Friday, June 17, 2005

Former L.A. Times Iranian Correspondent, Azadeh Moaveni, Writes On Iran For Time Magazine

The L.A. Times seems all too often to develop sharp foreign correspondents who end up writing for other publications. Three women, Azadeh Moaveni, Ginger Thompson and Somini Sengupta, are among them. The question I pose is, why aren't they still with the L.A. Times?

Moaveni showed up last week with a long, brilliant article on Iran for Time magazine, "Fast Times in Tehran, Iran's Once Restive Youth Is More Interested In Making Money Than In Politics. An Intimate Look At How The Regime Bought Off A Generation."

This indeed is an intimate look. Moaveni, who grew up in San Jose, California after her family emigrated from Iran, was educated at UC Santa Cruz and then won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Egypt, and later worked in the Middle East for Time, before going to Iran for the L.A. Times, is the author of the highly regarded recent book "Islamic Jihad," about her adventures spanning the two societies, Iranian and American.

She was a correspondent for The Times in Iran in 2001-02. Now, she continues to spread her wings, living in Beirut and working as a free lancer. She has a writing style and approach that is indeed intimate. In her latest Time article, in the issue dated June 13, she brilliantly weaves such experiences as joy riding with young Iranians, attending a practice session of 127, Iran's hottest underground rock band, and chatting with a waiter at a popular kabob restaurant into a provocative analysis of Iran's mood before the latest round of elections.

Moaveni is far from the usual foreign correspondent who delves into only the surface political matters and is content with interviewing officials. L.A. Times foreign coverage is usually not nearly so exciting as what Time prints of her recent Iranian trip.

Moaveni is a very good-humored, upbeat person. In Iran, she smiled so much that Iranians said they could tell right away she also had an American background, because young Iranians are usually much more somber.

Somini Sengupta, like Thompson, got her start in journalism in the Times' wholesome preoccdupation with training minority journalists. It's just too bad the Times' Met Pro program often seems to result in the graduates of Times training putting their hard won experience to work elsewhere.

Sengupta, now a New York Times correspondent in India and other Third World countries, has won numerous prizes for also, like Moaveni, delving deeping into the stories she covers. Her work in Liberia, in Kashmir and many other places in Africa and Asia, has been unusually insightful. She won a Polk Award for Foreign Reporting in 2004 and was also featured by the Poynter Institute for outstanding newspaper writing in 2000. She was born in Calcutta, India, but grew up mainly in Southern California and graduated from UC Berkeley.

Often flirting with danger, Sengupta goes into rural neighborhoods most foreign correspondents seldom travel to, and then comes out with heartrending tales. Her story from Kashmir on an isolated Hindu village attacked by Muslim extremists was one of a kind, and her accounts of the brutality of the Liberian civil war had no equal.

As part of the Times' Met Pro program, Sengupta, viewed by her editors as the best of that class, was sent for the second year to Newsday, only to be relieved there as part of dumb union rules that said if there was a staff cutback, the last reporter in had to be the first out. She simply walked across the street, as it were, and went to work with the New York Times. Newsday, often so poorly treated by outside owners at both Times-Mirror and the Tribune Co., was not a good place to send her.

Sengupta won her New York Times spurs after 9-11 with an article detailing how black and Hispanic New Yorkers came to see the New York Fire Department in a more positive light after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center.

Ginger Thompson, another Met Pro, was sent for the second year to the Baltimore Sun, and ended up at the more desirable New York Times. She has been that newspaper's correspondent in Mexico and has recently also written in the Caribbean. Her work too is more insightful than many foreign correspondents. This shows too how the second year assignments of the Met Pro program often lead to losing talented reporters.

Three terrific young women whose careers are only beginning. It's too bad the L.A. Times let them out the door.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Azadeh Moaveni's book is called "Lipstick Jihad", not "Islamic Jihad".

7/07/2005 2:31 PM  
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