So begins “Our Man in Tehran" ...
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Love brought him, a nation fascinated him
Berrima Bunch Gin, Gary, Evan et al ....
“Once upon a time, on a dusty road, I met a girl. It was in one of the most isolated countries in the world. Seventeen years later, I’m still here.”
So begins “Our Man in Tehran" ...
So begins “Our Man in Tehran" ...
"Rejection doesn't have to be the end of the line" according to Carve Magazine. To which end, they include the coolest column in each issue: Decline/Accept, with commentary from a writer whose work, originally declined by Carve, has been accepted elsewhere. The author writes about their rejection/revision/acceptance, a snippet of the original work is included with Carve editors' comments as well the snippet revised (if applicable) along with editors' comments from the publication that accepted the work.
The Summer 2018 issue features Kelly Hill, whose story "The Bearded Loon" was published in the July 2017 issue of Upstreet. Hill comments on the rejection and subsequent acceptance, "I've been doing this writing thing long enough to understand that the story I set out to tell is not always the story I write or the story that others ultimately read. I'm always thankful for good feedback from insightful readers, although any feedback can be useful if it helps you mentally justify your stylistic choices."
Decline/Accept is a great craft component for readers and writers alike, and you can see a full listing with links out (when available) to the final published work here.What Aretha Franklin’s singing taught me about writing. By Roy Peter Clark.
So begins “Our Man in Tehran,” an unusually personal Frontline series by New York Times correspondent Thomas Erdbrink. The first part aired last night and it concludes tonight on PBS.
In this extraordinary documentary, Erdbrink starts at the last solar eclipse of the 20th century, where he, a visiting Dutch journalist and bartender, meets a photographer named Newsha Tavakolian in rural Iran. Erdbrink expands the narrative to observe and to talk with family, colleagues and people across Iran’s spectrum. He focuses on the human connection: how people adjust their lives to fit Iran’s many and often vague rules.
Director Roel van Broekhoven positions Erdbrink as a kind of good-humored but persistent guide to a nation that officially opposes America, though many of Iran's people adore it. The two seek a certain candor from sources on, among other topics, marriage, clothing restrictions, pop music, the internet, faith and martyrdom. To do so, Erdbrink often has to open up about his own life (like why they don’t have children) or his failed Iranian film career.
"I don't like to put myself out there, but I felt I had to," Erdbrink told me. Why talk publicly about children? “In Iran,” Erdbrink said from the Iranian capital in a Skype call Monday that he warned could be monitored, “everybody is involved with your personal lives.” In return, he has the liberty to ask strangers about new cars, nose jobs or their families.
His Farsi skills, earnest nature, longevity in the country, marriage to an Iranian and status as a "neutral" outsider — not American, Israeli or British — aids him as he talks to citizens at the dried-up River of Life in Istafan, the shrine to beloved poet Hafez in Shiraz or the street currency trading market in Tehran. (One trader pulls out stacks of dollars to show his admiration for the U.S. currency and its "In God We Trust" motto. “Dollars are the best,” he tells Erdbrink. “You should always buy them.”)
The idea for an American network broadcast began a year ago in Tehran over meat stew at the downtown restaurant Dizi, Erdbrink said. His lunchmates, visiting documentarians David Fanning and Martin Smith of Frontline, were in town producing their own film (“Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia”). Fanning had seen video snippets of Erdbrink's video reporting from The New York Times website.
“Are you doing more?” he asked Erdbrink.
“I want this.”
“Are you sure?” Erdbrink asked.
Erdbrink and director van Broekhoven had produced an award-winning four-part, 180-minute series for Dutch TV in 2014. Last year, they created a five-part, 225-minute followup. The U.S. version compresses each season into two films, each just shy of two hours.
Erdbrink acknowledges jitters about the American version's reception — in the United States and Iran. An Iranian censor tells him, on air, that higher-up officials disliked aspects of the first series, including the portrayal of a fierce theocracy defender known in Iran as Big Mouth, and tensions among cosmopolitan women. Both themes re-occur in the second series, three years later, as U.S.-Iranian relations have taken on a more bellicose tone.
Among the objections: a lunchtime scene in which Newsha Tavakolian acknowledges to her family, initially wary of Erdbrink, that she proposed to him — not the other way around. It's my favorite scene in the series.
“Are you still happy?” Erdbrink asks her.
“I’ll tell you later,” Tavakolian replies, smiling slightly, as the table erupts in laughter.
The correspondent hopes these first two segments may open the door for a third look. He said the video project, the filming of which had been approved but not previewed by Iranian officials, complements the news and normal foreign correspondent fare. The news and the documentary together, he hopes, could give a person a broader and more nuanced look at a fascinating culture and nation.
DETAINED REPORTERS: Chinese police detained a Voice of America Mandarin-language service correspondent and his assistant for more than six hours. The two had been trying to interview a retired academic who was dragged off two weeks ago for talking to the press. Before their release before dawn Tuesday, VOA director Amanda Bennett said, “It is outrageous that two journalists have been detained for nothing more than doing their jobs.”
WHAT'S THIS ABOUT A HOSPICE?: Did Facebook really raise the scenario to Australian news executives that if they don't work with the social network, Facebook would be holding their hands, like in a hospice? That's what The Australian reports — and Facebook denies. Nieman Lab's Josh Benton looks at the brouhaha — and the truth behind Facebook's plunging traffic referrals to publishers.
MANHANDLED: A New York Post reporter who had the temerity to ask New York Mayor Bill de Blasio a question at a public event on Sunday. Two bodyguards removed Kevin Sheehan after he asked the mayor, who styles himself as a champion for press freedom, for reaction to a Page One story on de Blasio's 136 documented meetings with lobbyists over a three-month stretch this year.
GIVEBACK: The chief executive of the Financial Times returned nearly one fifth of his $3.3 million salary after employees complained that his pay had swollen to 100 times that of an entry-level journalist. No tears for John Ridding, please, whose move came ahead of an all-hands union meeting on his pay. Ridding’s compensation had risen 25 percent in the past year alone, the Guardian reported. Ridding said the returned money will be used to promote women’s careers and reduce the gender pay gap. Will other media CEOs follow suit?
MERGER: The third and fourth biggest public radio networks are merging, with a focus on the podcasting future. The innovative Cambridge-based PRX, home to This American Life, The Moth, TED Daily and the Radiotopia slate of podcasts, will join PRI, the co-producer of radio news shows The Takeaway, PRI’s The World and Innovation Hub. The merged company, to be based in Boston, will be run by PRX CEO Kerri Hoffman. The deal comes with with a $10 million investment by PRI’s parent company, public broadcasting giant WGBH. We'll be covering the story in greater depth in coming days.
· Americans don’t think Facebook and Google are doing enough to fight ‘fake news.’ By Daniel Funke.