By Ali Kushki

On the 41st anniversary of The Tehran Times

May 4, 2020 - 18:11

It is a blistering summer day in 2015. I’m receiving a call from a pal of mine while driving toward the capital Tehran. “Are you still job-hunting?” he enquires passionately. “Yes, I am”, I reply. “The Tehran Times is hiring if the world of media intrigues you enough”, he continues saying, knowing that I used to teach media courses to college undergrads. 

It was not just the summer heat lashing at me viciously, turning this road trip into a wearisome, endless succession of mirages. For a freshly minted English language graduate, the uncertainty over landing a decent job had lately been hollowing me from inside just like a tree trunk eaten by a worm. Worst off, I had just lost my significant other to all craziness in my life. That said, I grew up believing the Persian saying that paddling in turbulent waters renders a sailor stronger. 

A week after the call, I took a written test at the Tehran Times, having to translate and put flesh on the bones of a story about the Castro brothers. This was followed by two interviews. Mr. Saki, the first interviewer, seemed to be as standoffish and unsmiling as the Castro brothers. "All we expect is commitment and discipline", he told me, looking at his computer while pounding hard on the keyboard. God knows what he was typing! Before long, I realized first impressions were not always a reliable source of judgment as we got to know one another more. He had a great sense of humor and was easy to get along with. Then editor-in-chief Mr. Lasjerdi, the second interviewer, was more amiable, making me feel at home by frontloading a serious conversation with some cordial small talk. In hindsight, the second interview was akin to having an orange juice after an uphill run!

The wait before hearing back from the Tehran Times, two or three weeks, killed almost all my hopes. By the end of the same summer, however, I was eventually hired. That hot summer ended up in one of the coolest breezes in my entire life by then. 

The two-year journalism stint at the Tehran Times injected so much meaning into me. The great minds and souls I was privileged to work with uplifted me intellectually and professionally, cultivated in me a sense of belongingness, and walked me through the uncharted waters of factual journalism. Although I no longer work with the news service, I have tried to keep the friendships going. I did not imagine those serious faces would one day become the most companionable and approachable faces in my life. I cannot thank them enough for all they have taught me. It is these wonderful people who have earned the newspaper trustworthiness, steadiness of character, and authenticity domestically and overseas. When I started living with an American family in 2019, I was not surprised to learn they knew the Tehran Times.

In Persian culture, forty is the number of maturity. As the Tehran Times nears its the 41st anniversary, I am so thrilled to see it come of age. For all the financial hardships the newspaper has experienced, it has never stopped feeding truth to its audience. In the unique fabric of Iran, the daily has been a leading moderate voice for the entirety of its forty-year history. This would have been impossible to accomplish had it not been for the commitment and sacrifice of the daily’s journalists and staff, some of whom there for nearly three decades.

Reaching maturity in the world of media brings higher expectations than ever, too. Living up to these logical expectations requires ongoing training, supporting investigative journalism, establishing exclusive sources of news and analysis, expanding international collaboration, hiring young, energetic minds, increasing online presence, and of course paying fatter payrolls. There is always room for improvement in these areas, and the Tehran Times is no exception.
Never mind where the daily stands in relation to these, I feel honored to have been part of the journey to maturity with the Tehran Times, though my meager contributions pale in comparison to those who have spent their entire journalism career at the daily. 

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