Al Giordano’s Last Nag of the Zeroes
By Al Giordano
Ten Years of Narco News: Before... and After (Photos: Paul Shoul and Kym Register.)
Ten years ago – at the beginning of this decade that will forevermore be known as “the zeroes” – in April of 2000, a marginalized ex-journalist waded back in to his craft and posted his new work onto the Internet via a dial-up connection from his bunker in a small indigenous town in Mexico.
He had been investigating the international drug trade. None of the newspapers and magazines that he had written for years prior would publish his story. So with the help of a $4,000 grant from the Angelica Foundation he bought his first laptop, and a domain name – narconews.com – upon which to post it. He never imagined that this tiny act of rebellion would last beyond the particular series of stories he was writing.
Four months later, he and this website found themselves as defendants in a lawsuit filed against them by the wealthiest banker in Mexico and his bank. The commotion and attention to that New York Supreme Court case – the first major court test of press freedom on the Internet - brought tens of thousands more readers to this little corner of the Internet to see what the fuss was all about. Maybe you were among them. They, and you, liked what you saw, and kept coming back for more.
He asked you for help with its defense, and many of you stepped forward with donations. And with them, The Little Website That Could was able to defeat the narco-bankers and in the same moment win a landmark legal precedent establishing First Amendment protections for its journalists, by name, and for all Internet journalists by extension.
A decade flies by when you’re havin’ fun, and early in 2010 we’ll invite you to Narco News’ Tenth Anniversary Gala Celebration to be held next April in New York City. Stay tuned for details.
By now you know that this self-marginalized ex-journalist, once washed up and “retired” at the age of 39, was yours truly. And over the past ten years I’ve had the good fortune of spending them – about to become one-fifth of all my years on earth (I turn 50 on Thursday, a milestone that nobody can be very enthusiastic about until we consider the alternative of not surviving to become an antique) – alongside the support of thousands of readers and hundreds of collaborators.
I came back to this craft because there was work to be done that nobody else was doing, because journalism still had a worthwhile calling that needed to rise again, and quickly I found a new generation of younger (and some elder) journalists who were likewise fed up with the routine of simulation that had come to define the commercial media.
We’ve also suffered losses over this decade. Some who began this long march with us are no longer living today. I think of them daily and the memory of them guides us at every step. I know how pleased they would be to see their legacies carried on by the 31 authentic journalism scholars from all the earth's continents and a larger number of professors – many whom graduated in earlier years - that will be joining us in Mexico in February 2010 for the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism.
I promise that this will be my last nag of the decade soon to be known as the zeroes.
This hemisphere and its peoples – in part because of your support – ends this decade in better shape than we began it.
We’re three-quarters of the way to our fundraising goal for this season. Somehow I doubt that we’ll make it before the decade is done, but - with your help - it shouldn't take much longer. In lieu of candles and cake, give it a little push now, okay?
And remember, if you give before midnight on Thursday, December 31, you can deduct the full amount of your contribution from your 2009 taxable income.
We try to make it real easy for ya. Just click this link, and donate, right now, online:
Or send a check to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 241
Natick, MA 01760
One final thought in 2009 for those of you who have been besieged (as I have) by appeals from other worthy organizations and causes in these final days of the zeroes:
- Which of those appeals has demonstrably accomplished more, and with less, frugally and strategically, over the past year, and over the past ten years?
- Which is doing the better job of investing your next contribution in real people, in a next generation to carry on the work you support and to multiply its impact in the years to come?
- Which is visibly and successfully changing how journalism is defined in our lifetimes, and transforming the very concept for the better?
I’ll add that with all your contributions over the past decade, I chose to spend them on the work, on publishing thousands of original investigative reports, and to recruit, scout, train and invest in a new generation of authentic journalists.
During this decade of Narco News I did not become a homeowner. I did not buy a car. I did not purchase health insurance. I don’t have any of those things, or anything else of great material value, and I couldn't be happier about it.
How is it that a guy – who basically doesn’t care about money for himself – pens so many fund appeals over ten years? It’s that I've never asked you to enrich my pockets. Your support goes for something much more important.
What I do have, thanks to your collaboration and support, is a treasure of far greater value: the privilege of holding the future in my hands, which I share freely with our collaborators, with the next generation, and with you.
From somewhere in a country called América, and looking forward to seeing you and collaborating with you in 2010 and throughout the the next ten years, the second decade of the Narco News era of journalism...
Your colleague, friend and eternal ally,