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My thoughts are with Roxana Saberi, Iranian American journalist who was convicted of espionage today in Tehran. My thoughts are also with many more Iranian journalists who have been imprisoned in Iran in the past few years. A journalist friend was wondering today why no Iranian journalist has done an independent investigation about the whereabouts of Roxana in the past 6 years that she has been working and living in Iran. I was thinking that in the state of such fear and suppression, you can’t expect anybody to do real investigative journalism in Iran. (Not that there isn’t any good investigative journalism in Iran. Of course there are still many vigorous and courageous journalists in Iran that do good investigative work, but there aren’t many media outlets to publish uncensored challenging stories.) That’s why many Iranian journalists like me work for foreign-funded Iranian media outlets in diaspora. But we can’t do the real thing much either, since we are not there, in the field, to do our job. We sit in our offices outside of Iran and try to play the ropes to produce stories about Iran. We should be careful not to put people’s lives in danger in Iran for contacting us. And here is just part of the sad story of Iranian journalism.
Tonight I also couldn’t get the thought of Zahra Kazemi and Daniel Pearl out of my head. I just hope that one day we will see a world where no journalist is imprisoned, tortured, or killed for doing her job.
I sometimes wonder if I’m just wasting my time at journalism school. We so much talk about ethics in our classes, and then we see these ethics hardly being observed in American mainstream media. I watched 60 Minutes interview with Ahmadinejad on Sunday and I was amazed how unprofessional Pelley acted. Has any journalism professor who teaches at American universities watched that interview?!
We learn that in an interview we should not lead the interviewee to an answer. If the interviewee does not answer our question, we can reword the question, but we are not allowed to force the interviewee to answer in a specific manner. After all, we should respect someone’s right not to answer a question. We should always be polite. We should talk based on facts. We cannot generalize and give comments without having direct and indirect quotes from credible sources. A journalist should not add his own subjective biases to the story. A journalist should let the reader/audience decide.
As much as I dislike Ahmadinejad and am against his policies, I was disgusted by the rude, ill-mannered, and unprofessional behavior of Pelley.
Does any journalism professor actually care how journalism is really practiced in the American mainstream media these days? What should I do with what I learn about ethics of journalism at school on one hand, and the interviewers’ and the “super stars” of cable news networks’ practice of journalism on the other hand? Which one is the right thing to do? If the latter is right, then why do we bother ourselves at school to talk about ethics?
p.s. 1. Again I repeat that I dislike Ahmadinejad greatly and am against many of his policies fundementally. That doesn’t stop me from criticizing the practice of journalism in the US though, specially while I know how journalism schools insist on ethics. Pelley’s work was abhorring last night.
p.s. 2. I have more to say about Ahmadinejad’s remarks (and sometimes big fat lies) both in 60 Minutes and at the University of Columbia. But I should sleep now to get up early and go to the airport.