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.
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.