Call of the Andes

"This is a media alert for editors and television producers who thought they could safely ignore all news outside the United States: the permanent drug war is going military -- and abroad... this story promises to be around for years. Alert media, however, will want to prepare to field Spanish-speaking correspondents, duly covered by kidnap insurance, to follow the action across the photogenic terrain of the Andes.

"It would be unwise to expect trustworthy information from Washington...."

Max Frankel

New York Times Magazine

April 30, 2000

We sent this letter to Max Frankel, answering his call, ten days ago:


May 6, 2000 11:47:36 EDT

Dear Max Frankel,

Your essay, "Call of the Andes," was marvelous and much needed: a message to the press corps from an Authentic Journalist.

I write from Latin America, and came across your essay through the NY Times Magazine internet site.

In fact, 18 days ago, we launched an online newspaper, The Narco News Bulletin, precisely to help fill the vacuum of authentic bi-lingual coverage of the drug war:

Like your essay, we have praised the coverage of NY Times reporter Tim Golden.

I'm sorry to say -- I might as well tell you up front -- that we have also been sharply critical of the reporting of other NY Times correspondents down here. But we call it like we see it, let the chips fall where they may.

There is a very real desire among the public to receive better drug
war coverage from south of the border. In our first 18 days, The Narco News Bulletin has received more than 39,000 visits to our online publication.

In our May 15th edition, we will surely quote from your essay and link to the Times magazine site.

I'm a New Yorker who grew up reading Max Frankel. Seeing your essay made me remember a time when the NY Times represented to me a more authentic journalism than exists among major dailies today. All power to you, Max, for keeping the dream alive.

salud y abrazo,

Al Giordano
The Narco News Bulletin


Publisher's Note:

Those of us who favor the term "authentic journalism" over "alternative" journalism are sometimes seen as out of style, looking to history in an era when nearly everyone in the media looks no further than to the next deadline.

As I wrote to Max Frankel ten days ago. I grew up reading his reports: from Washington, from Moscow, from Havana, from the Dominican Republic, the location of this week's top story in The Narco News Bulletin. Times have changed, but we confront the same injustices. In part, because the North American public is so badly informed. The imposed amnesia of the mass media causes us to forget the lessons of history.

Max Frankel could write those words above because of his status as a veteran soldier of authentic journalism. The NY Times correspondents in Latin America almost never write words so true: even if most of them could, they would fail to do so. They wouldn't know how. Already The Narco News Bulletin -- if you read what we've published so far -- has made mention of the worst of them. We have declared ourselves sworn enemies of the bought-and-sold journalism of our era.

Yes, Virginia, there is a better journalism than exists today. One that is grounded in history. And so we tip our sombrero to Max Frankel, and encourage our readers to see his entire essay, "Call of the Andes." Courtesy of the Media Awareness Project and its extensive archives of press coverage on the drug war.

With those words from an Authentic Journalist, Max Frankel has penned the best argument for the birth of The Narco News Bulletin.

Would that all the NY Times correspondents in Latin America read it, understand it, and take it to heart. The US public would be better informed, and wouldn't tolerate Washington's prohibitionist drug policy for a New York minute.

from somewhere in a country called América,

Al Giordano


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