Tehran Times, affiliated with Mehr News, conducted an interview with her. Following is the text of the interview:
Please introduce yourself, your education and your job and explain about your job achievements, especially in journalism and other fields?
My name is Farideh Dada. I received my bachelor’s degree in English in Iran and my master’s degree in mass communications and journalism in the US.
As a journalist in Iran, I decided to continue my career in journalism in the US. I had an internship at the Poughkeepsie Journal in New York, and worked as a copy editor at the Palo Alto Daily News in California. When I was offered a journalism instructor position at San Jose City College in California, I devoted most of my time to teaching journalism to students. I teach journalism at both De Anza College and San Jose City College. I taught at Menlo College in the past.
Please explain about your feelings about Tehran Times as your first experience of journalism.
When I was offered the job more than 22 years ago, I was thrilled and I was jumping up and down from joy. I am still having the same amount of love and respect for Tehran Times.
I have such fond memories. I was not a journalist when I joined the newspaper, but I was proud when I became one. Tehran Times provided an opportunity for me to learn and practice journalism. My interest in journalism developed gradually. It was through Tehran Times that I attended Resaneh Journalism Center, took journalism courses and expanded my knowledge. I learned journalism skills from my coworkers and my editors. I managed to build lifelong relationships with some of the fine people in the industry.
How can you compare Iranian women in journalism with Western women active in this field?
Journalists seek truth and report it to the public. That’s what all journalists strive to do, whether female, or male, in Iran or in the US. The difference is the rules that govern media, the freedom that exists in some countries more than the others, and the tolerance toward criticism that authorities of some countries have more than the others.
Being a journalist comes with responsibilities, regardless of your gender and your location. You are not in a business of pleasing people; you have to serve your audience. Your job is to inform your readers, to bring awareness to your community, to educate people, stick to the truth and keep your credibility and integrity intact, be fair, let all people with diverse opinions be heard, and not get manipulated by the powerful.
You are wearing hijab in a country in which a little number of women observe it. What is your feeling about your hijab and how is others’ reaction toward it?
Hijab, and religion in general, is something completely personal to me and to many people here. For the most part, I have not felt discrimination against me because of my religion. When I was a graduate student here, I remember how my professors were supporting me and applauding me for being faithful to my culture, religion and tradition. I feel safe and well-respected at work and in public. I don’t deny the hardship that comes with “being different,” but it might be partly an internal feeling. California, and Bay Area in particular, is the most diverse part of the US.
It is a place where most people strive to treat everyone equally, regardless of race, gender, age, religion, etc. I am sure that some Muslims are treated poorly in some parts of the US, but I should say Muslims are treated better here than minorities in many other countries. Unfortunately, the worst reactions that I have received were from fellow Iranians, who judge me based on some stereotypes because of politics. Ideology, religion and politics are intertwined for Iranians.
In your opinion, what is the difference between men and women in social activity and work?
One of the first things that amazed me in this society was how men and women participate in every type of works and activities shoulder-to-shoulder with each other. I don’t see any difference between the two genders. As long as males and females are interested and capable of performing certain duties, that should be enough to give them permission to do it.
How do you see the situation of Iranian women? In Iran and in the USA?
It’s been so long since I left Iran and I might not have an accurate perception of today’s Iranian women. There are many successful Iranian women in both Iran and the US. There seems to be more opportunities for women in Iran compared to years ago.
How do you feel about your position as a Muslim, Iranian woman who is a University Professor in the US? Are you proud of that?
I don’t think much about my religion or my gender in my day-to-day life. Teaching is a very gratifying job. I am proud that I do something that I have a strong passion for; I am proud that I can serve students, share my knowledge with them, and train some future journalists. Journalism empowers students. It instills self-confidence in them. It makes them better managers and communicators. It’s enthralling to see my students become better critical thinkers, develop passion for journalism and become media practitioners. It’s great to feel I can make a difference in some lives.
Any other subject you want to speak about?
Journalism became sacred for me after being in the field and seeing dedicated journalists who lost their lives or were imprisoned for expressing the truths, exposing wrongdoings and shedding light on injustices for the betterment of people and the world. Journalists don’t receive the respect they deserve in Iran. I hope the situation of journalists and freedom of expression will improve in Iran.
Interview by: Naghmeh Mizanian