An Iranian journalism school graduate speaks with Tehran Bureau

Have you ever been a practicing journalist? What got you interested in studying journalism?

Well, it went back to many years ago, when I met a guy who was working for Mr. Khatami’s press team. He had a weblog and we talked about lots of things. After university entrance exam, I decided to study archeology, but he encouraged me to chose journalism. Because of my ability to write different kind of reports at that moment, I believed he was right and I did what he said (which I wish I didn’t, though!) 

Where did you study, and how would you evaluate your faculty? Was it difficult to get accepted? 

I studied communication sciences at Tehran University. As it maybe sounds, it was difficult to get accepted. However, after a while I realized that difficulty was nonsense. In fact, what was taught to us was sort of a sociology thesis about media and there weren’t any exciting practical lessons. The knowledge of professors was also dramatically out of date! 

What was your dissertation topic?

I had no dissertation topic.

Were you taught the practical basics of journalism? Is there anything you wish you were taught but hadn’t been?

After finishing university, I attended some classes about learning to do some interviews and write reports at Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). At the end of the course, I got a certificate with a good grade. So they called and asked if I interested to work as an intern there, which I accepted. 

The point is, during the course, I found out there was no need to go to university. I didn’t learn anything there and my knowledge of work only came from the classes I passed and talking to the seniors. 

What are your impressions about the differences between the way journalism is taught in the West and in Iran?

I watched some videos on YouTube about teaching and learning various kind of journalism. I also did some online courses at some sites, like Coursera, and I could say that trying to draw a comparison between journalism in Iran and the West would be like making the comparison between guys who swim to save their lives and Olympic swimmers. 

Of course, I understand the difference in quality of work has come from the freedom of speech and freedom of media. 

In the West, journalists don’t have to face the threat from government. Their only concern would be the fight with hard subjects. In Iran, not only the subjects but also the Big Brother is the main issue for journalists and reporters, who get tracked down even on social media!

Did you ever learn about mass communication theory? If so, what stood out?

I’ve read something about that a couple of years ago but, honestly, I couldn’t remember what was the main point. 

What are your thoughts about the quality of journalism in Iran? Is it improving, and if so how? Do you believe it has a role to play beyond promoting the views of the regime?

Having freedom of speech, having a free and a spunky media/press is the fundamental thing that a journalist needs.

In fact, freedom of speech and media is like the sky. No matter if you have wings or not, without a clear, clean blue sky you have nothing to do.

Of course, there are so many social medias these days for people who have something to say. But giving information through these networks and trying to make changes [that way] is like lighting a candle in front of a storm. It may give a quick light, but it disappears as soon as it exists.

I believe the quality of journalism is getting worse. I’m talking about the quality of real journalism, that part which is dedicated to transparency, not that kind which works for the regime. The regime knows how to manipulate people in this area to get what they want. And for those who don’t want to be a puppet, things often have a bad ending.

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