Announcing NYC Workshop on Organizing Journalism & Civil Resistance

Applications now available for a Three-Day Session, October 21-23, in New York

By Al Giordano

The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict today announce 24 scholarships for our October 21-23 workshop on Organizing Journalism & Civil Resistance. The session is open to independent journalists and media makers (print, online and video) who report on social movements and seek to be better at it.

Applications can be received via email by writing to and are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 21, 2011.

This workshop offers training in the use of video and written and online media to help journalists and media makers report more effectively on social movements, civil resistance, nonviolent campaigns and community organizing so that the messages of those movements can cut through the clouds of mass media confusion. There are many common errors and presumptions through which even sympathetic media makers too often harm such movements. This workshop is also to test some new curriculum for the 2012 School of Authentic Journalism that seeks to inoculate against such media missteps, as well as to share vital reporting skills and increase participants’ knowledge of the strategic and tactical dynamics of social movements.

The event is free to accepted applicants: No tuition will be charged. In addition to training on reporting and writing news stories and making online video and media “go viral,” we’ve assembled an experienced team of organizers, authentic journalists and change makers to seek to answer this question:

From the Arab Spring to Mexico’s unprecedented nonviolent movement to end the drug war that surfaced in 2011, civil resistance is succeeding in countries with extreme state repression and poverty moreso than it is in North America. Why is that? And what can be done to bring the renaissances of civil resistance and authentic journalism to North America, where theoretically there are more freedoms, tools and resources available to aspiring change agents?

In North America, there is so much “activism,” so much “blogging,” so many “protests” and “marches,” and yet our friends in other lands are winning historic battles while few North American movements are making any progress at all.

We believe that the media – not just the big commercial and state-owned media that the public already mistrusts, but also too many in the “blogosphere,” “social media,” and sympathetic “alternative” media that do not understand the strategic dynamics of how movements win and lose – has a lot to do with why so many North American movements fail to achieve the change they seek. “The problem of media” is now the problem of everyone that wants to defend or change our communities and our world. Some of the challenges are easily solved by learning and understanding the common mistakes that well-meaning media-makers and journalists make in reporting movements, and through improvement of our technical skills. Other questions remain unanswered, so we will consult, together, with some unparalleled minds and hands that have won and lost political battles already and learned plenty from the experience. More than just a training session, this workshop will serve as a kind of three-day “think tank” to seek to break further ground in untying the knot with which media inhibits the realization of authentic democracy.

Here are the confirmed participants in this workshop:


Aalam Wassef 

Egyptian viral video maker, musician and blogger, Aalam used various pseudonyms over the past six years to create a multi-faceted guerrilla media campaign – both on and offline – to “create a culture of resistance” in his country. When video director Greg Berger and I traveled to Cairo weeks after the Egyptian revolution to interview the unheralded organizers and media makers that in our view were most responsible for the January 25 revolution and February 11 fall of the dictator Hosni Mubarak, we were blown away by the coherence and strategic thinking of this 40-year-old revolutionary. We thought our own experience at making video and media “go viral” was advanced, but were humbled to meet and interview Aalam, one who had already thought through and implemented techniques we had never heard of in the Western Hemisphere. What’s more, he speaks good English, making his message especially accessible in North America.

A requirement for all applicants to this workshop is to watch three short videos – you will be asked about them on the application form – the first, less than 15 minutes in length, narrated by Aalam:

Four days after we returned from Cairo to Mexico, a new civil resistance broke out there to end the war on drugs. Thanks to so much of what we learned from Aalam and other organizers of the revolution, we were able, at Narco News, to jump in quickly to report that movement more effectively in ways that helped it to grow and strengthen. Now we’re bringing Aalam to the media capital of the world, New York City, where we hope he can inspire and train us to topple a dictator named Media.


Julian LeBaron


Julian seemed to come out of nowhere when in April he arrived in Cuernavaca, Mexico, like a cavalry to the aid of the nascent movement to stop the war on drugs inspired by poet and journalist Javier Sicilia, who on March 27 lost his son to the prohibition-imposed violence. LeBaron, a homebuilder in the border state of Chihuahua, had already lost two family members to kidnappers and his community mounted a nonviolent movement against organized crime. Accompanying Sicilia and other family members of drug war victims in marches and caravans throughout the country, LeBaron – an attentive reader and student of successful nonviolent movements throughout the world – quickly emerged as a key strategist and inspiring public speaker for a movement that has gone national in five months.

This Friday, the Narco News Team will join LeBaron, Sicilia and the rest to report on their ten-day Caravan of the South through Chiapas to the Guatemalan border. A month later, we’ll be in New York with Julian to share these experiences and the lessons learned. The workshop will feature a plenary session during which Catalan journalist Marta Molina - who has reported extensively on this growing Mexican movement – will lead an interview with LeBaron, with an emphasis on strategy, tactics and how movements relate to and make their own media. Like Aalam and our other presenters, Julian will also participate in the workgroups, meals, and other sessions of the workshop.


Jim Lawson

The Rev. Jim Lawson organized the 1960 Nashville sit-ins that inspired the national civil rights movement. His friend, Martin Luther King, Jr., called him “the leading strategist and theorist of nonviolence in the world.” As a professor of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism he has inspired and trained young media makers from Egypt to Mexico on the difference between organizing and activism and why the former is paramount to winning movements. In a lifetime of organizing, reporting and traveling in many lands, I have not known any person who is still alive that has the knowledge, wisdom, street smarts and organizing experience that Jim brings to any table. In any discussion on movements and media, Jim has the tendency to identify and articulate the “big question” that needs to be asked and that raises the level of the conversation to the strategic and tactical level that all movements and media makers aspire to reach. I never stop learning from Jim. I want others to learn from his experience, too.

For a glimpse of Jim’s message, history and why any aspiring change agent would jump at the chance to learn from him, please watch this video (less than nine minutes long) from the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula:

We’ll also be joined by four experienced North American community organizers who will demonstrate what organizing is and help us understand how to better seek out, identify, and report on organizing campaigns that so often fly under the radar of the media. And we’ll be asking them to help us better know how to organize ourselves as authentic journalists and media makers, too.


Paulina Gonzalez

Paulina has worked for over 15 years leading organizing campaigns to expand worker rights, immigrant rights, and the rights of low income and underrepresented communities of color.  Her work includes coordinating the ‘Dreams Across America’ cross-country train trip in the final push for the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill to provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. Paulina also worked with students and community leaders to organize and take part in civil disobedience protests in Los Angeles against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB1070. In her work with UNITE HERE, the union that represents hotel and food service workers, she played a lead campaign role in the successful Santa Monica hotel organizing and living wage campaigns and the LAX Century Blvd. hotel worker living wage campaign. Paulina is Executive Director of SAJE, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy. SAJE is an LA-based economic justice, community development, and popular education center building a powerful voice for residents of South Central Los Angeles.  Under her leadership, SAJE launched an organizing campaign against powerful developer G.H. Palmer that resulted in a groundbreaking Community Benefits Agreement that provides South LA residents with health services, jobs, affordable housing, and small business development--all desperately needed in that historically underserved community.


Renny Cushing

Renny Cushing (left) in Mexico City with Javier Sicilia, May 2010. Photo DR 2010 Marta Molina.

When Renny’s native town of Seabrook, New Hampshire, was threatened by the construction of two nuclear power plants in the 1970s, he co-founded the Clamshell Alliance and helped it grow into a mass movement based on local community organizing (“it was like social networking,” he told the 2011 School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico, “but without the Internet”), intensive training of participants, and a sequenced campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience that made opposition to nuclear power a national cause, and one that halted the orders for new nuclear power plants ever since. (Since the March nuclear disasters in Japan, the global anti-nuclear movement has emerged anew.) After the 1988 murder of his father, Renny began organizing others into an international movement now called Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, opposed to capital punishment.  Last May he teamed up with Javier Sicilia, Julian LeBaron and Mexican family members of murder victims at a Mexico City press conference to announce the participation of US-based organizations in solidarity with the Mexican movement, which began in 2011 taking many of the steps that Renny started years ago. On a personal note, when I was a teenaged community organizer in the Clamshell Alliance, Renny was an inspiration, model and teacher who helped draw me out as an organizer. Now, as a professor of the School of Authentic Journalism, and in the rest of his work, he does the same for a new generation.


Johanna Lawrenson

Johanna Lawrenson (far right) during a plenary session of the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism with (right to left) telephone workers union organizer Marco Vasquez and Narco News correspondents Fernando Leon and Mercedes Osuna. Photo DR 2010 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.

Johanna is a native New Yorker who organized alongside her husband, the late Abbie Hoffman, for the last 15 years of his life. She founded and led the successful movement in upstate New York and Canada to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from dredging the St. Lawrence River for winter navigation. In my younger years, Johanna and Abbie often invited me to tag along and put me to work as a community organizer in various locales where they taught me how to fight nonviolently and how to win. They were, many know and others do not, pioneers in the martial arts of using the media’s own power and strength against it. Johanna and Abbie were my primary inspirations for founding the School of Authentic Journalism. They put so much time and labor into training and teaching a 20-something me from their one-of-a-kind organizing experience that at a certain age I began to feel duty-bound to similarly invest in the next generations and keep passing the torch. We’ve brought Johanna to the j-school before. Now we’re bringing the j-school to Johanna!


Philippe Duhamel

Philippe has been organizing citizen-based nonviolent action campaigns in the province of Québec, Canada, since the early 1980's. He's currently organizing the One-Generation Moratorium Campaign to stop shale gas development from ruining the St-Lawrence River valley. As part of this campaign, Philippe and friends organized a walk over 700 km that galvanized public opposition such that over 10,000 people walked the streets of Montreal last spring, and forced the Quebec government to announce a full stop to drilling and fracking operations until further notice. Plans for mass civil disobedience are currently under way to make sure it stays that way, for at least twenty years. 

Over nearly thirty years of organizing, Philippe and his incrementally improved strategizing skills helped bring along such victories as: Forcing the Canadian government to bring Maher Arar back home in what has become a cause célèbre of US rendition that forced Canada to compensate Mr. Arar for $10.5 million (2003); Scuttling the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) by forcing the publication of secret negotiating documents through mass civil disobedience (2001); Putting a stop to uranium illegally stolen from Namibia by then Apartheid South Africa from transiting through the Port of Montreal (1986); Discrediting and ending Canada's largest Arms' Dealers Trade Show in Ottawa (1989), and; Forcing Bata shoes to divest from South Africa (1985).

We first met Philippe in 2009 when he came to our workshop on “The Organizing of the President” at the Rowe Conference Center in Massachusetts. It will be great to collaborate with him anew.


Jack Duvall, Hardy Merriman and Althea Middleton-Detzner


We’ll also be joined by some of our friends from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), our partners in this NY workshop, a nonprofit foundation that became much more widely known this year after the world took notice of how the strategies of civil resistance it promotes were adopted, adapted and utilized in Egypt and other Arab countries.

Jack DuVall, ICNC's director, produced and co-authored the PBS series, “A Force More Powerful,” distributed in Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, English, Farsi, French, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Mandarin, Nepali, Pashto, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese, and which found its way to places like LeBaron, Chihuahua, in Mexico, and Cairo, Egypt, among people seeking to organize successful civil resistances and movements. Jack is a human encyclopedia on international civil resistance movements, their histories, strategies and tactics.

Hardy Merriman has worked in the field of strategic nonviolent conflict with organizations such as the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (where is currently a senior advisor) and Gene Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution.  He writes and presents about nonviolent conflict for organizers, scholars, journalists, members of NGOs and other practitioners. When Hardy was professor at the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism we found that for every problem or challenge a movement faced during our discussions, he had total recall of similar situation that had inflicted other movements in another part of the world and the creative tactics utilized by those who overcame them and succeeded in their goals.

Althea Middleton-Detzner is educational advisor to the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, musician (I stole that photo with the violin from her Facebook page), creative writer, and Spanish speaker who has worked with war refugees in Colombia, environmental defenders in Ecuador and spoke on nonviolent civil resistance in 2009 in Belize at the convention of the Organization of Afro Central Americans (ONECA, in its Spanish initials). She was also a member of the women's soccer team at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and is currently a grad student at the Fletcher International Institute at Tufts University in Massachusetts. A creative thinker and doer, Althea will be part of this event's workgroup on Theater of Resistance (more on that in a moment).

Together with the team of authentic journalists you are about to meet, and the two dozen participants accepted for this workshop, we will return to the question above: How to struggle and win in North America, and how to report such struggles, and what we can learn from victorious civil resistances around the world about how they did it.

Like a TV commercial for kitchen gadgets – unusual ones that, say, might help a movement, a resistance or even a revolution succeed – I’m tempted to say, “But wait! There’s more!”

We’ll also be in NYC with a guerrilla media SWAT Team from the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, including these valued colleagues:


The School of Authentic Journalism Team in NYC

Greg Berger (far left) and Milena Velis (far right) direct the viral video workgroup at the 2011

School of Authentic Journalism in Morelos, Mexico. DR 2010 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.

Milena Velis, School of Authentic Journalism graduate (2010) and professor (2011) is an organizer of Philadelphia’s Media Mobilizing Project, one of the few North American projects to which we in the authentic journalism renaissance can relate, because it organizes from below to make its own media rather than engage in the kind of “activism” that merely seeks big media attention (those kinds of projects, we observe, devolve around the dictates of the commercial media and are rendered impotent by them).

This video (less than five minutes long), produced at the 2010 school, introduces the Media Mobilizing Project as of 18 months ago (Milena has many impressive updates to deliver on its journey since then) and is the third required video for applicants to these scholarships:

We especially encourage applicants who have the will to do similar “from below” media organizing in New York, or bring your already existing authentic media projects to such a venture in a town that we believe is ripe for its own version of the MMP, albeit with New Yorker personality and flair. If you apply for this scholarship, make sure to note that in your application.

Greg Berger – known also for the “Gringoyo” character he plays in many of his short films – is a Manhattan (Stuyvesant Town) native, now with 13 years living and working in Mexico making video alongside social movements. He came to our attention through his documentaries on the struggle of the town of Atenco that stopped an international airport and his 2003 classic “Gringothon.” Greg is a 2004 graduate of the school and has been co-director of its video program ever since. In recent years, Greg concluded that the Documentary Industrial Complex dependent on film festivals and awards is a dead-end venture for people who really want to make effective change using video, especially now that the “viral video” capacity online makes it possible to reach so many more viewers. His recent works such as Spring Breakers Without Borders (75,000+ views in English and Spanish) and Jodido Mexico (267,000+ views in Spanish alone) are examples of how viral video strategies create more bang for far fewer bucks to inform, report, and galvanize resistance movements. (Anyone who thinks outrageous humor and parody isn’t “politically correct” should not apply for this scholarship: ‘Nuff Said.) Greg is also co-producer of our series of videos on The Daily Life of Egypt’s Revolution and co-produced with us and others Javier Sicilia’s first video communiqué in Mexico last April, which quickly drew more than 16,000 viewers in Spanish and English and helped to launch a movement in its first days.

Mariana Simoes at the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism in Mérida, Yucatán, México. DR 2010 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.

Mariana Simoes, Brazilian journalist, organizer and student at Sarah Lawrence College, graduated from the School of Authentic Journalism in 2010 and returned as a professor of investigative journalism in 2011. A superb writer and investigator, she wrote what I consider to be the definitive profile and history of the life of the father of the Authentic Journalism Renaissance, Mexican newspaperman Mario Menéndez. At the New York workshop, Mariana will lead, with yours truly, our presentation on “How to Write a News Story,” as well as participate in the workgroup on media and community organizing.

Quetzal Belmont teaches camera work to Edwin Alvarez at the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism in Mérida, Yucatán, México. DR 2010 Jill Freidberg.

Quetzal Belmont, graduate of the 2004 school and professor in 2010, is a Mexico City video producer and also a recognized performance artist who is one of our house experts on what we call the Theater of Resistance (also a topic for one of the workgroups in NY), a term that more directly means that movements, and media about them, must never be boring and always be fun (something our Egyptian colleagues have reiterated this year in how they created and continue their own revolution).

Marta Molina interviews Javier Sicilia. DR 2011 Terri Bennett.

Marta Molina, of Barcelona and currently reporting from Mexico, has worked and reported alongside civil resistances extensively in her native Catalonia, in Palestine and in Brazil. Fluent in more languages than most of us will ever learn, Marta is also an experienced trainer in nonviolent civil disobedience and a first-rate strategist and tactician. Last May she reported Pilgrimage to the Sources of Javier Sicilia: The Poet Who Is Shaking Mexico. (I’ve known Javier for more than a decade, and I have yet to see a better, more complete and honest profile that provides a clue as to how this “accidental leader” was, in fact, more prepared than almost anyone to inspire a mass movement before tragic events thrust that role upon him.) This will be her first presentation in New York. She is also a student of Situationist theory and praxis. If you don’t know that term, you will after attending this workshop.

Some additional School of Authentic Journalism graduates will attend as presenters-in-training as part of their preparation to teach at the upcoming School of Authentic Journalism, March 21-31, 2012, in Mexico.

Finally, I’ll be there, too. I’m the cat-herder of this oft-nomadic authentic journalism movement, and as with Greg, New York is my hometown. Quite separately we both headed south of the border in the 1990s feeling a bit, ahem, displaced by what had occurred in our homeland, and especially how the media industry has stripped away so much of what we loved about the city and has handed over its territory of daily life to forces that oppose everything good and decent about it. But, with apologies to Robert Hunter, “don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart.” The secret history and present of the Big Apple remains to be mined and alchemized into a future return to the best of its story.

If you, too, dream that New York shall rise again (that credo may apply to every town, really), and that solving “the problem of media” is a key to getting there, then this workshop may well be for you. If you feel an affinity for the presenters introduced here, the mission of authentic journalism, the goal of more effective civil resistance and reporting of it, and a harmony with our work, we hope you apply.

I’d also like to add a few words, based on our experience of trial-and-error at the School of Authentic Journalism, on what kind of folks, we've learned, should not apply for this scholarship: If you view journalism as a “career” or follow the “freelance imperative” of molding stories and pitches to impress editors in order to get published in official or commercial media (we don’t rule out participants who have worked or work in mainstream media – we’re not opposed to earning a living – but we do filter out those who believe media’s own hype about “objectivity” and similar fish stories), then this Bud’s not for you. We also reject the hubris of too many reporters – themselves inexperienced at organizing social movements – who seem to think that after a few weeks of reporting they are somehow qualified or competent critics of how people organize themselves from below. Those people unwittingly get entire convoys blown up, yet feel no remorse because they think “It’s just part of the job.” Likewise, if you believe that reporting or making media about movements in ways that seek to help, and never, ever hurt, those movements makes one any less of a journalist than one who claims to be “objective,” this workshop is not for you either.

In sum, if you think you already know it all, have little to learn, but view a workshop like this more as an excellent opportunity to “make contacts” to further your career and reach, or as an audition in being an “edgy reporter” to later trampoline into big media stardom, you’re not going to enjoy this workshop at all, I promise you that.

This project is about scouting, recruiting and training those of us who can work in teams, in and alongside movements, to level a media playing field that is already tilted against them (and us, who report from below). This workshop is for those of us who still think we have plenty to learn, much more than we have to teach, and that includes those of us who are professors and presenters. The word “movement” means just that: If we’re not on the move and constantly evolving and improving, we don’t rise to that description at all.

The three-day training session – based on the curriculum of the ten-day School of Authentic Journalism and on the extensive work of ICNC promoting strategic understanding of civil resistance – charges no tuition. Scholarship recipients will be provided materials and meals during its sessions, free of charge, but will not be provided with lodging. The workshop is therefore for people from the New York metropolitan area or for applicants from elsewhere that express their commitment and ability to sponsor (or have their organization support) their own travel to and lodging in New York City.

Participants will learn from media makers experienced in reporting and documenting social movements, civil resistance, community organizing and nonviolent action campaigns, as well as experienced organizers from Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Europe and the US. The sessions will include:

-       The Strategic Dynamics of Civil Resistance

-       Egypt’s Grassroots Media that Built a Culture of Resistance

-       How to Write a News Story

-       Making Video and News “Go Viral”

-       The Story of Philadelphia’s Media Mobilizing Project

-       Mexico’s Movement Against the War on Drugs

-       Designing Movements and Media to Win

-       Community Organizing and Reporting About It

-       Reporting Under State and Corporate Repression

-       Bringing the Civil Resistance Success Story to North America


As well as workgroup sessions on these themes:

-       Community Organizing Among Media Makers

-       Advanced Civil Resistance and How to Present It

-       Theater of Resistance: Unleashing the Creativity of the People


That’s a lot for two-and-a-half days, isn’t it? So, yes, it is an intensive workshop with a strict clock but also with time to get to know each other, too, during meals and breaks and, optionally, into the later evenings in the city that never sleeps. However, since we are doing this workshop in just one language (English), it’s the equivalent of five days of our bilingual School of Authentic Journalism program, where everything gets consecutively translated in Spanish, too.

Scholarship recipients must agree to attend all sessions of the workshop, from Friday, October 21 at 5 p.m. to Sunday October 23 at 6 p.m. Like the Mexico-based School of Authentic Journalism, the workshop is intensive and participants will be chosen based on previous work and what the application reveals about which applicants are most likely to apply what is learned to making media and journalism that reports effectively alongside social movements. Some participants, based on their work and participation during these sessions, may be invited to the March 2012 School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico.

The workshop is open to applicants of any age, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation or political tendency. You do not need a university degree to be accepted for this workshop. Different from the bilingual School of Authentic Journalism program, the New York sessions – and applications for this scholarship - will be in English. The emphasis is on written journalism (print and online) and production of viral video for the Internet.

To request an application – due Wednesday, September 21 at 11:59 p.m. ET (yes, that’s just two weeks away!) – send an email to 

Recent human events from Egypt to Mexico and elsewhere have demonstrated that movements that make their own media enjoy greater chances of success than those that rely on the commercial or state media to tell their stories. Now we will bring the lessons learned to the media capital of the world, New York, where things can also be made to happen.


User login


About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

RSS Feed