Seasons Greetings & the Gifts that Keep on Giving

By Al Giordano

Normally when you read “seasons greetings” in a media publication, it probably means the writer has his bags packed and is on his way out the door to a ski lodge or beach cottage, leaving the junior associates behind to cover any news that might happen over the holidays, a season when so many of the "news makers" have also disappeared from the public stage.

But whether it’s a New Year’s Eve indigenous rebellion or an early summer coup d’etat, time and experience have taught us that “vacation seasons” are sometimes when hard news breaks wide open and has to be reported quickly and accurately. We never know, for example, when one of our journalists might be illegally arrested and we have to work fast to get him out, as occurred on Friday with Gianni Proiettis in Chiapas, Mexico. This sort of thing has happened regularly over the years and when one of our journalists is at risk, the world stops for us and we focus all our "firepower" on getting him or her out of harm's way. Speed and sunlight are what has rescued our journalists time and time again.

This holiday season, I’ll be staffing the news desk and continuing with the extensive planning for the 2011 School of Authentic Journalism, the development of its curriculum with our 36-plus professors, and the scouting and recruitment of scholarship applicants.

If you haven’t yet read the announcement of next May’s Narco News J-School, it’s worth a read, because you or someone you know could be an ideal candidate to attend this free ten-day intensive training session in investigative journalism, online reporting, viral video production and movement strategies for journalists. In letter after letter after letter (and after letter after letter after letter after letter, and those are just some of ‘em), graduates of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalist have referred to their time here as a life changing experience, and have urged you to contribute to make it possible for more journalists to benefit from this training. We think that’s great, especially since we’ve watched so many who have been through its doors go on to publish so many vital reports of immense international importance, again and again and again.

The end of each year is also a time to reflect, to assess what we’ve learned and done, to resolve to always improve, and to appreciate everybody who has helped, in ways large and small, to produce an impressive body of work in 2010. Let’s count ‘em: 193 original reports, about as many original translations, 22 video newsreels, the training of 73 graduates of the School of Authentic Journalism, and the good works that so many of them have continued to do since last February in every corner of the planet.

This was only made possible because so many of you (and you know who you are) contributed a few bucks here and there, distributed our alerts widely, Twittered and Facebooked our reports, and spread the word among friends and family that there is this thing called Narco News, called the Narcosphere, called The Field, called the School of Authentic Journalism, named Bill Conroy, named Erin Rosa, named Fernando León, named Al, and with so many other names that have brought their truth to our truth here, where, together, we continue constructing a bigger truth.

So if I haven’t said thanks loudly or often enough, let me sing it from the mountaintop: THANK YOU.

We love doing this, our life’s work, it doesn’t matter at all that after ten years we’re still not getting rich doing it. That wasn’t why we started in the first place. We began because, in the year 2000, journalism was dying and there was no place to practice authentic journalism, so we had to invent a home for it.

It’s a humble home, and we still live close to the land, with low overhead, and probably always will. The only safety net we have is each other, the international network and alliance in which you are part of that “we.”

As the end of this year approaches – and, to repeat, we’re not going anywhere; we’ll be reporting the news just as alertly during this holiday season as we do every other time of year – and you reflect upon your own 2010, we hope you’ll share in our pride and good cheer over what we’ve accomplished, with your collaboration, and what we will continue to do into 2011 and beyond.

As our 2010 graduate (returning as a professor in 2011) Milena Velis wrote last week:

“When I applied for the School of Authentic Journalism, I was a stressed out, confused, and newly minted reporter trying to understand what the hell was going on in the journalism ‘industry’ I had so recently joined. With little experience or training, I had found myself covering the entire city of Philadelphia as part of a staff of two reporters for a local Spanish language weekly...

“I felt like no one knew how to answer the questions I was struggling to answer each day. What’s the relationship between journalism and organizing? Should journalism be objective? How do you communicate when you don’t own a newspaper or a TV station? And who gets to call themselves a journalist anyway?

“When I got off a plane in Cancun, and traveled to the campus at a nearby undisclosed location, I got a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and learn from the very people who could help answer my questions, and more…”

And so, kind reader, I have an assignment for you as the year turns: Go out there and find us our next Milena, our next Fernando, our next Erin, your next correspondent, and encourage him and her to apply for the 2011 School of Authentic Journalism, because the work they do won’t just be ours, but it will belong to you, too, and to everyone else on this earth.

You probably already know somebody who is like that: someone with immense dedication, social conscience and talent, with communications skills, and with a desire to improve those skills to be able to do something meaningful with his or her life and who will not settle for anything less. Is that you who we’re talking about? Then request an application for the May 2011 School of Authentic Journalism by sending an email to (for Spanish language applications, write ). Completed applications are due January 23, 2011.

And if that person isn’t you, chances are you know – or know of – somebody who is like that. Maybe it’s a family member or a friend. Maybe it’s somebody whose work you read or viewed on the Internet or in other media. It might be that person who always seems to show up with a camera in hand or who chronicles human events on her or his blog or social networking pages. Every community has somebody like that. But here’s a little secret they don’t always let show: People who do this work often feel quite alone in it, and they may not know yet that this world is filled with so many others just like them, each in their own communities, and that the chance is coming up in May 2011 to meet many of the best of them, share with them, learn from them, and never walk alone in this work again.

And if this is a gift-giving season for you, we hope you’ll remember our friends at The Fund for Authentic Journalism, founded and managed by readers of Narco News, all who whom are volunteers, who use every penny and peso of your contributions to support these projects in authentic journalism.

Likewise, if you’re in the position to benefit from tax-deductible contributions for the year 2010, The Fund is a 501c3 organization and will be happy to provide you, on request, with a receipt for your records.

At the end of any year, we’re all besieged by appeals for donations from many worthwhile ventures. We want to support them all, but we can’t. One of the questions many of us ask ourselves when considering which project to support is this: Which is going to provide the greater return on our investment? Narco News’ School of Authentic Journalism – the only project like it on earth, one which confronts and solves the problem of media in our times like no other project does – guarantees that your gift will multiply and grow, through the works of our graduates for years, even decades, to come. You can be 100 percent certain that you’ll be proud to have donated. What other project can make you such an ironclad guarantee?

Additionally, your contribution along with those of others, up to $20,000, will be matched. Your investment will be doubled immediately, and then continue to work, and work hard, for truth-telling investigative journalism, freedom of speech, human rights, authentic democracy, justice and freedom. A donation to The Fund for Authentic Journalism? Priceless!

You probably know the drill already. You can donate online at this link:

Or you can send a check to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 1446
Easthampton, MA 01027 USA

I sincerely hope this and all seasons are good ones for you, if you’re with friends or family or both (or if you’re a grunt like me remaining at your post because “somebody has to do it”), I, and the entire Narco News Team, wish you the best and an even better year to come.

You, our readers, are the only “Santa” we’ve ever had. This year we leave cookies and milk by the fireplace – aw, we’ll leave something a little stronger than that, too - and a hand-written note requesting not just material gifts, but human ones: candidates for the next graduating class, the next generation of authentic journalists… the gifts that keep on giving.

From somewhere in a country called América,

Al Giordano

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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