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Cover of the first issue of The Iranain

Keeping it real
Four years on the Internet is a mighty long time

By Jahanshah Javid
August 13, 1999
The Iranian

The Iranian was born four year ago this month. What a trip! I remember after the first issue I proudly boasted about "70,000 [hits], from 2,500 hosts in more than 20 countries in less than two months." This month has had just over 100,000 hits PER DAY, and at the current pace, it will be visited by 60,000 individuals (uniques) in August.

Not bad. Not bad at all. But I lost interest in all these numbers long ago. Who cares (except for my dear advertisers)? Give me a good quote, a few lines of sincere, interesting, refreshing words, a picture that would take my breath away -- or make me angry as hell --, a cartoon that would make it all worth it, despite the seemingly endless bad news from home.


Four years on the Internet is a mighty long time. Probably longer than dog years.

When I recently looked back at the first issue of The Iranian I thought, wow... that's it? Two months' worth of work? Back then it seemed like the hardest thing in the world. And we -- my cousin Karim Ardalan and I -- wondered what the hell are we going to offer in the next issue -- two months down the line.

Today The Iranian is updated every weekday AND there's also The Iranian Times.


The day begins at around eight in the morning with a call from my producers at the radio station to do a story on, say, the latest mass-shooting in some city in the U.S. Fine. That will be taken care of in a couple of hours.

I get up from the floor where I have fallen asleep in front of the TV in my last last night's clothes. I look at myself in the bathroom mirror. I should comb my hair. But I have work to do.

I sit behind the computer and, for pretty much the rest of the day, I stay there. First I download emails (about 150 a day). I delete most, read a few others (only the first three lines, usually), and reply to a couple if ABSOLUTELY necessary. Replies are rarely more than two sentences. Often they are limited to, "Thanks" or " :-) " or "That's wonderful!"

There's simply NO TIME to think and respond to every email in a decent manner. I have convinced myself that snappy, impersonal responses to emails are unavoidable. I feel less and less guilt, but can't get rid of it entirely. What to do? Go on working.


I go into the unused articles file. What would be good for today? Hmmm... had too many political stuff this week. Need something lighter. Another story about Iranian-American identity problems? Give it a rest. An excerpt from a book... sounds good. Go through the text, add some related links, pick a headline. Come up with a matching image. All done in about an hour and a half. Maybe two. It's getting late... shoot!

Okay. Next item. Photo of the Day. Search AP and Reuters photo banks. Nothing. Payman hasn't emailed anything either. Go through unused photo files. An old photo of some street in Tehran... no. Not again. Can't decide.

Update the Today page in The Iranian with material published the previous week in The Iranian Times. Rearrange some ads. Check to see if everything is okay. Forgot to change the date. Fix the date.

Go to daily Neshat on the web. Check out today's column by Ebrahim Navabi. First smile of the day. Use screen-saver to capture an image of the column. Edit in Photoshop. Upload image onto server. Prepare the satire page. Upload.

Check emails. Soma has another nice piece from Tehran. Email it to subscribers of the Times as an extra.

File radio report. It's late.

Back to Photo of the Day. What to do, what to do? Hmmm... Check out the front page of Iran newspaper on the web. The huge banner tells some important (miserable) event. Screen-saver. Upload image. Turn it into the Photo of the Day as a record of yet another memorable (unhappy) day in history.

Next. Nostalgia section, thanks to Pedram. I go through the images of Pop stars of yesteryears. Can't help laughing at their silly poses. Pick one. Upload. Move on.

Download emails. Nothing, really.

Pour a big glass of grapefruit juice. Turn on the radio. Pop tunes. Light a Marlboro Ultra Light. Leave it on the corner of the computer desk until it burns the edge.

Phone rings. Radio producer wants a story on the lifting of Iran food sanctions by the U.S. Okay. It's getting late... very late.

Go through the day's news emailed by Laleh and Payman. Read the headlines only. Go to Reuters, AP and BBC sites to check out their news as well. Pick the most important ones. Take a paragraph or two for news briefs. Add links. Select best feature article, usually from foreign sources, for the Outlook section.

Go back to Neshat and Iran newspapers on the web. Also see Hamshahri. Pick two or three items for the Sports and Arts news sections. Screen-save, edit, upload images. Create web pages for each news item. Upload.

The room is too cold. Adjust the thermostat. Warm up a piece of chicken in the microwave.

Web section. Go through Iranian web sites emailed by various people. Pick one that's most interesting. Is the web address correct? It works. Take one glance. Looks fine. Also pick a non-Iranian site of the day from Yahoo's weekly favorites.

It's three o'clock. Good lord it's late.

Exchange rate. Call Sehaty Exchange. Up another 10 tomans. Update.

Community news. Update.

Letters. Go through letters file. Pick the most interesting ones, preferably critical. Ignore the sweet comments about The Iranian, but save them anyway. Nice to know they're there. Update the Letters section with new comments. Wished more people would use their real name. I know, I know... there's still a lot of fear.

Anyway section. My favorite. Let it all hang out. Be outrageous. Forget all the sad and serious news. Life's too short. Laugh at all the ridiculous things around you...

Quote of the day... Christ it's late!


I know. It sounds disturbing, because it IS disturbing to any normal human being. But what can I say? I love my work. It's insanely hectic, but I wouldn't give it up for anything. As a result, I've lost a loved one and stopped virtually all contacts with family members and friends. Often I don't even reply to their emails.

My only contact with the "real" world is going swimming for an hour a day (if I have time), buying groceries once a week, or driving to the post office to check the mail. I might go to the movies once or twice a month or join friends for a meal now and then. But that's it. And then I want to get back behind the computer as fast as I can.

But why? It's the satisfaction I get from finishing each issue of The Iranian Times. At the end of the day, all the pieces fall into place and there it is, a reflection of who and what we are. It's sad, ugly, funny, outrageous, ridiculous, cruel, brilliant and beautiful. It's us in front of the mirror, before we take a shower and clean our teeth and comb our hair and put on make-up. It's real.

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