Well folks, I’ve put this off for a long time, but I figured it was time I told you all about my amazing experience meeting and interviewing Afghan-Canadian journalist Nelofer Pazira.
At the beginning of this semester, our reporting prof gave us an interesting and unusual assignment. We were to get into groups of two or three and come up with a candidate,– a champion. A journalist so inspirational that no one would be able to question their amazing work or their journalistic integrity. Each week one group would make the case for their Journalism Idol candidate in front of the class and the rest of us would score their candidate out of 10. The winner would be chosen at the end of the term receiving much glory and celebration. It would be an exercise in inspiration. I had to pick someone to truly blow my classmates away.
Luckily, I had a great group. My fellow students Lauren and Serena took a risk with me and decided to go along with my decision to pick Nelofer Pazira, a woman my mother had been raving about for years after meeting her at a conference. She is an accomplished journalist, humanitarian, and documentary filmmaker. She’s also the star of the film Kandahar.
Here is an exerpt from my project essay to explain a bit more about Nelofer:
Since her arrival in Canada as a teenage refugee from war-torn Afghanistan, Pazira’s journey has been one of determination and hard work at every step. She entered the Carleton University School of Journalism only two years after fully grasping the English language , and made it through the very same trials and tribulations I do on a weekly basis, in the face of a much steeper learning curve! The fact that Pazira was a graduate of our program is a great reminder for me of the value of my education here in Carleton’s Bachelor of Journalism program. I can only aspire to do as much with my training as Pazira has done with hers!
Throughout her career, Pazira has been a fearless innovator and reporter. In 2007 she developed a new format of coverage for CBC’s The National by fusing her personal experience with her sophisticated journalistic skills on a program called I Witness. As well, her coverage of controversial subjects like suicide bombings and women’s oppression in Afghanistan has challenged western conceptions of “right and wrong” and “good and bad.”
In her documentary films and foreign correspondence, Pazira consistently puts herself in harm’s way in order to expose the realities of ongoing issues. She is not afraid to go straight to the source if she feels it will expose an important viewpoint, as can be seen in her seminal documentary Return to Kandahar when she interviews former Taliban officials just after they were removed by U.S. military forces.
She’s worked for the CBC as a foreign correspondant, made two major documentary films, starred in a film about her own life, freelanced for several international publications, and written and published a critically acclaimed novel. She also managed to obtain a masters degree from Concordia in among all that work! She founded her own charity for women’s education in Afghanistan and has been president of PEN Canada, the Canadian chapter of the well-known international organization for freedom of expression.
But has any of it gone to her head? Certainly not! As you will see, she still had time for a few eager journalism students.
** Check out Journalism Idol — Part 2 for what happened next!