Kareem Awadalla knows what it’s like to face danger as a journalist. He’s survived multiple assassination attempts during his career covering the Middle East.
Journalism runs through his veins and there was no way that was going to stop him. Today Awadalla lives in Wilton Manors, a city he was introduced to in 2012. He fell in love with its small-town charm.
Awadalla still covers the Middle East but now he’s launched a social media news outlet — Wilton Community News.
With more than 100 cities, towns, villages, and unincorporated areas in South Florida alone, even the major newspapers and TV stations can’t follow every board meeting and business opening.
But meetings happen and businesses open, so it’s up to neighborhood news organizations to keep an eye on what’s happening.
Awadalla now brings his lifelong passion for journalism to the Island City.
“I think journalism chose me,” he told The Gazette. But perfecting his craft there was difficult and sometimes deadly. “It was very dangerous being a journalist in the Middle East before the Arab Spring.”
For simply doing his job, Awadalla faced four assassination attempts.
Awadalla grew up in Egypt. In 2012, Awadalla got a fellowship to work in the heart of journalism, New York City. But during a convention in Fort Lauderdale he saw his future. Friends took him out for dinner in Wilton Manors, then showed him a different view of the city.
“He took us on a tour with his small boat, Wilton Manors by the water,” he said. “I was infatuated with Wilton Manors. I was very impressed.”
Awadalla spent the next few years working, saving, and preparing; his dream manifested itself in August 2018.
He tried to dive headlong into his new community by joining city committees and organizations.
“The reason I wanted to volunteer is because I wanted to pay back and help keep Wilton Manors this glamorous glory place that I’ve seen since 2012,” he said.
Things didn’t work out and he wasn’t able to get on any panels. But having faced multiple assassination attempts, a little bureaucratic rejection wasn’t going to stop Awadalla.
“This is my happy place, I didn’t want to be a journalist in Wilton Manors.”
But like when he was a child, journalism called him. If he couldn’t work on things from the inside, he’d cover them from the outside.
Awadalla grabbed his camera, MacBook, some lights, and started Wilton Community News, a hyper-local Facebook page dedicated to anything and everything happening in Wilton Manors. “I see it as a way to pay back my community.”
It started as just a couple of posts on issues he didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle. But the public response was overwhelming that it took on a life of its own, and now has more than 1,500 followers.
Known for being tough but fair, Awadalla now interviews everyone from candidates for public office, officials in charge of our safety, to local business owners. At the height of the pandemic, he focused on the devastating economic impact on the people who perform on the drive, making sure that even though they were out of sight, they weren’t out of mind.
City Commissioner Chris Caputo has been the subject of multiple videos from Awadalla.
“The city is really fortunate to have Kareem,” Caputo said. “He takes his craft seriously and he has really shed a lot of light on the issues facing our city.”
The Gazette plans to partner and collaborate with Awadalla and Wilton Community News.
“The Gazette is a great publication. Without them there would be so many things that would go unseen,” Awadalla said. “I only do videos. I thought maybe we could cooperate together to get the message out more.”
Jason Parsley, the associate publisher of The Gazette’s parent company SFGN, believes this will help intensify the coverage of Wilton Manors and Oakland Park.
“We’re excited about partnering with Kareem and Wilton Community News,” Parsley said. “Kareem’s video work will be an excellent supplement to our journalism, adding a new dynamic to the stories.”
Kareem covers the costs of Wilton Community News out of his own pocket, so he’s still working as a journalist. As a Mideast expert he shows up on TV around the world giving his perspective on major events. Kareem also works on documentaries and has several projects going on at once.
Keep an eye out for Kareem and his camera around the community, follow his Facebook page, and watch for more of his coverage here at SFGN.