When the station did the first local reporter packages on the protests and clashes after the Iran election, a reporter asked me to see if I could reach anyone in Iran on Twitter that would be willing to do an interview using Twitter or email, or whatever platform necessary to accomplish the interview.  I was asked to do this around 8:30pm. 

Of course I said I would do it and then asked the reporter and producer how we would verify the source if I got the interview?  Pause.  I'm asked if I think I can really get such an interview.  "I'll try, but with the time difference and making the request an hour an half before the news is unlikely."  My question on verification was never answered.

I posted a Tweet asking for an interview with anybody in Iran.  My Tweet received a great response from followers with people re-tweeting the post and people suggesting who I should follow for a possible interview.  I received direct messaged from two awesome Twitter friends.  I was asked if all sources would remain confidential.  I promised confidentiality. 

Confidentiality, the anonymous source, is not new in mainstream media.  For more on this I suggest reading Talk to the Newsroom: The Use of Anonymous Sources.  Confidential or not, a journalist must still confirm the source's information, though.

I then also put a Tweet out on @cbs4denver requesting an interview as well.  This Tweet did not receive the same support as the one I'd put on my account @MistyMontano.  A couple of followers suggested resources to be used and one follower voiced concern over asking for such an interview.  That concern turned into a pointed conversation about the ethics of the newsroom.  While this is happening, my Twitter account is still filling up with responses and direct messages. 

Then it happened.  Around 9:30pm I was put in contact with a young man in the U.S. that had been one of the first to really start to shout to the world to pay attention to what was coming out of Iran.  This young man, a medical student, had noticed the tone of his friends' posts and created a website to funnel all information he could find and to post all information possible on where people could go to seek medical attention.  We spoke via gchat in gmail.

My first task was to try to find information out about this person that would ask someone to answer my questions and to be the mediator between us.  To keep confidentiality I have removed his handle ID and replaced it with Source.  Below is our conversation.  I copied and pasted the conversation/interview as is to let you see how it developed.

me: How did you find yourself in this amazing role, functioning in this capacity? - this is me being curious
Source: Was just first on the scene and had the time - was off from school when I started. Saw tweets from Iran getting more and more messy, thought I'd set up an account to try to sort through the mess and RT what I knew to be timely and accurate.  But mostly the account was set up to help protesters with medical advice in farsi and english. that's what most of my first tweets were.  It just kinda... snowballed
me: how are you able to determine what's accurate?
Source: I know you're gonna hate this answer, but I'd prefer not to share how
me: don't hate it actually, completely understand and respect it
Source: But it's very thorough, usually the major things I make sure to have verbal or visual confirmation of
me: is asking someone to talk to us, going to put that person in danger?
Source: if I think they something that gives away info, I'll ask them to reword

By this point I'd already shouted out that I was going to be doing an interview through a mediator and asked again how was I going to verify this and how was it going to be used.  At this point there was much discussion on how I couldn't truly verify anything, especially not before the 10pm newscast.  I decided to continue the conversation in hopes that we'd figure out a way to verify or use careful wording to explain circumstances of the interview. 

I glanced down to my screen and saw:

Source: 24 Tehran male, been in protests since saturday... evening or morning, they don't recall, willing to talk

Again I stood to tell the producer what was developing.  Then I sat back down to the following interview.  The responses from "24 Tehran male" are in quotations.

me: through this platform, gtalk, through you... or another platform? when?
Source: Through me, now and gtalk works for me. they might drop connection a few times, they're trying to move from street to street to see some friends
me: ok. I'm here and so is our reporter,
Source: (Would suggest not being formal, get questions out as fast as possible so we can get replies) Not risky, but internet is still very flaky for them
me: How do you feel? How do the people feel? Optimistic? Scared?
Source: "we were scared for most of week but now things much more calm - police helping with beesiji problem. don’t know if meeting of expert council happened, but it helped calm people today. change will happen but maybe not as big as we want at first."
me: How do you feel knowing the world is watching through social media? What is the change you want?
Source: "numbers on TV about deaths are wrong - so many are stole to prison when hurt, and die there."
me: What are the immediate needs of the people? Any? Medical? Necessities?
Source: "everyone is not watching everyone is helping. never thought the world would care like this. I think the info they share and the focus they bring helped us more than people think. we want people we vote for not pray to have control of the country. we want them to listen when we vote, so that we never do this again."
Source: last message for a while, changing house
me: ok thank you. I'm going to list some more questions to be asked when/if can
Source: k
me: What about those who claim all that is being shared on twitter is a lie - and insist on verified reports? How do we make sure the truth is told? Are police punishing those that are using twitter, facebook, etc?

Source: I can answer that last one if you want
me: please do and can you answer what is beesiji?
Source: memo coming out of police (but written by interior ministry) said that they will arrest those seen involved with "outside mediums" I believe. Besiji is how we write it - volunteer Iranian militia, very hardline, mostly older or very young So, the police released memo, but haven't been arresting. Besiji have been going around at night though, kidnapping tweeters, most likely taking them to Evin Prison to be tortured. Besiji are horrible - they dress in civilian clothes usually, mingle with protesters it was them who was shooting people earlier in the week and stabbing before that. They've also been seen wearing police and army uniforms, shooting people
me: and this is what you've witnessed? or have confirmed? I live in a mainstream media world, where just doing this interview is making my coworkers nervous on how we use it, if at all - don't want to endanger anyone, don't want to give out false info.
Source: witnessed via video and pictures from trusted sources, and confirmed many times over in all Iranian cities. I understand - I don't fault the MSM for slow coverage, just bad coverage (sharing tweeter usernames being the worst) from Iran: "will need food soon, most stores are shut. rural areas need medicine, but medics trying to help. will need so many doctors when prisons open"
me: when do you think prisons will open? how long do you see this going on?

Source: About "everything on twitter being a lie" from Iran: "government all over twitter and other sites posting lies. they even tell lies to us to share. it has gotten hard to stay truth - share only what you see happen to those you trust. prisons will let people out soon. not enough workers and supplies to keep them all alive and too full to store bodies."

That was the end of the interview.  The source and I continued to chat for a while as we waited to see if the "24 Tehran male" would come back to the conversation.  I asked more personal questions of the source.  He shared his website with me.  He shared a blog that had been written about him and what he was doing to help spread information.  He shared a conversation he had with the Huffington Post.  Everything he showed me was legit.  However, he never shared his true identity or background. 

I had the debate with a few producers that the interview could still be used with an explanation making it clear it was from a source we couldn't verify.  I also argued that the story wasn't to hinge on this interview, but to be a part of a bigger story of the role of social media being used for information.  The question could be raised in the story on how any information coming out of Iran on these social media platforms could truly be trusted.

The decision was made to not use the interview at all.  To tell the story of the role of social media reporters interviewed Iranian-Americans in the metro area that could only stay in contact with family via Twitter or Facebook or another platform. 

So in my gmail account sits this interview that I may have had with a 24-year old male who is living through the aftermath of the Iran elections.