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Real Life in Focus

From teens to Tehran, public television producer Marcia Franklin (GJ89) brings a human face to the topics she covers.

Marcia Franklin (GJ89) never expected to meet Massoumeh Ebtekar, the spokeswoman for the students who took 52 diplomats hostage in the 1979 U.S. Embassy siege in Iran. But when she began working on her documentary about the environmental movement in Iran, she knew she had to interview Iran's first female vice president who also heads Iran's Department of Environment.

"It was a bit eerie to look in her eyes and realize that she was involved in taking Americans hostage," says Franklin."But we all change over time, and today Ebtekar is a reformist who is working on environmental issues and considers the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of her role models."

Franklin, who has been a producer and host for Idaho Public Television since 1990, received a Pew International Journalism Program Fellowship (now the International Reporting Project Fellowship in International Journalism) in fall 2003 to fund her visit to Iran to film From Idaho to Iran, which aired on Idaho Public Television in March.

The main subject of the film was the nascent environmental movement in Iran. Because of rapid population growth, Iran has also quickly industrialized, harming its environment. It used to be one of the world's most biodiverse regions but is now threatened.

Franklin, who covers ecological stories in Idaho, wanted to see what kind of environmental movement existed in Iran, a country whose constitution specifically protects the environment."I believe that the health of a country can be measured in large part by the health of its air, water and soil," Franklin says.

Although a highlight of her visit was interviewing Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, Franklin concentrated on talking with less famous Iranians.

John Schidlovsky, founding director of the International Reporting Project, says he was impressed by Franklin's initiative, courage and resourcefulness. Besides the initial challenge of obtaining a visa to travel in Iran, Franklin had to wear a hejab, a head and body covering, in the sweltering heat while working on her documentary. Despite that restriction, Franklin considered being a woman in Iran an asset.

"I was able to talk with other women more freely, and the men wanted to help me," says Franklin."It was the best of both worlds."

Before venturing to Iran, Franklin, a regional Emmy Award winner, also produced and wrote Hearts and Minds: Teens and Mental Illness for Idaho Public Television in 2000. She won the 2000 George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting for the documentary, which was made for young people and focused on the stories of four Idaho teens living with mental illness.

"She brought a really human face to a topic that just doesn't get looked at very often," says Peter Morrill, the general manager for Idaho Public Television."I think this is really in line with who Marcia is as a person."

Beyond her professional accomplishments, Franklin has been a Big Sister since 1995, and she serves as a founding board member of the City Club of Boise.

Franklin's next film project returns to a familiar focus - Iran. She's working on a documentary about a woman descended from an Idaho pioneer family who fell in love with an Iranian doctor, moved to Iran in the 1950s and is now buried there. She hopes the project brings her back to Iran, a country and culture she can't ignore.

"It grabbed ahold of me," Franklin says."As an Iranian friend said, since now I've been to both ends of Iran, the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, I've now been'Persianically baptized.'"

Laura Hadden (J06)

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