At-Large Member: Dorothy Parvaz

Dorothy is a journalist for Al Jazeera Online, where she covers the Middle East, although she also has been reporting on the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. Born in Iran, Dorothy was raised in Tehran, Dubai and Vancouver, B.C.


What advice would you give young journalists just starting out?
There are great editors out there who will respond to solid work, but it’s also a tough market, with no shortage of people who will give you reasons to give up. They’ll hire people less qualified than you; they’ll ask you to work for little (or no) pay; they’ll tell you  that your article wasn’t good because it didn’t get more clicks than that feature where people submit photos of their kittens. Ignore them. Work hard. Then work harder. Maintain good relationships even with people who do nothing but slam doors in your face. If you’re in this field for the right reasons — the stories, not your ego — you’ll be fine.

Why is media diversity important to you?
Without it, there’s no balance — just incomplete stories.  A newsroom with little diversity — and by that I mean across all fields (race, education, economic, gender, etc.) — comes at stories from an impoverished perspective. I learn so much from my colleagues — I work with people from Eritrea, Sweden, Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand, etc. — and figure that if I bring a fraction of what they bring to the table, then I’m contributing something worthwhile.

What do you love most about being Asian American?
When you grow up with a mixed background, with different languages and in different countries, you tend to see things other people might not. In reporting, that could be as small as a reference or as huge as overall context. And Iran (my little chunk of Asia) is often in the news and generally poorly reported on by many news outlets. So I try to do my best to help decipher the complex issues that come out of there for readers.

Are there any interesting facts you want to share with us?
The first time I took a copy test? Bombed it. It was at a newspaper in Tokyo. The desk chief, this American guy named Ron, called me back anyway because apparently, I was the first person to answer one of the questions on the test correctly. (Q: What does the word “Islam” mean? A: To submit). After writing a feature for them and going through another interview, I got the gig.

Learn more about other AAJA members profiled for AAPI Month.