Kiran describes her journey in journalism, and how she forged her own path to success in the field. She is constantly looking for a way to unite communities, no matter the obstacles in front of her.
I am a former journalist, and currently, a Communication Strategist. I was, to my knowledge, one of the first Pakistani Americans to be on broadcast news, that was challenging and exhilarating at the same time. I grew up in Texas, I was born up in Tehran, but that was just happenstance, my family is from Pakistan, my father was born Pre-Partition in India. I grew up, for the most part, in Houston, went to the University of Texas, studied journalism, and then off I went on that adventure of being a reporter. I spent the first part of my career doing a lot of storm-chasing, quite frankly. I was in cities that had a lot of hurricanes and tornados, did a lot of that. Local politics, local community news, and then eventually hopscotched my way around the US, ended up in New York City, where I became a producer in Good Morning America, briefly. That was my forier, into behind the news, the production side, as opposed to being in front of the camera. And then from there, I went to CNN, where I covered a lot of stories on terrorism, eventually, that led me to Pakistan, where I was based briefly, in Islamabad, While the bureau-chief was undergoing contract negotiations.
It was hard growing up in a small east Texas town, where we were the only minority, there were no African Americans, there were no Hispanics, much less anyone of Asian descent in this small town named Huffman. During the Persian Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein gained infamy, our family got a lot of prank calls, people calling our house and asking if we had any scut missiles. But it was helpful for me because it prepared me for a very tough career in journalism. You have to have very thick skin to be in Broadcast Journalism, because unlike in Print Journalism, or other places where you can argue there was a meritocracy. Back then, when I was started out, being in front of the camera, was all about how you looked and sounded. It didnt matter if you couldn’t write, it helped, but it wasn’t a requirement. Writing is my forte, it’s what I love its what drives me. So not being able to rely on that strength, and having to really showcase me in ways, that i wasn’t as comfortable with, and dealing with that rejection that inevitably came in such a competitive field. I could whether that storm of rejection because I had grown up in such a tough environment in the sense of not being accepted, of being the ‘otherness’, of being a small minority in Texas. As a young child, I loved writing, but as soon as I identified what it was, I wanted to be a journalist.
My career was largely discouraged, there was a lot of emphasis on me getting married. I was the first girl on both sides of my family to be raised in the US. My father was the one who sponsored many of his siblings, and my mother’s family who came over after us. And so, that being unprecedented, there was hyper paranoia on a girl being raised up in the US. What I could and couldn’t do, I had a very strict upbringing, couldn’t talk to boys on the phone, no school dances, had to fight to go to my own prom, which I helped plan as Vice President of the class. So, when I went away for college, that in itself was a whole feet, to convince my parents, to let me leave home to go to Austin, Texas.
I would say the APF fellows program has probably been the most emblematic, in terms of illustrating the impact of building these bridges can have. It’s all of the stories, but you know these kids, who were raised here, who were second generation, an entire generation removed from the immigrant story. Who have gone back ton the rural communities that they did not have contact with, prior to this experience, and as a result, have become invested in improving those lives, and using their business acumen, or whatever their professional skill that they bring to help the socioeconomic status of person or community, outside of theri comfort zone, outside of what they know. I think that is the most illustrative of what APF can and does do. Fortunately, there are a lot of us now, I think that if you can leverage your identity, in order to create more awareness, inclusivity, and objective reporting about Muslims, that’s fantastic. But, if you want to enter the newsroom, as a woman, as a woman of color and not carry the burden, I think that’s okay too.