My name is Iran Davar Ardalan.
I was born in San Francisco and raised in Tehran, Iran. I began using my middle name, Davar, in the 1980’s in Boston after the American hostage crisis of 1979. Being born in the West and raised in the East, my heart and mind have wandered in both directions. Leaning toward my eastern side, my principle belief became fate or kismet; leaning toward my western side, I became a believer in free-will— “where there is a will, there is a way.”
My name is Iran, but being Iranian is not all of me. I am American, but being American is not all of me. I am a mother of four and a journalist, but these do not exhaust me. I am a woman standing on the edge of myself, unafraid of taking risks.
In the summer of 1993, I came to Washington, DC as a single-mother with two children, with the assurance of only two weeks of temporary work at NPR News. I had to take the risk because I knew the chances of getting hired would be better if I had “face time” in the building and could prove my skills.
A year later, I moved to a full-time production assistant position at Weekend Edition Sunday. In 2005, after spending nearly twelve years as a field producer, teaming with NPR hosts and correspondents to report on stories throughout America, I moved to Morning Edition as Supervisory Producer. This was a time of great transition as long-time Host Bob Edwards had left the program. I was one of the creative forces that helped reshape the show with Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne.
In 2008, I was named the Senior Supervising Producer of both Weekend Edition Sunday and Saturday, two of NPR's most popular news magazines reaching some seven million listeners. Our first big reporting trip was to Egypt to report on the impact of climate change on the Nile Delta. NPR's Liane Hansen and I sailed by boat to the mouth of the Nile River and Mediterranean Sea as we reported on the rising sea levels threatening Egypt’s ancient civilization and way of life. This trip was a highlight of my career and a dream international reporting assignment that I had longed for ever since I was a young girl growing up in Iran.
At NPR, I helped chronicle some of the most remarkable cultural and political stories coming out of Iran. My colleague Jacki Lyden and I reported extensively on the roars and whispers of Iranian women. Through women such as Simin Behbahani, Shirin Ebadi, Shahla Sherkat, Mehrangiz Kar, Azar Nafisi, Mahnaz Afkhami, Sussan Tahmasebi, and many others, NPR listeners learned about the invincible power of Iranian women.
In June 2009, as a Senior Producer and through my ancestry and connections in Iran, I followed hundreds of texts, tweets, emails and status updates from the front lines of the disputed Iranian election. Iranians embraced social media like never before, becoming the sole outlet for news escaping from a closed government. I found a media sea-change taking place: unprecedented, direct communication and information that flowed over and around any effort to suppress it. One particularly prescient email from Iran read: “Forward this to your friends. You are the media.”
We live in times when the architecture of media is shifting yet again. Women of all walks of life yearn for a deeper interactive understanding and appreciation of ideas, cultures and conversations. I strongly believe that Virtual Reality will be a transformative tool for us all. Immersive interactive story tools are being created now. VR will make our connections even more imaginative and impactful.
Virtual reality as a storytelling tool has the potential to transform hearts and minds. It’s the kind of breakthrough innovation that will disrupt media and communications.