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But still a one-man show
September 12, 2001
In a 1997 article I wrote about the "imagined Iranian culture"
among second-generation Iranians in the United States. I referred to the
new bicultural literature created by this generation in a gray zone where
values and norms overlap and provide opportunities for a creative synthesis.
Then, I wrote: "The most dynamic and representative examples of this
experimentation can be found in The Iranian and Chanteh, where
second-generation youths are engaged in lively dialogical interpretation
of their parental culture and history."
As I write this piece, I look back and see how far The Iranian has
come and how much it has contributed to a growing sense of community among
second-generation Iranians. I have been an avid reader of this magazine
and its daily email bulletin, The Iranian Times. There is no other
website or even printed magazine providing so much room for the new generation
who are products of Iranian diaspora to air their feelings, discuss their
concerns, and present their creative works in photography, poetry, and literature.
All this has become possible due to the dedication and perseverance of Jahanshah
Javid, who has been doing this single-handedly.
In a 1993 piece reviewing the post revolutionary Iranian press inside
and outside Iran, I mentioned two shortcomings of the Iranian media abroad.
First, they did not respond to the needs and concerns of second generation
Iranians. They were too focused on the needs and concerns of the first generation
of immigrants and on political issues in their homeland. This was particularly
true of the printed media. Second, most of Iranian newspapers, radio and
TV stations were run as family businesses in a one-man show style. Both
these problems seem to continue today, though to a lesser degree and in
a different form.
Though primarily serving as a voice and forum for the younger Iranians,
The Iranian has tried its best to lend itself to needs and concerns
of the first generation as well. However, The Iranian still remains
a one-man show! You all remember that when Jahanshah moved from Washington,
D.C., to San Francisco, we had no Iranian Times for several days.
What would happen if something happens to him? What if, God forbid, he becomes
My point is clear: The Iranian is too dependent on its publisher,
though it is not a magazine representing his personal views and concerns.
The Iranian needs to institutionalize itself. It needs to hire staff,
increase its coverage, expand its subscription base, and become independent
of its founder. That way, The Iranian will remain a viable source
of information, debate, and creativity for young Iranians growing up in
America. But can Jahanshah do all this?
Business has never been an interest of mine and I lack even basic skills
in this area. However, as a person who has been involved with publications
and printed media, I know that READERS are the backbone of a magazine or
newspaper. Without them, even the best content remains unread and useless.
I hope the large population of Iranians in the United States, especially
those whose professions and businesses are blessed with ample rewards, see
to it that The Iranian survives and receive adequate support.
The Iranian has to be supported as a medium connecting Iranians
with each other at home and abroad, making Iranian ideas, views, and concerns
known to the whole world. It is a vehicle of cultural growth for the generation
of Iranian-Americans who are more comfortable reading and writing in English
-- a generation who approaches Iran, Iranian culture, and Iranian history
with a perspective devoid of the ideological and political baggage we older
people carry with us.
It is this generation that will be looking after the interests of Iran
in America. They are generational ambassadors carrying our biological and
cultural imprints to the next generation of American leadership. The
Iranian is an online magazine worth investing in for this future generation
- a magazine for today and tomorrow. Support
1. See Ali Akbar Mahdi, "Ethnic Identity among Second-Generation
Iranians in the United States," Iranian Studies, Volume 31, Number
1, winter 1998.
2. See Ali Akbar Mahdi, "Sociological Characteristics of the Post-Revolutionary
Iranian Press," Fasl-e Ketab (A Persian Book Review Quarterly), Nos.
12-13, winter & spring 1993, London, U.K.
Ali Akbar Mahdi is chair and professor at the Department of Sociology
and Anthropology, Ohio Wesleyan University. Homepage here.