The Narco News Bulletin
January 21, 2018 | Issue #67
narconews.com - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America
The next School of Authentic Journalism, April 17 to 27, 2013, in Mexico, will mark ten years since we held the first one in 2003. More than 300 journalists, independent media makers, community organizers and social movement leaders have passed through these doors since we began.
Evening plenary session at the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism in Mérida, Yucatán. D.R. 2010 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.
At the 2013 school we will hear from a leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid boycott and general strike, a union organizer who strategized Bolivia's "water war" that stopped the privatization of that resource, an organizer who helped - this year - stop the deportation of 800,000 undocumented immigrants from the United States, a strategist who launched the global movement to end nuclear power, a writer and journalist who became a movement leader when her town was threatened by a nuclear waste dump, a young organizer whose creativity and humor helped topple his country of Serbia's dictator, and two legendary theorists and organizers who worked alongside Martin Luther King to end racial segregation.
This ten-day intensive program is for the following kinds of people: Journalists and communicators who report on and alongside social movements, community organizing and civil resistance campaigns, and also for those participants in those movements who write, blog, photograph, create and manage websites, make video, radio, graphic design or political cartoons about them. In previous schools we have accepted some applicants with little experience but whose raw talent and urgent desire to make change in their communities and in the world impressed us, and a good number of them have gone on to do great works. Some are even professors of the School of Authentic Journalism today.
I learned that "being right is not enough" during my own experiences as, first, a community organizer and political prisoner and, later, as an investigative journalist in the commercial media, and, still later as an authentic journalist who has reported alongside many social movements. Protests do not, by themselves, change society, and neither does getting or providing "press coverage" for demonstrations, marches and "actions." The mass media may sometimes pay more attention to that very limited set of tactics, but they have only been successful at their stated goals when part of a longer-term plan that mixes those tactics with grassroots organizing, training of participants, and direct communications both within its ranks and toward the greater public that do not depend on media attention to deliver a coherent message.
That's why, at the School of Authentic Journalism, we invite professors who have actually organized successful movements to tell us how they did it and what they learned in the process.
Remember how, nine months ago, TIME magazine took all the organized resistances around the world, most notably the "Arab Spring," lumped them in with every other protest on earth, and reduced it all to the cliché that 2011 was "The Year of the Protester"? By the following week, something else was on the cover of the magazine and social tumult was, for it, a fad of the past. Here at Narco News we are now in our twelfth year of reporting alongside authentic grassroots movements that continue year in, year out, that go through peaks and valleys, and seasons outside of the attention of the mass media spectacle. In our experience, those movements that do the careful planning and grassroots organizing and communication - and not the mere "protests" that seek media coverage - are the ones that more often achieve the historic changes they set out to make.
In this media and Internet age, too many well-intentioned efforts to "get media attention" for a cause or an issue tend to burn out once the media turns its attention to the next story. The movements that succeed in the twenty-first century are those that construct their own media from below, both to communicate with their own members and also to inform, convince and invite new participants. No longer dependent on outside media to convene their forces, they also free themselves from the trap of deforming their struggles to fit the shallow and cartoon forms that the mass media know how to coopt and, later, dismiss and make disappear.
By the same yardstick, too much of what poses as "alternative media" - the kind that may have the best intentions report a protest or a march - merely replicates the dominant media models and ends up poisoning the struggles it covers in the same ways. Or, worse, it imposes a tired, ideological, "Jurassic Park" language of old slogans, chants and other clichés on new struggles in ways that make them appear, to the greater public, as a boring version of "more of the same." We have seen both examples in recent months in Mexico with how different local, national and international media have covered the young "YoSoy132" student movement. Maybe you have noticed it, too.
If these words resonate with you, if you read your own thoughts and ideas in them, and if you also have the talent to communicate in any form - writing, video, audio, creation of images, or the work of webmasters and similar technicians of communication - then this scholarship might well be for you. Likewise, if you consider yourself to be a good storyteller, well, that is the basic skill of all good writing and you probably can do well at that, too. We encourage you, too, to take a chance and complete the scholarship application. We have found some of our best graduates that way.
This is not an "academic" school and it is not "accredited" by any institution. It will not count as credit toward any degree. It is a ten-day intensive training in the nonviolent martial arts of communications, strategy, tactics and in using our abilities to unleash the talents of many to bring forth a new world of authentic democracy and authentic journalism alike.
Let me tell you about our professors and a little bit more about what we do at this ten-day intensive training session.
Mkhuseli Jack, when in his twenties, organized boycotts and general strikes that ended the apartheid system in South Africa. At the School of Authentic Journalism he'll help train new generations in how civil resistance can be organized and reported.
He and others like him accomplished this historic feat before they were 30 years old. Khusta Jack will not only tell his story at the 2013 School of Authentic Journalism, but he will also work individually and in workgroups with our scholars and professors to help deepen and mentor our own understanding of the strategic dynamics of how change is made.
You will read the word "stories" a lot in these words - and if you come to the school you will hear it again and again - because all movements begin with the telling of a story and with others listening to it. Paulina Gonzalez, a neighborhood community organizer in Los Angeles, came last spring to Mexico for the School of Authentic Journalism and shared her story - as the daughter of Mexican immigrants-turned-organizer - and taught us more than we knew about how to tell our own stories, and those of our movements, and how to listen to such stories and report them.
Paulina has also been telling true stories like those on the pages of Narco News this year, most recently in her two-part series on The Strategy and Organizing Behind the Successful DREAM Act Movement that stopped the deportation of 800,000 undocumented students from the United States last June. That well-planned organizing campaign was so successful that it may even lead, by April next year, to some new professors and scholars at our school who, in previous years, were unable to cross the border to attend it!
We have two more returning professors who had wanted to attend the 2012 School of Authentic Journalism but were unable to due to local emergencies, but they've signed up to come back in 2013.
Oscar Olivera brings his lessons from Bolivia's "water war" in 2000 that stopped the privatization of that resource, and many other civil resistance struggles, to Mexico at what will be his second School of Authentic Journalism. Here he is at the 2011 school. D.R. 2011 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.
Jim Lawson at the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism in Mérida, Yucatan. D.R. 2010 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.
In 1968, on the eve of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King introduced Jim to striking sanitation workers, presenting him as "the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world." This will be Jim's second School of Authentic Journalism (he was with us in 2010 in Mérida, Yucatán) as well as Oscar's (who taught and learned with us in Mexico City in 2011), and it will be the first at which we have both of them here.
Mary King (far right) with her students at the University of Peace in Costa Rica.
Ivan Marovic was 18-years-old when he and a small group of friends launched a youth movement in Serbia to rid their country of the dictator Slobodian Milosevic. At a time when Milosevic's 70,000 secret police would brutally crush any demonstration or march, they had to develop other kinds of tactics to awaken what would become in few years a full scale popular and nonviolent revolution by 2000. Among those tactics was something Ivan calls the "dilemma action" that puts a movement's adversary in the position of having no good options. At the 2011 School of Authentic Journalism, scholars and professors in our Viral Video Workgroup turned Ivan's talk about it into a video called Barrel of Laughs. It's vintage Marovic, so check it out if you haven't seen it already!
In the 1970s, when his hometown of Seabrook, New Hampshire was threatened with the construction of two nuclear power plants, there was no national or international anti-nuclear movement. It was born when Renny Cushing and his neighbors organized, first locally, and later regionally, to stop those nukes. "Community organizing," explains Renny, "is kind of like social networks, except we did it before there was an Internet." When I was a teenager who became involved in that movement, Renny was one of my first, best teachers in how community organizing is done. The occupations of the Seabrook nuclear site that Renny and his neighbors organized inspired a national and international movement that stopped a new generation of nuclear power plants. This past week, we saw its organized power again as the nation of Japan announced it will phase out all use of nuclear power.
One thing many people may not know about Renny is that he was the theorist and organizer of the first Wall Street Occupation on October 28 and 29 of 1979. I told that story a year ago on Narco News, and if you decide to apply for this scholarship you will be reading it because it is the subject of the essay requirement on our application.
Many people know Joyce Maynard through her books, movies and journalism. Few know her story as a community organizer who waged a successful battle to stop a nuclear waste dump. She'll tell that story at the 2013 School of Authentic Journalism.
In that, Joyce was ahead of her time. Journalists - according to the "official" news media - weren't supposed to take sides. We were supposed to be "objective" (whatever that means) and "above" the fray; an elite caste outside of society, not part of it. Joyce taught me that that curtain could and should be torn asunder and inspired me, a little over a year later, to become a journalist after my own years as a community organizer and troublemaker. More than that, she read my earliest works of writing, coached me, and pushed me to be better at it. I already know she is a great teacher and am thrilled that she will be helping us teach others in the next generations, now, too.
A decade later - when I arrived in Mexico from the United States - I met another teacher important to my development. Mercedes Osuna directed a civic association that managed a large part of the access by national and international human rights observers and journalists to the indigenous Zapatista communities of Chiapas. She trained us - and sometimes would have to crack the whip on those of us new to how those communities won their autonomy - not only in how to minimize risks to our own safety in a conflict zone surrounded by 70,000 military soldiers and dangerous paramilitary forces, but also in how we should not put the people and communities we were visiting at greater risk. Her presentation on "journalist safety in conflict zones" is one of the most important and popular plenary sessions we present at the School of Authentic Journalism.
Johanna Lawrenson (center, top) in 1985 on a flight home from Nicaragua with her late husband Abbie Hoffman (left) and a 25-year-old Al Giordano (right). D.R. 1985 Johanna Lawrenson/Abbie Hoffman Archives.
These ten professors - five women and five men who each have played a unique role in the history of recent decades - are not the only ones coming to the 2013 school to share real lived experience. There are another 30 (we have a professor-to-scholar ratio of one-for-one, which allows us to provide a personal faculty advisor to each and every scholarship recipient). Along with the great teachers and leaders mentioned above, the rest of us will be working intensively with each of you in three workgroups through which we will produce, together, viral videos for the Internet, written works of investigative journalism, and - this year for the first time - an extensive online curriculum to share the "nuts and bolts" of how better journalism can be done alongside social movements free of charge to the greater international public, including the hundreds of applicants we hear from each year who we are unable to invite to one of the 40 scholarships.
Five of the six directors of our three workgroups first came to us as scholarship recipients. Now they teach what they once learned.
Mariana Simoes (left) and Leah Hennessey (right) at the School of Authentic Journalism's "nonviolent war room" on March 28, 2012 in Cuernavaca, Mexico, to report the anniversary of a Mexican peace movement to the world. D.R. 2012 Isadora Bonilla.
Arzu Geybullayeva (class of 2011) returned to the School of Authentic Journalism in 2012 as a professor. This year she will co-direct, with Katie Halper, the Online Curriculum Workgroup. D.R. 2012 Isadora Bonilla.
Brazilian journalist and community organizer Mariana Simoes (class of 2010) will co-direct our Investigative Journalism workgroup with Bill Conroy, whose works week in, week out on Narco News continue to blow the whistle on official corruption in the US-imposed "war on drugs." (Bill had applied to the 2003 School of Authentic Journalism and we made the mistake of not accepting him - telling him he was "too experienced" for our program - but Conroy is persistent, continued to work with us, and came to the school in 2004, that time invited as a professor.) They'll be joined by South African journalist (and trainer of journalists) Anele Mdzikwa (class of 2012), Mexican journalist Laura Garcia (class of 2012), and returning professors, the editor extraordinaire Katherine Faydash and author Richard Bell (also an important veteran and chronicler of the anti-nuclear movements of the seventies and eighties, as well as an historic pioneer of the earliest years of the Internet), as well as some of our civil resistance professors who are excellent writers and reporters with vast experience.
Writer, performer and dramaturge Leah Hennessey (class of 2012) learns from a maestro of authentic journalism, Bill Conroy, in the Investigative Journalism Workgroup. She returns in 2013 as a professor. D.R. 2012 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.
And we have a new staff member this year in Luz Rodea. Luz has been helping me write a book about 18 social movements and civil resistance campaigns that I either organized or reported, most of them successful, and when not successful they provided important lessons to learn. Since many of the professors at the 2013 School of Authentic Journalism are colleagues and friends who fought from many of the same trenches during those moments, Luz is going to be recording their own memories of those battles, the strategies and tactics deployed, and what we all learned from them. This will not only help us "fact check" the book, but it will also enrich the stories because, as the Mexican journalist Mario Menéndez Rodríguez defines authentic journalism: "I have my truth. You have your truth. When we put those truths together we make a bigger truth."
School of Authentic Journalism social directors Tiberio Tinarelli and Maia Facen. D.R. 2010 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.
The first thing you will notice when you open it is that is a long application, eleven pages long, with an essay requirement! Last year, 1,100 people wrote us for the application and, of them, more than 400 completed it, from which we chose 40 scholars. It's length weeds out lazy people or those that don't really want the scholarship enough. It is also a very different kind of application than that offered by other schools and universities. We are less interested in your resume than in getting to know how you think and work, and whether you are willing and able to work hard for what you want.
We asked some of our graduates, on camera, about their experience completing the application to the school, and share with you this short video to give you an idea - in their words - of what it is like and why you may find it worthwhile to give it a go:
Last year we gave you only four weeks to complete the application. This time we are giving you eight weeks. But don't dawdle or procrastinate: the sooner we receive your completed application, the sooner we will begin reading it and the work you provide with it. You do score some points with us for getting it in early! I personally read every word on each and every application, and a number of the people mentioned above also review them and give me good counsel on which scholars to select. If you take the time to complete it, you have my word that we will take the time to carefully consider you for the scholarship.
The School of Authentic Journalism does not charge tuition. We do not seek scholars based on their ability to pay. For some scholars - especially those from "developing nations" - we also grant scholarships for your air travel. Other scholars who can afford it may also voluntarily donate up to $300 toward their room and board - which will be met with matching support from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict - for the ten days and nights of the school. But, again, this is not a commercial enterprise. We leave everything on the field at the School of Authentic Journalism.
Since we announced our first scholarships in 2002 for the 2003 school, this program - like Narco News itself - has faced challenges to stay alive.
After our 2003 and 2004 schools, it would be six years before we could conduct another one. Although we are very frugal in how we spend money, and our professors are volunteers (most pay our own travel and additionally donate $300 toward our room and board, that's how much we love this school and value the privilege to work with the next generations of authentic journalists).
But as anyone in our line of work will testify, there is no money to be made in fighting against greed! It is a labor of love. Funding institutions for our first and second schools lost interest, as funders tend to do, and over the next six years we were in the wilderness anew.
The last three schools (2010, 2011 and 2012) were made possible by the matching support of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which promotes public education on civil resistance, including that of journalists and communicators. "Matching support" means that its commitment to the school depends on our readers donating, together, at least $20,000, and that is how it will be again for the 2013 school.
Please help make it happen by making a donation today - you can do it right now with a credit card or PayPal account - to The Fund for Authentic Journalism, via its website:
Or you can send a check to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 1446
Easthampton, MA 01027
Once the 2013 School of Authentic Journalism happens next April, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) will have made possible four of the six schools, plus three-day authentic journalism workshops in Madrid and New York. They've not only provided significant resources to make so many scholarships possible, but also have helped us bring professors like Jim Lawson to our schools and workshops. And - rare among funding organizations - they've done so each year absolutely respecting our autonomy and editorial independence as to what we teach at the school and publish in Narco News. It's been a terrific and worthwhile ride.
But nothing is permanent in this world and our friends at ICNC are shifting their own mission beginning in 2014 away from workshops, conferences and international meetings about civil resistance, and toward the creation of a global online platform that makes information and materials on the strategic dynamics of nonviolent conflict available to people all over the world. It's not every organization that plans so far ahead - then again, the importance of planning is one of the keys to successful civil resistance, so it makes sense - and even fewer with the good education and respect to give a project like ours a heads up that the 2013 School of Authentic Journalist will be the last they will be able to give significant resources. And it gives us a year's jump on figuring out how we continue to organize and train new generations of authentic journalists in the coming years. The mutual respect built over four years of working together between our projects is strong and we look forward to new ways we can collaborate toward our shared goals of better journalism about more successful movements as their own budgetary priorities shift.
When I spoke with Jim Lawson to confirm his attendance at the 2013 School of Authentic Journalism (at our 2010 school, Lawson had compared our sessions to those he experienced in the 1950s and 1960s at the Highlander Center in Tennessee, where Rosa Parks was first trained in nonviolent resistance and Pete Seeger revamped an old gospel song called "We Shall Overcome" that became anthem to the Civil Rights movement), I told him that this could be the last School of Authentic Journalism. Jim implored, "Al, you have to keep this school going. It's very important. You have to find funding to keep it going for years to come." Jim is right, as usual. And I share this information with our readers and supporters because you, too, may have some ideas about that and if you do, please do email me at email@example.com.
And meanwhile, we will organize the best School of Authentic Journalism yet for April 2013. That's not a hard promise to make because every next school has been better, faster and more coherent than those that preceded it, and the same goes for a rising percentage each year of each new generation of participants. It's a success story. We're very proud of it. But we shall not rest on our laurels. We're already working hard - and joyously, as Oscar Olivera recommends - planning, organizing and rehearsing the next School of Authentic Journalism, in Mexico from April 17 to 27 of 2013, and this time have doubled down on the work to be able to share its lessons with still more generations of authentic journalists and social movements, which now becomes an integral part of the Sixth School of Authentic Journalism.
Again, you can get an English-language application at firstname.lastname@example.org or a Spanish-language application at email@example.com(all our sessions are translated real-time, but participants must be fluent in at least one of those languages). Completed applications are due November 18. We've got 40 professors, many of them graduates of the school, ready to meet you and work with you. Now it's your move. So what are you going to do?