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For weeks now, many across America have followed the plight of journalist Roxana Saberi, who is being held in an Iranian prison on charges of espionage. Saberi is a freelance journalist who contributes to NPR. But before her career took her to the other side of the world, Saberi briefly reported local stories here in the Ozarks. KSMU’s Benjamin Fry spoke to a former editor about his memories of her and his take on the current situation.
Today, Jonathan Groves teaches journalism at Drury University in Springfield.
But in 1999, he was an editor for the Springfield News-Leader.
That’s when he met Roxana Saberi, who came to work as an intern on the business beat.
Groves says he remembers her excellent work ethic and diligence.
“It was obvious then that she was going places. To me it seemed like she worked hard and wanted to learn,” Groves said.
Groves says he didn’t get to know Saberi too well, since she only interned at the News-Leader for a couple of months.
But he says the impression she left was that above all else, she cared about the story more than she did about recognition or exposure.
“She wasn’t one of those people who thought, you know, ‘I’m going to be an international correspondent’. I’ve met people like that, that in their career, they have their sights set and they’re gonna do 'X'. She never thought, ‘Oh I’m going to be on television or I’m going to be on radio. Her goal was ‘I want to be a journalist’,” Groves said.
Groves says it’s an odd feeling knowing that someone you worked with and respected is in jail for doing their job.
“And I guess the other reason why that hits me so hard is because we take it so much for granted in our country that we can do this and that we don’t realize how difficult it is to do this in other cultures and other countries,” Groves said.
Since being arrested, Saberi herself has become the story when it comes to international relations with Iran.
Groves says if she is released, Saberi’s ability to continue her reporting will be based on if she can come to terms with what happened and get past it.
“If you let that take it over, it can take over what you’re doing, but if you’re responsible and look at it as oh this is something that happened to me, I’m going to move on and continue to do my job, I can’t see why she couldn’t,” Groves said.
Groves says he’s optimistic that Saberi will soon be free, as long as the media continues to cover her situation so that she isn’t forgotten.
Last weekend, Saberi was sentenced to eight years in prison in a closed Iranian court. Saberi and her family are appealing the ruling.
For KSMU News, I’m Benjamin Fry.