DAVID GREENE, Host:
NPR's Tovia Smith reports.
TOVIA SMITH: From the outside, this little clapboard house looks just like so many others on a peaceful, leafy street in Newton.
KELLY GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: Hi, there. How are you?
SMITH: But step inside and you're immediately transported a world away to the epicenter of the political turmoil in post-election Iran.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: It's fear. It's people disappearing, people mourning, a lot of crying, a lot of...
SMITH: with stories coming in through emails, chat sites and the phone, Kelly Golnoush Niknejad is totally immersed in the Iranian unrest. She started Tehran Bureau seven months ago, frustrated with what she calls the "simplistic" reporting about her native Iran. She took it upon herself to do better, with two coffee tables and a desk chair in her parents' living room.
SMITH: So this is it.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: Yeah. Until about a week ago, it was only this and now actually we've upgraded. So...
SMITH: A second laptop.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: SOUND BITE OF LAUGHTER
SMITH: Today she posts pieces on everything from politics to the arts...
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: Hey, Jason. How are you?
SMITH: ... from contributors both in and out of Iran.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: How's your piece coming along?
JASON: I was having a little bit of difficulties writing about...
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: Right now, we have incredible staff of contributors.
SMITH: Volunteer staff.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: Yeah, people who really know the subject are very passionate about it, who have an incredible rich network in Iran and among Iranians.
SMITH: Right after the election, that network bombarded Niknejad with information, and almost overnight, her online magazine became a major go-to source for breaking news.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: It was just like, coming at me like bullets, teh-teh-teh.
SMITH: With no time to write it all into stories, Niknejad just started posting as fast as she could.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: The information was coming out - it was raw, so instead of going in and taking the blood out of it, I thought okay, I'll just copy and paste to put out information.
SMITH: Traffic to her Web site spiked, but then it was hacked and frozen, Niknejad thinks, by the Iranian government. That's when she turned to Twitter and started relaying information sentence-by-sentence. Her following exploded.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: Maybe just a few days ago we were at 9,000, and today we're at, let me, right now we're at 19,007.
SMITH: The success has been double-edged: Tehran Bureau gets quoted now in The New York Times, but Niknejad also noted she's big enough now to be noticed by the Iranian government. Most reports are posted now without bylines and Niknejad constantly worries.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: Oh, I have nightmares every night. I wake up several times just kind of gasping for air. Like, you know, I hope people are okay.
SMITH: It was all the furthest thing from Niknejad's mind when she emigrated from Iran, shortly after the revolution, as a 17 year old. She discovered journalism by accident when she fell into a job as a legal reporter after law school. Now, she says reporting is her calling.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: This is what I have to do. You know, it makes life meaningful for me.
SMITH: In the past week, Niknejad has barely left her computer. She's completely disconnected from the suburban reality on the other side of her big living room window.
GOLNOUSH NIKNEJAD: It's kind of like, it's like a screen. To me, it's like maybe the picture on the wall. You know, what's happening here doesn't engage me anymore.
SMITH: Tovia Smith, NPR News.
GREENE: This is NPR News.
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