<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español October 26, 2014 | Issue #67


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Scholarships to Attend the School of Authentic Journalism Happen Because of Your Support

It’s Where We Find the Knowledge on How to Bring Change to Our Communities and Report About It


By Heather McCuen
School of Authentic Journalism, class of 2012

October 11, 2012

Everyone who has ever stood up for anything has at least one moment in common. It’s the moment at which we decide that we can no longer be silent – the moment when we understand that change will not happen without every available voice, including our own. So we stand up. The particulars of that moment are different for each of us, but the choice is the same. These moments are not heroic, they are personal. Unfortunately, whether we then become organizers or journalists or anything else, there is usually a second moment that follows not long after the first – when we realize that creating change in this world doesn’t happen simply because we really want it to, or even because what we’re doing is the right thing to do. I’ve spoken to many people lately who have felt that initial need to take action, but are now wrestling with what their own social movements have not yet been able to accomplish. It can be a hard lesson that being right isn’t enough. In truth, it isn’t even close.


Last spring, Heather McCuen brought the School of Authentic Journalism video “This Is Maria: She Will End the War on Drugs” to the influential 140 Conference of social media makers in her city of Montreal.
Opponents, especially those in positions of power, can often seem invincible. Change can appear impossible. So how do we organize? What will be effective? We find ourselves passionately seeking change while unsure of how to achieve it. If we are willing to allow our passion to be tempered by reason, we realize that others before us have also worked to bring change to their communities – and many have succeeded. So if we are willing to learn, we can look at what others have done and apply those lessons to our own struggles.

It’s easy enough to say, but where do we find that kind of knowledge?

Imagine if there was a school for that. Something between a boot camp and a masterclass for people who want to change the world around them. What would it look like? To begin with, it should be a place where the professors are gathered not from classrooms, but directly from those social movements that have fought oppression without violence and succeeded – all over the world: Real people, real struggle, real strategy and real success: Against apartheid, against dictators, against injustice and oppression in all of it’s forms. And won. And at this school, you could learn how they did it. You could also learn how journalism and media effect (and are effected by) these social movements – how communication can ultimately decide the fate of what you’re struggling for.

How would a school like this choose its students? Imagine that to get into this school, you needed to fill out a daunting 11-page essay application unlike any other application on the planet. One where the questions cared little for your degrees or academic background, and were instead aimed at understanding who you were, what you were doing, and how you understood and evaluated the world around you. Imagine that the application itself was crafted to identify those with the desire to effect change, the intelligence to determine what was necessary, the talent to organize and the creativity to make it all work. Oh, and imagine this school was free – that your admission was based solely on your ideas and actions, and not your financial means.

Does it sound extraordinary? If it was real, would you apply? (If you would, you can get an application right now to the April 2013 School of Authentic Journalism by writing to app2013@narconews.com. If you complete the application by November 18, you will be eligible for one of 40 scholarships.)

But there is a bigger question for all of us, whether or not we want to attend the school: Would you help to support it?

It has only happened five times so far, but the School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico is that school. The 40 Scholarships for April 2013 have just been announced, and if anything I’ve just described resonates with you, I encourage you to apply. Since both the scholarships and the school itself are funded by donations, every school could be the last. Earlier this year, I had the honor of attending the 2012 session. I could describe some of the things I learned, or the incredible people I met, but for now I will leave that to my fellow scholars. (Isadora Bonilla, for example, shares her own story here.) For me, beyond any one lesson that I learned – and there were many – the School of Authentic Journalism offered me something far more valuable. It offered me a third moment to put those first two into better perspective.

The third moment is the one in which I realized that yes, the task may be daunting, and yes, the opponent immense – but that change is possible because power will always lie with the people. Always. We just don’t always know how to use it. So we need to be willing to learn. It’s also the moment I understood that effective strategy, organizing, discipline and creativity are superpowers – and that the world is full of superheroes. I’ve now met quite a few. That our capacity to change the world is first and foremost a matter of choice. And perhaps most importantly, that if you make that choice (and it is not an easy one), you are not alone. The very existence of the school is a testament to that fact.

Make no mistake – The School of Authentic Journalism is real. It survives with the support of individuals worldwide, like you, who choose to make a difference – individuals who understand the need for a school like this one, and who donate to the scholarship fund that keeps the school going.

You can make a donation right now, online, by clicking this link:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org

Or you can send a check to:

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

And for those who wish to attend but are unsure of their own credentials, I will say this. When I first read last year’s scholarship announcement I wasn’t sure if I was qualified, but I knew I absolutely needed to be there. If you feel the same way, apply now. I’ll leave you with the words of the school’s founder, Al Giordano, which were included at the bottom of last year’s announcement – words that convinced me to apply despite my initial hesitation. And believe me when I tell you – he means them.

“Now, I’d like to address you over there: Yes, you, in the corner, the one who just read about all these amazing people coming together in one place and is thinking, “I’d love to be there, but I’m not experienced enough, I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve it, and they’ll never pick me anyway.” Are you sure about that? We’re not looking for people who think they already know it all and just want to pick our pockets for new “contacts” and “career moves.” We learn better and better each year how to sniff those opportunists out or dispatch with them quickly when they bare their mercenary teeth. If you think you have things to learn from this school, and really want to go out and do good work with the knowledge and experience we give, you are exactly who we seek. We have taken on scholars who had zero journalistic experience, from the ages of 17 to 65, and today they are among the best in the vocation. We’ve also taken on very experienced people and made them better, faster and more coherent at this work. We pick a mix of people with varying levels of experience from different lands and situations. We’re not looking for 40 of the same person, but, rather, 40 distinct human beings.”

So what the hell are you waiting for?

Heather McCuen
Montreal, Quebec
School of Authentic Journalism, class of 2012

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America