Journalist of the month: Kourosh Ziabari

Oct 30, 2018 in Journalist of the Month

Each month, IJNet features an international journalist who exemplifies the profession and has used the site to further his or her career. If you would like to be featured, click here.

Kourosh Ziabari grew up in the newsroom of a small, weekly magazine — Hatef — which was one of the first local magazines established in northern Iran following the 1979 revolution.

His father currently works as the managing editor, and his mother is the editor-in-chief. It was in this magazine that Ziabari published his first piece when he was just 8 years old.

“It opened my eyes to a world full of papers, magazines, books and stationery, and I realized that my future would be tied to journalism,” said Ziabari.

Originally planning to pursue a path different than his parents, Ziabari intended to get his bachelor’s degree in mathematics. However, a high school teacher encouraged him to study English literature instead.

“And that was what dramatically changed my future,” Ziabari recalls.

He has since contributed to Iranian dailies such as Shargh and Etemaad, and soon after expanded his horizons by contributing to English-language publications abroad. His work has been published in publications all over the world, including The Huffington Post, The Fair Observer, openDemocracy, International Policy Digest and Stony Brook Independent, to name a few.

Not only does Ziabari keep busy contributing to different publications, but he is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Kent’s Center for Journalism in Great Britain as part of the Chevening Fellowship.

A longtime follower of IJNet, Ziabari has used it on numerous occasions to find opportunities to travel and report abroad. Through opportunities found on IJNet, Ziabari has traveled to Calgary, Canada, for the International Student Energy Summit; Bonn, Germany to cover the Global Media Forum; the Bolivar Department of Northern Colombia to explore cultural journalism and spent 21 days on a reporting trip with the East-West Center based in the United States.

Ziabari spoke with IJNet about his work, challenges he has encountered and advice for young journalists:

IJNet: What type of stories does your work generally focus on? Do you have a favorite?

Ziabari: It's difficult to say because I've literally published about everything. I've written and write about Iran's culture and arts, domestic and foreign policy; international relations; Middle East current affairs; religion; human rights, youth affairs and media effects. I conduct interviews with world leaders, politicians, diplomats, scientists, Nobel Prize laureates and experts on public policy.

I'm mostly interested in producing original reports and works of journalism from major global forums.

My most successful international reporting trip was covering the 2016 edition of the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France, hosted by the Council of Europe. However, I've also travelled and reported from a number of other international events, including the Global Media Forum 2015 in Bonn, Germany.

What were your favorite stories to cover?

There are not many stories I've covered that I can call my favorites. A piece I published on openDemocracy in November 2016 after taking part in the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, and an op-ed I published on the website Your Middle East challenging the dominant culture of sadness and dejection in Iranian TV productions in December 2015, I can name as two of the best.  

You’ve conducted a lot of interviews. Are there any that stick out to you?

Among the interviews I've done, I mostly like the one I did with the former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski in May 2015 for the San Francisco-based online publication Fair Observer about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a military expedition he described as "unfinished business.” Kwasniewski was a critic of the Iraq war, a respected name in Polish politics and also a proponent of Poland-U.S. alliance.

In early 2000s, I started a quest to produce a series of interviews with Nobel Prize laureates in physics, chemistry, medicine, economics and peace, which have appeared on different online and print publications, and I've put some of them on my personal website.

What advice do you have for young journalists?

Journalism is very arduous and not a highly regarded profession. It’s not well-paid, it’s not very easy to do and it consumes you. [I’m] 28 right now and with all of the challenges and failures I’ve felt so far, I feel like I’m 45.

Journalism is really difficult but anybody who is ready to join the industry and embrace the difficulties of the job might also find it interesting, enlightening and somewhat adventurous. I’ve personally survived natural disasters by covering different events or traveling to report. I’m talking about nearly being killed… but my recommendation for future journalists or aspiring journalists who are getting ready to join the industry is that they should make their job choice very conservatively and very wisely.

Main image courtesy of Laura Garcia Rodriguez Blancas.