When a woman named Courtney invited me to visit the office of Tunisia Live, Tunisia’s first news website, I immediately took her up on her offer.
I found Tunisia Live’s office just minutes away from my hotel by foot. Once I got there, Courtney escorted me to the third floor, where we were buzzed in. The office appeared to be a converted apartment, about 900 square feet, with 16-foot ceilings and medium-sized rooms. I received the grand tour: the studio where broadcasts are held; the kitchen, where the culture team set up for the day; the politics room; and an office for the founders. I was introduced to the whole team, 30 strong, comprised of a near 50/50 split of foreigners and Tunisians. I was shocked to discover that the crew members were all between 20 and 30 years of age, and the founders all between 30 and 35.
One of the writers had just returned from an Ennahda conference (Ennahda is the moderate Islamist party that, in coalition with a few centre-left parties, secured a majority in the post-revolutionary elections), and she looked somewhat exasperated. “Farah is our resident Islamist,” Charles, the politics editor, told me, referring to the writer. I was confused, since, while dressed modestly, she wasn’t donning a hijab – but I questioned my prejudice immediately. It turned out that Charles was joking, and delayed laughter ensued.
I listened intently as they began to discuss the conference, and every once in a while I’d slip a question in about the dynamics of the government. It was a lively discussion, quite apropos. Catching a glimpse of the inner workings of the online news organization, I was impressed by how well-oiled it seemed to be.
I asked people in each room I visited on my way out if I could return the next day to sit with them and discuss their expertise, their ideas, and their experiences. And each group happily agreed.