FARGO — As a news reporter fresh out of college, former Fargoan Roxana Saberi covered stories about city government and the weather. However, she always had her sights set on something broader.
“It was a little tough for me because I wanted to cover international news, but this was my first job, right, in Fargo?” Saberi said with a laugh during a recent Skype interview with The Forum from her apartment in England.
Saberi, 41, has put in just over a year as a foreign correspondent for CBS News in London. Before that, she was a freelance reporter with CBS in New York.
Saberi reported on President Donald Trump’s controversial visit to Scotland and terror attacks in Strasbourg, France, last year. She told viewers about plans to restore the crumbling Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and a push to make an environmentally friendly Lego.
Perhaps her biggest assignment thus far was the royal wedding last May, when American actress Meghan Markle married Prince Harry.
A similar duty is just ahead: She’s on standby to report on the birth of the royal couple’s first child, due in late April or early May.
Saberi is also coming up on a noteworthy anniversary — 10 years since her release from the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran, where she served time on false charges of espionage.
She doesn’t take basic liberties for granted.
“Just the freedom of expression, the freedom of speech,” Saberi said.
'We all have our own prisons'
Born in New Jersey to a Japanese mother and an Iranian father, Saberi moved to Fargo as a toddler and was raised here.
She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead with degrees in communications and French, and was hired as a reporter for KVLY-TV, the NBC affiliate in Fargo.
She received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and one in international relations from the University of Cambridge.
She moved to her father’s native Iran to report and write a book. On Jan. 31, 2009, she was arrested and put in prison, and later charged with espionage.
Saberi was subjected to severe psychological pressure and underwent a hunger strike while in prison. After her one-day trial, she received an eight-year sentence.
An international campaign ensued, calling for Saberi to be freed. On May 11, 2009, she was released after an appeals court cut her prison term to a two-year suspended sentence. She’d spent nearly four months behind bars.
Saberi wrote a book about her experience, "Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran."
She’s thankful for her freedom and feels more sensitized to the plight of others.
“In a way, we all have our own prisons, I’ve learned. Whether it’s physical prison, or maybe a battle with some kind of difficult health condition,” Saberi said.
'Proud to have roots'
Saberi is enjoying life in London, taking in cultural events, including theater performances, whenever she can. She also takes advantage of any time off.
“If I have a long weekend, I can fly to Spain, you know, or take the train to Paris. And that’s, yep, pretty amazing,” she said.
One thing she’s not accustomed to is London’s often cloudy skies.
She bought a special light therapy lamp designed to boost a person’s mood when sunshine is lacking.
“I don’t use it every day and apparently if you do use it every day, it’s supposed to help. See?” she said with a laugh, looking into the bright light.
Even though Saberi has lived in and traveled to many different places around the world, she said she’s grateful for the area where she was raised.
She tries to get back to Fargo every summer to visit her family and make appointments with doctors and dentists whom she’s seen since she was a child.
“I’m proud to have roots there. Proud to know that I’m from a place where people are very kind, watch out for one another, honest, from my experience, and helpful,” she said.