Narco News Seeks Webmaster
After Four Years in the Pilot’s Seat, Dan Feder Will Report from the Field
By Al Giordano
Publisher, Narco News
August 11, 2006
Four years ago and fresh out of college, Dan Feder arrived at the Narco Newsroom. He set to work giving this international newspaper the user-friendly Internet platform that its content and readers deserve. And he’s been there with us, step by step, through it all, an integral part of the team. Over time, he learned Spanish, and became, also, Narco News’ managing editor. Truth be told, he’s been running the show for some time now.
So when Dan confided in me that he really wants to get out from behind the keypad and do the kind of investigative reporting that he’s been editing and webmastering for so long, I couldn’t blame him at all, but I also felt a great sense of dread. Someone like Dan, with his talents, his social commitment and his historic memory of six years of Narco News reports is irreplaceable. And I’ve spent the last weeks pondering what to do about it.
One option would be to convert all of Narco News over to the Narcosphere, where correspondents and co-publishers would simply publish our own work, but without photos, or audio or video reports.
Another option would be to close shop after more than six years of shaking up América and its media simulators, declare victory, and go home.
But home is this very same América and our absence in the media war would cede ground to the Commercial Media and, thus, make it a worse place to live.
So, once again, the only real option available is to stand and fight, and to put the call out to you, the readers, the 286 co-publishers, the 100-and-something graduates of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, the adherents to the Other Journalism with the Other Campaign, the Fund for Authentic Journalism and its many supporters, and other assorted friends and colleagues, and seek the solution, all of us, together.
The Job Description
I asked Dan to write up a “job description” for our webmaster and he gave me the following text…
Daily responsibilities would include:
- Laying out texts in HTML for web publication.
- Preparing digital photos for web publication.
- Preparing digital video for web publication.
- Overseeing all technical aspects of the online newspaper using
Narco News’ custom content management system (will require PHP programming ability).
- Maintaining the Narcosphere online community, using the Scoop content management system (PERL programming ability a plus).
- Maintaining the Narco News web server, a dedicated Debian Linux server running Apache.
I confess that after four years of supposedly supervising Dan I still haven’t a clue what terms like “PHP,” “PERL programming” or “Debian Linux server running Apache” mean. That underscores the need for a trusted colleague on hand who does.
If I were asked to write up a job description for our next webmaster it would come out very different. It would go like this…
Human qualities would include:
- Dedication to the ideals of authentic journalism, democracy, liberty and justice.
- Belief in the Narco News project and readiness to give one’s all for it at the expense of all other aspects of daily life.
- Tolerance and respect for the many different “tendencies” that fit under that banner.
- Absolute commitment to getting the facts right, and then getting them out there with speed and competence.
- Honesty, including being the first one in the door to report any problems.
- Willingness to live on a very small monthly stipend and recognition that there is no money to be made in fighting against greed.
- Mastery of either English or Spanish, and basic knowledge of the other, with a commitment to develop fluency in the other as well.
- Solidarity and loyalty to the community of journalists, co-publishers, readers, colleagues and supporters that spans this hemisphere.
- Eagerness to learn what one does not know and to share what one does know.
Dan had those qualities when he got here four years ago. And, today, he is a master of them, not just of the web.
Then, in addition to the daily responsibilities listed by Dan, above, I would add the following…
Daily responsibilities would also include:
- Nightly responsibilities (this means that if a major story is breaking or developing on the night that the best party in town is happening, the webmaster skips the party and remains at his or her post).
- Developing good working relationships with all of our writers and running all significant edits by them prior to publishing words under their bylines (this is one of the qualities that makes Narco News so very different from most other Commercial or alternative media).
- At the same time, fact-checking the stories and making suggestions to the writers as to how to better adhere the story to the known facts.
- Spell-checking every text published and correcting any errors.
- Posting the stories in an attractive form, often with photos or artwork, and then re-reading each story again and again to catch and fix any initial errors.
- Answering a lot of email correspondence from correspondents and readers; forwarding others to those who can best answer them, and following up to make sure they are answered.
- Writing captions for photos and making sure credit is duly given.
- Converting video newsreels to various formats.
- Working with volunteer translators, primarily in Spanish and English, but also in Italian, French, German and Portuguese. Recruiting their help in assuring that translations are clear and understandable.
- Serving as a kind of “air traffic controller” when your publisher is out in the field reporting or otherwise off-screen.
- Abstention from any and all electoral political militancy in any party or any country and especially keeping Narco News’ work free of such concerns: Narco News is often “political” but it is never “electoral.” We sometimes report about elections (and election fraud) but are never part of any party’s electoral campaign.
- Putting the daily and nightly priorities of one’s work with Narco News ahead of any and all other responsibilities, be they professional, political or personal.
- Adding many links to original source information within the texts published on Narco News, especially to previous Narco News reports on the same themes.
- Developing a totality of historic memory of six years of Narco News reports and history, to be able to know, instinctively, what pre-existing information ought to be backed up by links.
- Helping individual co-publishers use the Narcosphere.
- Sending out alerts of new reports to our lists of more than 3,000 subscribers and managing our various mailing lists.
- Other communications tasks that are necessary for our publications and our School of Authentic Journalism.
In other words, joining the core Narco News team is something akin to signing up for military service. It is a completely overwhelming experience working with colleagues, including your publisher, who at times can be overwhelming in our demands and even more demanding on ourselves than we are of you. But according to Dan’s letter that accompanies this very “other” kind of “Help Wanted” announcement, he has found it very worthwhile. Enough to extend his tour of duty for four consecutive years.
A Note to Readers
You may have begun reading the above job description with some interest in the post but after hearing how much sacrifice it involves, may have counted yourself out. But if that’s the case, there are still two things you can do to help this along.
First, you can forward this announcement and Dan’s accompanying letter to others you think might be right for the position of Narco News webmaster. As always, please distribute widely. (One of Dan’s great contributions to these pages is the “Email this story to a friend” option that appears at the bottom of the page.)
Second, although our new webmaster, like the rest of us, will be pretty much bound to voluntary poverty, Dan is witness that only once in four years (48 months) were we late with his monthly stipend payment, something almost unheard of in rebel organizations! But that is the ethic here. Everybody eats before I eat. So, to be in a position to seriously make this offer, and to continue our important work reporting at this moment when various social explosions are occurring from Oaxaca to Atenco to the rest of Our América and need so very badly to be reported and reported well, we need an immediate replenishment of our tiny war chest.
What you can do is make a contribution today – right now, as a matter of fact – to the Fund for Authentic Journalism, online, by clicking this link.
Or, you can send a contribution via snail mail to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 241
Natick, MA 01760 U.S.A.
Because that’s another snag that could hit us in the immediate future: to find the right person for the post of webmaster but not be able to offer the position due to a lack of funds. Our fate, once again, is in your hands, too.
A Note to Our Future Webmaster
We haven’t made an application form for the position. We’re asking instead for a letter from you, of any length, in English or in Spanish, explaining why you’d like to do this work, which of the necessary skills you have, and which you would still have to learn.
You can be of any age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or political tendency as long as you feel it is in harmony with the mission of Narco News. You can be ready to pack up and head to “somewhere in América” to do this job or you can already be here. Or you can make the case that you can do this work from where you already are.
So, write that letter by September 1 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Feder, our first and only webmaster, will personally head the search for his replacement. After all, he’ll be the one training you and, later, he’ll be one of your writers. I, and others, will also be involved in the search and the interview process.
Tell us, also, when you can begin the job. Sooner is better than later. You will be needed to hit the ground running and devote your time and talents exclusively to the project, at least until you’ve mastered it.
If you’re interested, but not sure you have all the qualities we’ve listed here, give it a try anyway. You can see from the list of “human qualities” that I most seek for this new colleague that some things are just, frankly, more important to me than technical skills. That’s because skills can be learned but a person either has character and dedication or he or she do not.
And as Dan can testify, we’re always interested in new ideas and suggestions from the “radical techie” community and others as to how to make this project more effective. Beyond the daily and nightly tasks to be done, as webmaster, you’ll be joining a 24-hour “think tank” that is permanently in session, pioneering new paths for the Authentic Journalism renaissance and public communications in general. Between our writers, documentary filmmakers, J-School professors and alumni, co-publishers, sources, advisors and other friends of the project you’ll be an integral part of a talent pool, brain trust and volunteer workforce that, beyond being a kind of think tank, is also a community that crosses and unites many lands, cultures, and tendencies toward our common goals.
Of course, we’ll be especially thrilled if someone already part of our community and network, with historical memory and a proven commitment to this mission, steps forward to take the steering wheel of this journalistic “war machine outside the state.” We’ve already thought of some of you for the post, but we want to see who takes the initiative, first; that is, who really wants to do it?
This is very serious work, and a lot is at stake, but as Dan and others can testify, we’ve all enjoyed it immensely, and we haven’t forgotten that the revolution is best lived by having a lot of fun along the road. There’s nothing else like it, at least not that I’ve ever lived. And the rest of our team will tell you the same. So, if you’re interested, start the conversation by writing to email@example.com with any supporting information, links, or questions you might have, and let’s keep this show on the road.
From somewhere in a country called América,
The Narco News Bulletin
Click here for more Narco News coverage of Mexico
Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español
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- The Fund for Authentic Journalism
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