Reporters on the Job
• Playing the Nuke Card: Iran's Karaj Fire Department proudly declares that they have the only women's fire department in the Middle East. But getting a story about the department requires persistence, says staff writer Scott Peterson.
Scott found out about the women's unit a few months ago when he saw a mention of it at the tail end of a blog-like entry on an Iranian news website. The writer complained that having made the long drive to Karaj to learn more and write a story about the lady firefighters, she was turned away empty-handed, because she did not have the right government approvals.
Thus warned, Scott made every effort in Tehran to get the proper permissions before conducting any interviews. Then, he took a taxi with his interpreter to Karaj, about an hour's drive west of Tehran.
"A director at another fire station was going to meet us, and decide if we could see the unit," says Scott. "But when we arrived, they asked who had sent us. We were told it normally takes 27 days for permission - and packed us off to the public relations office of the Karaj Fire Department," says Scott. He notes that the Karaj department even has its own website (www.karaj-fso.com) with weekly action reports.
The PR man apologized, and told Scott that state "security" had not yet approved the visit. He would call Scott the next day. Scott argued that it was easier for an American journalist to visit Iran's controversial nuclear program at Natanz, than to meet these women firefighters.
"I don't know if playing the nuclear card worked, but next day we got the call," says Scott. "The firefighters were waiting for us."
David Clark Scott