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Sreenath Sreenivasan: Helping the community cope with disaster
by Shirin Pais

In the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Centre's twin towers in New York, Sreenath Sreenivasan, journalism professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, has been putting in tremendous effort to help the South Asian community in the US to connect with friends and relatives and locate people in hospitals around the city. While he himself was on the way back from Bermuda at the time of the twin towers collapse, no sooner was he back than he was in action, helping the South Asian community to cope.

Sreenivasan is the co-founder of the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA), which was established March 1994 and now represents over 800 journalists in the U.S. & Canada. This organization is making active efforts to help the South Asian community cope both with the terrible losses some of them suffered in the WTC collapse as well as with the harassment, threats and discrimination some members are facing in the wake of the tragedy.

Popularly called "Sree", he specializes in training journalists to speak the different media "languages" of print, new media and broadcasting. At Columbia, his classes include "New Media Workshop" and "Tools of the Modern Journalist." He also teaches workshops in "Smarter Surfing: Better Use of Your Web Time" and new media storytelling in various newsrooms and educational institutions around the US and abroad. Every Thursday at 6:45 a.m. he can be seen on WABC-7, in the station's "Tech Guru" segments, discussing technology trends and gadgets on "Eyewitness News This Morning".

Sreenivasan is also a frequent commentator and speaker on various issues, including trends affecting journalism, technology & convergence, the Internet, writing for the Web, South Asians and minorities. He also serves as faculty adviser to Columbia's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and he won the group's "national faculty adviser of the year" award for 1998. In 2000, he was named one of India Today's "40 leaders under 40" in the U.S. In May 2000, he became founding administrator of the Online Journalism Awards, a new set of international prizes run by Columbia and the Online News Association (a group he helped co-found in 1998). He holds a master of science degree in journalism from Columbia and a bachelor of arts in history from St. Stephen's College, Delhi In a recent interview with the Times of India, Sreenivasan spoke on how SAJA is helping South Asian journalists cover the aftermath of the disaster by publishing a media guide and reporting tips on its website.

"While the press has done a good job of covering the dangers posed to Arab Americans and Arabs living in the United States by media stereotyping, we feel there is still not enough awareness of the bias crimes against South Asians and how they are coping," says Sreenivasan.

And he's doing something about this. A panel discussion titled, "Covering the WTC Attacks and the Aftermath" was organized by SAJA on September 15, 2001, during which a group of senior journalists discussed the coverage of the attacks and the backlash. And SAJA's website now incorporates backgrounders on the south Asian regions involved in reprisal attacks, a list of experts and sources from different communities who may be able to comment and this information is being regularly updated.