|English | Español||February 21, 2017 | Issue #67|
You Made The 2015 School of Authentic Journalism Our Best Yet. Let's Make 2016 Even Better
Our Professors Trained a New Class of Scholars in 2015 With Your Support, But It Will Only Happen Again With Your Help
By Fabiola Rocha
Scholars learn tactics for reporting on social movements, the dynamics of strategic nonviolence, how to use social media to create impact on the real world, and other essential tools for sharing the desires and achievements of movements that strive every day to reshape the world in which we live.
The School of Authentic Journalism is built on the contributions of people like you, as well as our own professors, who volunteer their time and underwrite
their own travel expenses so that we can share their lifelong experiences with our scholars. The school charges no tuition. The program is free for those who are selected to attend.
Above all, the school depends on friends and supporters like you to help cover the costs of running it. Last year, we launched a Kickstarter campaign for the first time, and together we fought hard to gather support for our school. More than 300 of you gave gifts ranging from one dollar to a thousand dollars. We were thrilled by your tremendous outpouring of support. Thanks to this tremendous collective effort, the 2015 school was our best session ever.
But there is no guarantee that the 2016 school is going to happen. In financial terms, we have to start from zero every year. We have no endowment or savings, and the school will only happen if you make it happen. A ten day, bilingual school costs $75,000 to run, and a shorter, Spanish language only school costs $30,000.
I am a journalist and a performer. I have been the school’s Director for two years. I first attended the school in 2013, at a time when I was sorely in need of inspiration. I had been an active participant in a Mexican movement called #YoSoy132.
In 2012 we challenged the unfair alliance between our country’s corporate media monopoly and the PRI political party, whose authoritarian leaders had already ruled the country for 70 years and was on its way back to power with the help of an undemocratic media. But our movement ultimately failed and the PRI returned to power.
I came to The School of Authentic Journalism looking for answers. I learned that in order for my colleagues and I to communicate the objectives of our movement, it was important to understand the dynamics of building power by studying movements that had come before us. The school also showed me how important it is for storytellers to understand strategy, particularly nonviolent strategy, so that we understand that our journalism can have a direct impact on shaping the fate of a movement.
The School taught me all this, and also introduced me to some of my favorite reallife superheroes: People like Mkhuseli “Khusta” Jack, organizer of one of the most successful economic boycotts during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa; Johanna Lawrenson, a photographer and organizer who, together with her late husband Abbie Hoffman, led creative and successful actions from upstate New York to Nicaragua; the Rev. James Lawson, who changed the course of the American Civil Rights’ movement when he organized the Nashville Lunch Counter SitIns in 1959; Mercedes Osuna, who helped train thousands of international volunteers and journalists in support of the Zapatista indigenous uprising in Mexico; Renny Cushing, an American community organizer who in the early 1980s stopped the growth of nuclear energy in its tracks, and Oscar Olivera, spokesperson for a successful peoples ́movement against water privatization in Bolivia.
All of these incredible professors have been assembled together in one amazing school thanks to the vision of its founder, Al Giordano. It is his belief that journalism and community organizing both require a similar skill set. To do either of them well you have to understand how to communicate clearly. As a young journalist involved in movements to transform my country and my world, I find that to be inspiring.
The School of Authentic Journalism values experience over theory. That ́s why so many of our professors are passionate individuals who have actually won their battles and achieved the objectives of their struggles on behalf of the common good. Ours is also the only school I know of that strives to make the experience of attending it one that changes the lives of our participants.
Our school does this through rigorous attention to detail and planning, and also by cultivating an atmosphere of joy and celebration. As Al says, “Pleasure is a better motivator for learning than fear.” We believe that good communication and storytelling is nourished by such an environment.
I could have chosen to do many things with my life, but I believe that the School of Authentic Journalism represents my best shot at changing the world. I could have chosen to build houses, provide food for the hungry, work on the border, work with victims of domestic violence, struggle for gay rights or against kidnapping and forced disappearance. But I chose to dedicate my life to this school because I believe it is an amplifier of change around the world.
The school doesn’t offer one straight path to a new world; but it is a point of convergence that provides tools for different individuals to support the revolution of their choosing.
It is also one of the only journalism schools in the world that doesn ́t charge a cent, where everyone who is selected gets an automatic scholarship, thanks to your financial support. Money isn ́t a factor when we choose each year ́s class, only the talent and passion of each individual applicant. We also don ́t ask for resumes. Our students have been Human Rights workers in Haiti, carpenters, writers, parents, freelance journalists, or people with little previous journalism experience. We don ́t care where or scholars have worked in the past. We just want to give exceptional and talented individuals the tools they need to tell stories to change the world.
Al created the school 15 years ago, alongside Mexican journalist Mario Menendez, publisher of the newspaper “¡Por Esto!” after the two of them were sued by Citibank in New York for their investigative journalism work on the War on Drugs. Al and Mario won their case, which established a legal precedent extending the same freedoms of the press to internet journalists as print journalists already enjoyed.
Al conceived of the school as a way to honor the work of the teachers and mentors that taught him. He chose to call it “authentic” journalism in honor of Mario, who coined the term to refer to a kind of journalism which always serves the interests of peoples’ movements.
The School of Authentic Journalism has itself become a movement, and you can be a part of it. The school has trained hundreds of scholars from every inhabited continent in the world, but will only continue with your support. It
doesn’t matter if you give one dollar or two thousand. Every gift is important.
Please help us ensure that The School of Authentic Journalism helps to save the world…again!
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism