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Roxana Saberi encourages students to pursue journalism goals



Karen Grabowski, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 215, kgrabowski@spj.org


INDIANAPOLIS – Roxana Saberi, who was jailed in Iran earlier this year, encouraged student journalists to follow their passions saying, “never before in history has good journalism been needed – we are in an age of reinvention.”

Saberi was the keynote speaker for Friday’s Mark of Excellence Awards Luncheon, the signature student event at the 2009 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference, which continues through Sunday.

“Roxana Saberi is inspirational and a great role model for all the students she spoke to today,” SPJ President Dave Aeikens said.

Saberi, the freelance journalist imprisoned in Iran from Jan. 31 to May 11, shared how she followed her dreams and became a journalist, starting out in her hometown of Fargo, N.D. She opened her speech by thanking the Society for its support during the time she was jailed in Iran.

“I would like to thank you, SPJ, (because) without this kind of support from you and other journalists around the world, it is likely I would still be behind bars,” Saberi said.

Saberi encouraged students to learn how to use more than one medium; to learn all the different steps it takes to report – shoot and edit; to value the journalism experience anywhere you are in the world; and to cherish the press freedoms you have.

“Never take (the freedoms you have) for granted – never,” Saberi said. “But along with those freedoms comes responsibility.”

Considering her work as a broadcaster, Saberi advised students to be fair to their subjects and to, most importantly, treat them like humans.

“Have a general interest in the people, and if you really listen and care, it’s more than a sound bite, it’s a story – and everyone has a story to tell,” Saberi said.

A central message Saberi delivered was that whether you face a struggling industry, an editor with opposing views or a repressive government, you must follow the curiosity, wonder and passion that led you to the profession.

“Follow your heart,” Saberi said. “We can always make a difference no matter where we are.”

A dual citizen of Iran and the U.S., Saberi had been living in Iran for six years working as a freelance journalist for news outlets such as BBC and NPR before she was arrested. In April, she was charged with espionage and sentenced to eight years in jail. An Iranian appeals court later overturned Saberi’s sentence, freeing her from jail but forbidding her from reporting for five years. SPJ closely followed Saberi’s detainment in Iran, advocating for her release.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, visit www.spj.org.


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