for their quality — 70 percent of Lebanese children go to private schools. Today, we are facing a major crisis, and I say that if education collapses in Lebanon, then the area surrounding Lebanon will collapse. Many Arab students from the Gulf states receive their education in the most prestigious Lebanese schools,” he added.

“What we are witnessing today is that the educational contract is no longer respected. It can be said that what broke the back of school owners is the approval by the Lebanese parliament in 2018 of a series of ranks and salaries that have bankrupted the state treasury and put all institutions in a continuous deficit.”

Those in charge of formal education expect a great rush for enrollment in public schools and universities, but the ability of these formal institutions to absorb huge numbers of students is limited.

Majzoub said that his ministry was “working on proposing a law to help private schools provide a financial contribution for each learner within the available financial capabilities or grants that can be obtained.”

The undersecretary of the Teachers’ Syndicate in Private Schools, former government minister Ziad Baroud, said: “The crisis of remaining student fees and teachers’ salaries needs to be resolved by special legislation in parliament that regulates the relationship between all parties — teachers, parents, and schools — and takes into account the measures to end teachers’ contracts before July 5.”

Baroud spoke of “hundreds of teachers being discharged from their schools every year based on a legal article that gives the right to school owners to dismiss any teacher from service, provided that they send the teacher a notification before July 5.”

H said it should be kept in mind that thousands of teachers have not yet received their salaries for the last four months, and some of them had received only 50 percent or even less of their salaries.

Khoury said: “The AUB received a loan from the late Prime Minister Rashid Karami at the beginning of the 1975 Lebanese civil war to keep it afloat. In the 1990s, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri provided aid and grants to the universities. Today, no one can help universities.”

Last Thursday, the Lebanese parliament adopted a proposal submitted by the leader of the Future Parliamentary Bloc, Bahia Hariri, to allocate LBP300 billion to the education sector to help it mitigate the effects of COVID-19.