Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: Local journalist Mahdieh Amiri speaks of the hardships of practicing journalism in the southern Iranian province of Bushehr. Amiri has been working as a journalist in Bushehr for years. Since 2007, she has been the editor-in-chief of a few local websites, biweekly and quarterly magazines. She is now the editor-in-chief of hamooniran.com website and Ava-ye Dashtestan biweekly.
An interview with Minou Badiyi, Iranian journalist
Iranian press suffers from weak reporting13 February 2012
By Niki Azad
Translated by Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info Minou Badiyi is a veteran Iranian journalist who began his career as a journalist with the Kayhan Newspaper in the year 1977. She has continued working with the renowned Persian newspaper for 22 years. After 23rd of May 1997, the date President Mohammad Khatami set to win a landslide victory in the 1997 presidential election, Badiyi joined the a reformist newspapers and news websites; namely, Neshat Newspaper, Asr-e Azadegan Newspaper and Economic News. She is currently an editor in chief of two inter-organisation news publication and also teaches at the School of Media Studies. Although she is really busy, she manages to find time to write books about journalism. She is still so passionate about reporting and never deprived her students or anyone who is interested in news from her knowledge of reporting and journalism. She believes reporting has not been developed well in Iran. Badiyi promises to share her skill and knowledge gained in several years of experience in Iranian media with everyone who has an interest in journalism in her latest book.
Badiyi doubts if the current situation of Iranian journalism meets the standards of professional journalism. Her ultimate desire is to work at a free newsroom for a free newspaper.
Mrs Badiyi, as a veteran journalism you’ve experienced a lot in this industry. Can you tell us where and when you started your career?
It has been 35 years that I have been working at this industry. I spend around 22 years of this period in the Kayhan Newspaper. I worked for reformist newspapers like Neshat, Asr-e Azadegan, Economic News and Azad for a year. the reason why my career was not really long at these newspapers is that some of these reformist newspapers were closed down by the government.
When I was a child and even at my teenage time I wished to be a doctor. My father, who passed away during my teenage age, always encouraged his children to study and continue their education. He always wanted me to become a doctor and study medicine at university. However, in fact it was him, himself, that introduced newspapers and the world of news to me. Everyday he bought all newspapers that were published at that time. The Kayhan and Ettela’at were the most newspapers of those days and were circulated in large numbers. My father told my brothers and I to read the daily papers. He had special interest in articles written by Abdolrahman Faramarzi, renowned Iranian columnist, in another word Faramarzi, who was the first editor in chief of the Kayhan Newspaper, was my father’s favourite writer.
My father passed away before I graduated from high school. i did not take part in the university entrance exam of medical science majors; instead I chose journalism at College of Social Sciences and Communication (today known as College of Social Communication at Allameh Tabatabai University). I owe this to my father and his passion for news.
How come you chose the Kayhan Newspaper?
It was quite common for university lecturers to choose among their journalism students and send them to newspapers for internship. My lecturers introduced me to Amir Taheri, the executive editor in chief of Kayhan. I started my job at the English service of the Kayhan Newspaper when I was 19 or 20 years old. Taheri edited and sometime rewrote the students’ articles and news to be published in the newspaper.
Do you remember the title of the first report that you wrote?
Yes! The first article that I wrote was about an animal slaughterhouse in the Iranian capital Tehran. As for the slaughterhouse, it was destroyed after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and Bahman Cultural Centre was build on its remains.
What do you do for living? You have been away from your favourite career for years.
It has been around 12 years that I work for a state company as the head of publications. Along side this publication, I am also the editor in chief of two inter-organisation news publications. I find it sad that I was away from reporting, my favourite job in journalism and I regret it; however, I have been working in the same career and did not distance myself form journalism.
Don’t you find it hard to be far and away from journalism?
I am not officially separated from journalism and as I mentioned before I am the editor in chief of two inter-organisation news publications. Yet, I have to admit it is really painful and sad to be away from the hallowed atmosphere of newsroom. In fact for people of my generation newsroom of a newspaper was a hallowed place. However, as a person who has lived during the revolution and Iran-Iraq war and even during the reform in the country, I do not see the Iranian journalism at its peak anymore. I still believe the newsroom either is hallowed or must be considered as a hallowed hall.
Why has reporting been always your favourite task in the all years of your career as a journalist?
I guess because reporting is the most creative and dynamic category in journalism. A reporter does her best to create a perfect picture of life by using words and sentences. In some cases the picture they draw is more painful or joyful than the real picture of life.
Did you start your career as a reporter from the very first beginning?
Writing by Dr. Sadreddin Elahi, a lecturer of journalism in the College of Communication Sciences in Iran, brought the first spark of magic to my professional life. Dr. Elahi was my reporting lecturer and did not approve my style of writing. He believed my style was more practical for story telling. I was inexperienced and did not pay much attention to his guidelines. I have to admit that I regret such ignorance and now that I am at the verge of retirement, I am planning on writing a book and take some serious steps in literature.
To me reporting is not just a style of writing; it is a technic. I find reporting one of the strongest and stablest technics and tools in journalism. I am expanding the basics of reporting my book comprehensively.
How do you evaluate reporting in Iranian press?
Reporting has been either totally removed or has been poorly treated. I hope I can elaborate the whole concept of reporting in my latest book or future books.
What is the reason behind such a poor evaluation? Have the Iranian journalists lost their motive and their cause for reporting?
The reason why reporting is weakened is not much different from the reason behind today’s weak journalism in Iranian press. I dare to say Iranian newspapers are meeting the standards of journalism at any sections from feature writing to column writing, let alone reporting.
There were days that people did not tend to choose reporting as their main field of work because it was too professional and difficult for them to handle. Investigating and finding information is not an easy task. Oriana Fallaci is a perfect example of investigative journalist. There are some great names in literature that started their career as reporters before they started writing books. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Steinbeck and Jack London are a few of such great names in literature that were reporters before becoming great authors.
In fact, reporters who are working at this field have not been educated specifically for reporting. They cannot realise the necessities and application of reporting. The Kayhan newspaper founded the reporting in Iranian journalism. Unfortunately, Iranian reporters did not enjoy much of related educated. I strongly believe there is no such a thing as reporting in our journalism.
Has a new style or technic replace reporting while it was suffering from gradual decrease?
I repeat myself, the reporting is not a style, it is a tool that journalism enjoys utilising in its benefit, like interview, news, and other tools. If you can replace news or interview with another thing, then surely you can replace reporting with it too!
In fact creating such concepts as style and categories and some cliches in online journalism as weakened the reporting. Internet meets the basic demand of the target audience and quench their thirst with the first relevant answer. However, the first answer is not necessarily the deepest and the best answer. I believe reporting must be revived in the traditional press to replace such two-line news style that only cover the surface of the matters.
Has reporting been your favourite technique in journalism of all times?
Yes, it has. Reporting is my main skill in journalism. I proudly say that the Kayhan newspaper had the most professional reporting team back in 1970s and 1980s. Descriptive and analytical reports that were publish in the Kayhan newspaper served as profiles of the newspaper. There were outcomes of thorough researches and enjoyed such good references that MPs used to refer to the Kayhan reports as documents not only media reports.
Ms Badiyi, can you tell us about some of your reports, the reports that have been eternal in your mind?
One of the reports that I wrote in late 1970s was a report about Azad University in Iran. The report was such an influentially challenging report that Azad University replied to that report in an comprehensive letter. It was such a long response that we could not publish it in one edition; we published it in ten editions.
I wrote many reports of such kind that were followed by responses from the government and they all were unprecedented in their nature. I wrote a report about the fatal earthquake in Manjil and Rudbar, located in the northern province of Gilan, in 1990. The report, titled "here used to be called Manjil once," was touching and made my colleagues to cover the incident for two consecutive months. Reports about suburbs of Tehran and bombings in the country during Iran-Iraq war and reports on aware stricken cities in southern Iran are more about memories than reporting. I am planning to compile and publish all of them in a book.
Which one is your favourite?
A series of reports about the environment in northern Iran and the Caspian Sea were among favourites for long time. A report about Ms Esmat Faraji, whose son was killed during the Iran-Iraq war has also been one of my favourites. I wish I can publish a book about women of war and the role they played during the war.
How will you describe journalism in Iran in one sentence?
Journalism in Iran is suffering from deplorable quality.
Some journalists, who have quit their jobs in this industry and distanced themselves from news, believe there is no point in working for media in Iran. What do you think about it? Do you find it pointless too?
Yes. Under current situation in the country I find it pretty anarchic and wrong to work for the press in Iran. I will never work for media in Iran to only earn money unless I see a significant reform in this industry inside the country.
Don’t you differentiate between reformist an conservative media? Don’t you find journalists working for reformist newspaper influencial?
I do not even find a reformist newspaper in the country. What we see is not even comparable to real reformist newspapers.
What is your biggest worry these days?
What worries me the most is the fact that we do not have real newspapers and we do not read challenging criticisms.
What is your biggest dream as a journalist?
As a journalist I wish we have free press and I hope our journalists find a way to gain back the credit that they have lost.
You have conducted various researches on press in Iran. When did Iran enjoy the freest press and newspapers?
I believe Iranian journalists experienced the freest time in their career from July 1979 until April 1980. Then later during the presidency of reformist cabinet journalists tasted freedom but never even got close to 1979 and 1980. I must add at the freedom of press reached its peak in a strike in 1984. During Iran-Iraq war we experienced much limitations as well; because of the war we had to take many factor into consideration before publishing an article.
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