Williamsville North High School senior Shaan Shaikh has recently begun hosting a locally based, international news show called “Beyond Boundaries.”
He’s one of two hosts who cover politics and human interest stories from around the world.
“Beyond Boundaries” is an online Muslim news show run through WNYMuslims.org. It covers human rights stories, politics and “kickers,” as Shaan calls them, referring to more lighthearted stories.
The 17-year-old founder of the Muslim Student Association at Williamsville North has been a longtime activist for human rights and a fighter against xenophobia and “Islamaphobia” both at home and abroad. Therefore, he believes this was a perfect opportunity.
“If I made something like this, it wouldn’t be this good,” said Shaan.
He said he started the Muslim Student Association last year because the Class of 2015 had a large number of Muslim students.
Shaan said the job with “Beyond Boundaries” was “a chance thing.” A member of WNY Muslims liked the way Shaan spoke and trained him for the show. Then Shaan began hosting the show.
Shaan did, however, note that the training was more difficult than he first thought it would be.
“Initially, I thought it would be one [training] session; then, I realized it would be harder.”
One of the most surprising things about what Shaan does is how much he does. The process goes something like this: Shaan preselects five stories to discuss and sends them to a committee that narrows it down to three. Then Shaan writes the script and finds the accompanying video and images himself. He then sends it all to a shooting director for approval. After that, the show is filmed in somewhere between two and five takes, edited, and then the video is uploaded to several sites including WNYMuslims.org and YouTube.com.
“Research takes a while,” said Shaan.
One occasion he specifically pointed out where the research took a significant amount of time was when he did a story on the civil war in Myanmar, where he admittedly “didn’t know about Myanmar.” Shaan ultimately said preparing for the show takes about five to six hours, although he says he’ll still have time to do the show during the school year.
Shaan will do the show every other week, switching on and off with his co-host Yousef Taha.
He says he’ll continue doing the show at least until he moves away to college, since he isn’t sure if there will be similar opportunities at college.
Shaan says “ ‘Beyond Boundaries’ has definitely encouraged me to look into journalism, but I’ve always enjoyed the idea of being a diplomat/policymaker.”
He plans to study international relations, Arabic and Near Eastern studies next year in college.
On the WNYMuslims site, it says that “Beyond Boundaries” covers “stories that are often overlooked by major news sources.” Shaan said other news sources don’t cover those stories because not enough people appreciate them.
“My views tend to stay in the one-hundreds,” said Shaan, referring to this relatively low number of viewers who see his videos on YouTube.
While that number isn’t bad for a small, locally based news show like this, it isn’t good for larger news organizations, who seek millions of views. Shaan says he believes the larger news organizations show soft, entertainment news to get their high number of views.
For the moment, Shaan seems content with his low-profile status, choosing integrity over popularity. Shaan covers stories that affect people, and he believes that compared to some other news organizations,what he covers is “just as important … if not more.”
To view the show, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Umrs0dZdXxw.
Justin Smith is a senior at Williamsville North High School.