Art And Culture

Vibrant Varsities, Cyber Culture Impressive

Finance Desk
Vibrant Varsities, Cyber Culture Impressive
Vibrant Varsities, Cyber Culture Impressive

Arthur Asa Berger is well-known among academic circles in Iran. Author of nearly 70 books and many articles in communications has made him one of the most prolific scholars in the field.  His books include Pop Culture, Media Analysis Techniques (now in its fifth edition), Popular Culture Genres, and Manufacturing Desire: Media, Popular Culture & Everyday Life.

He has also done a little genre-busting with a series of academic mystery novels: The Hamlet Case, Postmortem for a Postmodernist; The Mass-Comm Murders: Five Media Theorists Self-Destruct; and Durkheim Is Dead: Sherlock Holmes Is Introduced to Social Theory.  

Berger has a master’s degree in journalism. He thought he would become a journalist but went on to get his PhD “because I was interested in intellectual work.” He says impartiality is the primary ingredient for every dedicated journalist – but not an opinion journalist. Getting to the roots of the story and not doing a superficial job is also important.   

The Professor Emeritus in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts at San Francisco State University was in Iran to deliver a series of lectures at the University of Tehran and other institutions in Shiraz and Isfahan. During his visit to Financial Tribune last week, he  accepted the newspaper’s request for an interview.  Excerpts follow:  

 How It All Began

Berger said a few years ago he got a letter from an Iranian professor, asking if he would write an introduction to an encyclopedia of communications to be published in Iran.  “I said I would be happy to do so but at the back of my mind I asked myself why he chose me from among all the communication professors since it’s a huge field in America. He also asked me if I was willing to come on Skype for the last meeting of his communication class, and I found that fun to do as well.”

When the encyclopedia was out a year or so later, he said he scanned the introduction and put it on Facebook with the message: “Can you imagine? I wrote an introduction to a Farsi encyclopedia”. It was only then that he realized that five books of his had been translated into Farsi, which makes Iran second only to China in translating most of his books. “Although in Iran they don’t bother to get copyright permission, I am happy as long as people read my books,” he said.

 Iran a Fantastic Place to Visit

When Berger finally got the invitation to give some lectures in Iran - such a fantastic place to visit with its sites, he immediately accepted. Iran was a big surprise “because I didn’t know what to expect.” First and foremost university work in Iran was quite impressive. “I did not expect to find the place so modern. They showed me a center for cyber culture which was fantastic.” On Tehran, he said, what interested him was that the city “was so vital.” People are out and not shuttered in their homes watching TV and that struck him as very positive. The students ask good questions and when you lecture you always wonder what kind of response you are going to get. “But in my meeting with PhD students I found them very ambitious to get 20 different projects done all at once! I told them cut them down to two!  In America we have the saying: Keep It Simple and Stupid...”

 On New Technology in Journalism

On his visit to Financial Tribune, he said “it blew my mind. When I compare your beautiful place with the old office at the Washington Post where I worked, I see the advantages of a new office with new technology.” This is sort of a paradigm of a lot that is going on in Iran and “we don’t know about. We only know a little bit about Iran in America. I could not imagine that 5 English newspapers are being published in Iran when not so many foreigners live here.”

When you have a dedicated readership in Financial Tribune, it definitely means that you must be providing something that they benefit from and get something out of it; it means providing a service for them (readers). Sometimes people are interested in local news and different newspapers focus on different issues; your focus is on the financial world but from your description “I find that you work on cultural matters, too. I found your newspaper basically similar to what you find in a small-scale Wall Street Journal and Financial Times,” Berger added.