Ardalan: From 1984 to 1986, I was the English News Anchor for
the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. At the age of 20, I was intrigued by
the idea of relating the news but I knew nothing about journalism. In 1989, I
moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and enrolled in Journalism school at the
University of New Mexico. Soon after, I was a reporter at KUNM, the local NPR
Station. I knew then I had the DNA of a journalist and had my eyes and ears set
on landing a job in Washington, DC.
Question: How did you end up at NPR, what were you doing there at first and how did you end up being a producer?
Ardalan: I moved to Washington, DC, in the summer of 1993, with
the assurance of two weeks of temporary work at NPR News. I had to take the
risk because I knew the chances of me getting hired would be better if I had
face time in the building and I could prove my skills. A year later, I moved to
a full-time production assistant position at Weekend Edition Sunday. After
spending nearly twelve years as a field producer, teaming with NPR hosts and
correspondents to report on topics including girls in New York gangs, gambling
in Atlantic City casinos, and Islam in cyberspace, I moved to Morning Edition in
January 2005. This was a time of great transition as long-time Host Bob Edwards
had left the show. I was one of the creative forces that helped reshape the show
with Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne. In 2008, I was named the Senior
Supervising Producer of Weekend Edition. One of our first remotes was a trip to
Cairo, Egypt to report on the effects of Climate Change on the Nile Delta (view).
Having NPR's Liane Hansen sitting on a boat on the mouth of the Nile River
reporting from Egypt was one of the highlights of my career.
Question: How do you feel you impacted NPR (and Morning Edition/Weekend Edition) during your tenure there?
Ardalan: My mentor and one of the founders of Morning Edition,
Jay Kernis, says I brought the "Davar touch" to many of my productions at NPR.
My main impact was my understanding of how to creatively turn both domestic and
international news headlines into compelling and contextual sound-rich broadcast
stories. I have also been at the forefront of digital innovation having
introduced social networking tools early to the Weekend Edition newsroom. Scott
Simon, Liane Hansen and the
Weekend Edition staff are engaging the audience in ways unthinkable in the
past. I helped NPR embrace audience interactivity.
Question: How do you see the role of press on public opinion? How do social media change this role?
Ardalan: We are entering a new paradigm where people of all
walks of life will participate and collaborate in creating the next digital news
landscape. The press must do a better job of giving voice to minority
communities and empowering them to interact through social networking tools and
online discussion and storytelling platforms. We must do a better job of being
inclusive and attracting more diversity of opinion in mainstream news. In terms
of social media, from Iran to Haiti to Chile, we monitored harrowing tweets
after the 2009 disputed elections and the devastating earthquakes of 2010. News
organizations across the country are reinventing and recasting their websites to
adapt to today's digital reality partly because social media has been a game
Question: What motivated you to write My Name is Iran?
Ardalan: Several reasons, I dropped my first name when I came
to Brookline High School in 1980. American hostages were still being held
captive in Tehran and "Bomb Iran" was a common remark. For too long, the
tumultuous events surrounding Iran had made me shy away from my full identity.
But working through my fears and anxieties, I understood that I am a product of
my past-American and Iranian. I wanted to say My Name Is Iran with PRIDE. I
also wanted to document the struggle for human rights and justice and wanted to
explore the powerful Persian myths and legends that make-up the psyche of
Question: What role do you think social media is playing on the political developments in Iran? Do you see it making an impact on the direction the country is going to take?
Ardalan: In June, 2009, as a Senior Producer at NPR and through
my connections in Iran, I received hundreds of documents, photos,
emails and status updates from the front lines of the disputed Presidential
election. Emerging from the round-ups and riots that shook the nation, I found
a political and social sea-change taking place: unprecedented, direct
communication and information that flowed over and around any effort to suppress
it. This experience strengthened my resolve that the next era of digital news
will be like no other. And as I navigate through my next media calling, I have
women and youth to thank for enhancing my digital storytelling frame of
Question: Why leave NPR and what can you share with us about what you plan to do after NPR?
Ardalan: I felt I had reached the pinnacle of my career at NPR, having worked on all the flagship shows, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition. I also know journalism is changing. I want to practice civic journalism, the philosophy that journalism must be participatory in nature, allowing the public to interact on issues important to their communities. I am in research mode now and considering several exciting possibilities that will come together in the next six months. And perhaps most importantly, I want to help shape the future of news without having to sacrifice my family by continuing to work on weekends.
... Payvand News - 04/16/10 ... --