Thursday, May 05, 2011

My friend Dorothy

It's strange to see a friend turn up in the news. I've done this for a living long enough to know that no story completely captures a person -- it's a snapshot, and all you can hope is that you framed it right and the colors are true.

So let me share a few snapshots of my friend Dorothy Parvaz, a great journalist who was taken into custody by the Syrian government last Friday.

My wife and I met Dorothy while we were at Harvard University in 2008-09 on a Nieman journalism fellowship. Dorothy came from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where she wrote editorials.

Dorothy hates having her picture taken. We put together a little yearbook for our group, and all our photos are in it -- except for hers. So she's going to be really ticked that there's a whole slideshow of her out there on the web.

Dorothy's a citizen of the world -- her mom is American, her dad is Iranian-Canadian, and she holds citizenship in all three countries.

She likes a good cocktail. She's always stylish, usually in various shades of black. Her eyes can throw daggers. But when you make her laugh you feel like you own the world.

During the year we were in Cambridge, Dorothy's paper up and died on her. The Post-Intelligencer went from a print edition to online-only. Because the printed paper still brings in most of the money, the P-I laid off almost all its staff, including her. So in the middle of what was supposed to be a glorious break, she was set adrift. We sought her out and hugged her neck. She was strong and tough that day. Still is.

After our year was over she went to Europe to be with the man who is now her fiancé. She got a job with Al Jazeera English and had recently covered the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It's not clear why Syria detained Dorothy. But as another friend of hers put it:

"Protestors are standing up to a violent authoritarian leadership. Troops are rounding up hundreds of people and taking them away. Innocent people are being killed. These are the things conscientious journalists care about. These are the things Dorothy cares about."

In my field, the best of the best head into trouble as everyone else is heading out. Two combat photographers -- including one who grew up in Fayetteville -- were killed in Libya just two weeks ago. The worst I get on an average day is a nasty email, but many in our tribe are truly brave.

You can keep track of the situation on a Facebook page set up for Dorothy, or on the Twitter hashtag #FreeDorothy. The Committee to Protect Journalists is also on the case.

I don't talk too much about other journalists or the job of journalism on here. Thanks for indulging me this one. We love Dorothy, and miss her, and hope she comes home soon.


Anonymous said...

I worked with Dorothy in Vancouver. I couldn't help but chuckle when you talked about her dislike of having her picture taken. In fact, I thought the initial FB webpage was a joke aimed at Dorothy because I saw people posting pictures of her. needless to say I was shocked when I finally did go to the page. She is a special woman and I feel extremely lucky to call her my friend. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on her.
Jeff Robson

harvardwivi said...

thanks for breaking with tradition Tommy and writing about Dorothy. it is well worth honouring those who dedicate, and risk, their lives to the cause -- and reminding folks of the perils of those who do frontline journalism(even if they themselves would be embarassed by the attention)

June Carolyn Erlick said...

Tommy, wonderfully written column. You forgot to mention that Dorothy is a Super Shopper...I was always amazed at her wonderful finds!

I just want her to come home safely!

saultxy said...

Canada's ambassador to the UN is John McNee, who served as Canada's ambassador to Syria from 1993 -97, which is probably a fortuitous thing for Dorothy Parvaz. If you deplore what's going on in Syria and you want your friend released pronto, don't let up on Canada's Permanent Mission to the UN, which has its own homepage with all the contact data. Lobby US Ambassador Susan Rice too. Keeping the fingers crossed.

Lynne Stevenson said...

May God bless Dorothy and keep her safe. Hoping and praying for the best possible outcome for her. A lot of people have no clue exactly how dangerous journalists have it overseas.

Chris said...

Maybe journalists like you need to write more about each other, Tommy. If we're not careful, y'all might get gone on us if we aren't paying attention!

kael alford said...

Thanks for your lovely piece Tommy. I've been playing a game lately where I imagine Dorothy at the Nieman reunion, a hushed silence as she recounts the her story of detention. I try to predict the jokes she's going to crack to break the tension and what cocktails she'll order. I know she wants to be there. I hope she'll be out in time to drop in.

Alfredo Corchado said...

Tommy, beautifully written, so well it brought back many memories. I can't wait to see her.

Sally White said...

Thank you for putting a person to what would otherwise be a story that most readers would easily dismiss.

The average reader often says, "Well, that journalist shouldn't have been there!" Where would we be if everyone's job that entailed danger had that attitude? Should we blame the many brave police and fire officers who ran into the WTC for their own deaths when the danger was obvious? It's absurd, inhuman, and tragically misguided to think in such a way.

I'm a former journalist myself, but unless you count scathing looks at a school board meeting, I was never in any danger. My hat's off to those brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way to give voice to the voiceless.