“We’ll Call You…” Announcing the Narco News Consulta
A Phone Call “From Somewhere in América” Seeking Your Comments, Criticisms and Ideas
By Al Giordano
Founder, Narco News
October 4, 2005
It’s been almost five-and-a-half years since I began reporting to you, kind reader, on the drug war and democracy from Latin America via this corner of the Internet. The rest of the story is archived all over these pages… how one authentic journalist became two. Two became three. Three became thirty. Thirty became… well… about a hundred graduates of the School of Authentic Journalism and, now, 248 co-publishers… and a multitude of readers and collaborators that have caused a revolution in how journalism is done.
There’s no turning back now. It’s been – and continues to be – quite the ride… five years since Narco News was sued by Banamex-Citibank, and almost four years since we defeated that attack from the richest financial institution on earth… Three years, it’s been, since we founded a School of Authentic Journalism, and two years since our first session on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. It’s been 18 months since – after a three-month silence – Narco News came roaring back to life with a participatory Narcosphere (an experiment that continues going strong), a Fund for Authentic Journalism, and a year since we convened the J-School in Bolivia.
As journalists, we don’t only remember the calendar based on our own story. We can never forget the stories about others that we’ve reported: the lifting of the cloak over the real narco-politicians, bankers, and the dishonest “journalists” that protect them… the explosion of the drug legalization cause throughout Latin America, and the beginning of prohibition’s last gasp: the Plan Colombia U.S. military intervention in 2000… the Zapatista indigenous rights caravan to Mexico City, the growth of a coca growers movement in Bolivia and that charting of Narco Dollars for, er, beginners in 2001… the attempted coups in Venezuela, the historic electoral shifts in Brazil, in Bolivia, in Ecuador in 2002, and the discovery that “single issues” like drug policy and human rights can’t be pulled apart from all this authentic democracy breaking out from below (and that the Authentic Journalism renaissance is itself one of those social movements)… a South American enlightenment for harm reduction in drug policy… the rise of El Alto and the fall of Goni in 2003… the opening of the floodgates of whistleblowers in U.S. drug and law enforcement agencies along the US-Mexico border in 2004… and more than two thousand other stories that have often changed people’s lives and history’s directions.
Of course, it hasn’t always been easy while all this and more has been going on to be as in touch with our readers and collaborators as we would like. We’re not that easy to locate. After all, when your name is “Narco News” you don’t publish your home address and you don’t list your phone number: not when you’re regularly afflicting the comfortable (as well as the downright evil and violent). There has always been, by necessity, a somewhat clandestine quality of this war machine outside the decaying state of Commercial Media. And since we run this newspaper on vapors – that is to say, on very little funding – it has so far been impossible for us to call you on our dime: Until now.
The advent of Internet telephone services now allows me to call you inexpensively from anywhere in América to anywhere in the world.
And it recently occurred to me – while listening to 106 hours of testimony in the Mexican Southeast from people who want to be more involved in writing their own history – that the time has come to embark upon a similar process here with Narco News readers and collaborators (and with potential new readers and collaborators). I’ve discussed this with my commanding officer – Acting Publisher Luis Gómez – and in characteristic style, Gómez responded, “do it!” And so here goes…
The short version: Send me an email at email@example.com with your real name, your phone number, your city or town, your time zone, and what hours you can receive phone calls. And I’ll call you up to hear whatever you have to say about Narco News and where we want to take it from here.
Here’s a longer version: For five years I’ve received your emails and have tried to respond to every one that directly offered advice and counsel for Narco News. At times – because of being on the road reporting and the crush of work – I may have sometimes been short with you, or not as responsive as you might have wished. I sense that I may not have always heard exactly what you were trying to say. Email is a limited medium. Sometimes we approach the mailbox in haste, and communication – authentic communication – falls under the crush of the work at hand. And, of course, not everyone is as comfortable with the written word as we writers tend to be. A lot of folks are simply more articulate and conversational mouth to ear and vice versa.
Still, it is true (it always has been) that we really do want your feedback, your criticism, your suggestions, your ideas, your offers and requests of collaboration and Mutual Aid. And we want to know what we can do for you (not just what you can do for us) because Authentic Journalism is, first and foremost, about service, and we do seek to be at yours.
Therefore, starting right now, I invite all our readers, writers and media makers, our professors, our students, our co-publishers, our subscribers, our critics, our colleagues in other media, too, and our supporters (including the many whom we have never even met) to talk directly with me via the telephone. No, I’m not giving out my phone number. We’re not out of those woods yet! Rather, I am offering to call you… on my nickel… or is it a peso this week? A bolivariano? A quetzal? It gets so confusing sometimes, this matter of currency, especially when there is so little of it.
Whether you have a detailed concrete proposal for what we ought to be reporting on at Narco News, or just a vague idea of how we can serve you better – or if something about our work, or the way we’ve done it before, is bothering you and you want to get it off your chest – or you are a long lost friend or co-conspirator, even if you just want to say “hello, I’m here, I just wanted you people to know that I exist,” I’d like hear what you have to say, and see how it can improve our newspaper and our J-School and the rest of the work we do.
So, for the next six weeks – through November 7th – I’m going to take all comers. If you send me your phone number by November 1st – send it to firstname.lastname@example.org – and a general sense of what hours of the day or night you are available (and tell me your city or town so I can be aware of the time zone), you can expect my every effort to call you (and if I can’t reach you, I’ll email you back to seek an alternate route).
If you want to write in your email a brief summary of what you would like to talk about, please feel free. If you don’t have a specific agenda, I have some general questions I’d like to ask our readers and collaborators about where this project – which has grown so fast and so large it is sometimes hard to steer – ought to be headed.
- What stories haven’t you read on Narco News that you’d like us to be reporting?
- Is there some role you personally would like to play in our expanding team or network?
- How can we do our job better?
- Do you have any new ideas for us as to how to publish this International tri-lingual newspaper?
- Is something bothering you about us? What is it? (I can’t guarantee we won’t continue to bug you, but I can at least explain why we do some things like we do… or, if you’re right, then thanks for bringing the problem to our attention: we’ll make every effort to correct things.)
- Money’s tight and there’s so much to do: Do you have any fundraising ideas for us?
- How does a newspaper – or any kind of media – better involve the people so that this is a conversation among peers and not simply a bunch of “professionals” talking down to the people?
I also have some questions about our School of Authentic Journalism, like:
- How do we strengthen our network of authentic journalists to protect each other from outside attack or from – in memory of the late Gary Webb (1955-2004, and Presente) – economic ruin or other tragedies?
- Do you think the graduates of the J-School have given back to society what they received free of charge from us? If not, what can we do in the future to better cultivate that ethic?
- Do you know a good potential scholar for the next J-School? A good potential professor? Are you one of those people? Give me your pitch!
I’ll try to answer almost any question (except, of course, about the exact location of our journalists, or other info that could be used to harm them, or anything that would violate somebody else’s confidence). And, of course, I’m a journalist, so I will probably, based on our conversation, come up with other questions on the spot, specifically for you, too.
And so, the first Narco News Consulta begins. I don’t think any newspaper has ever offered to call you like this. But I think it’s an idea whose time has come. A newspaper ought to be close to its readers and collaborators. So, send your name, town or city, and phone number to me, along with the hours of day or night that you can receive phone calls, and you’ll be hearing from me soon. You don’t need to have a title, or belong to an organization, or anything like that: being a reader is more than enough. We writers, after all, only exist because you are there. Without you, there wouldn’t be an us.
Join the Consulta by sending an email to email@example.com before November 1. In general, I’ll make the calls on a first come first serve basis, unless you say something that really sparks my interest in your email, in which case I might just pick up the phone immediately.
But, I repeat: you don’t have to say anything at all in your email except your real name, your city or town, your phone number, and what hours you can receive my call. And that’s good enough for me.
The rest, and the future, well, we will construct that together.
From somewhere in a country called América,
Founder and Correspondent
The Narco News Bulletin
Email for the Consulta: firstname.lastname@example.org
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