By Al Giordano
It is a herald of the hour we live in that the New York Times has to lay off eight percent of its news reporters but the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism is out scouting and recruiting for a different kind of journalism that is growing and on the ascent.
Recently asked by reporter Mike Miliard of The Boston Phoenix (my alma mater) to define authentic journalism, I said: “A journalism that doesn’t pander to the interests of the advertisers. That doesn’t go out and look for the more upscale readership in order to please those advertisers, but rather serves people — in a way that the people come to believe and to know that the newspaper, or whatever media it is, is part of them and serves their interests.”
There are also some darn entertaining quotes in Miliard's story from an official journalism school spokesman trying to spin his way out of what is obvious to all: that authentic journalism rises at the very moment that official forms of journalism are falling down.
The School of Authentic Journalism, begun in 2003, has trained and formed ranks that are building that journalism of the future across international boundaries. And for ten days on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, from February 3 to 13, a volunteer faculty of 48 professors on the themes of journalism and civil resistance – with hundreds of years of gumshoe experience between us – are going to share skills and knowledge and coach 24 scholarship recipients in this craft.
We charge zero tuition. For some of the scholarship recipients across this hemisphere and world, we pay your airfare to travel to and from the school. We feed and lodge you. We teach (and we also learn from) you. What do we ask in return? Only that you go out into your communities and the world and do this vital work of authentic reporting on the many kinds of struggles for authentic democracy, justice, freedom and human rights.
There are no restrictions on who can apply for these scholarships. You don’t need to have graduated from any other kind of school. All an applicant needs to do is speak either English or Spanish and complete a ten-page application in either language with an essay requirement and tell us honestly about your work and yourself. Some of the questions we ask on that application are the same ones we asked seven years ago, because they worked to help us find the colleagues of talent and conscience that would then go out and do this work and who have, in so many cases, done it so effectively since, with our newspaper’s team and with other media.
2009 will be remembered as the year that the commercial media woke up to the fact that an authentic media from below – one that involves the people rather than treats them as mere consumers – is now better able to report from the ground level during civil resistance movements than the big networks, wire agencies and newspapers are able to do. This became crystal clear in June of this year when regimes in Iran and Honduras tried, and failed, to stop the flow of information and images about what was really happening in those countries. Especially in lands of state censorship of the media, it is this journalism from below that breaks the information blockades and reduces the commercial media to a dependence on reports from media like Narco News, from YouTube videos and from Twitter tweets and so many other vehicles for ground level reporting.
What was a well-kept secret in recent years as we helped to build it under radar is now out of the bag: What was once the future is now. But this sudden "discovery" by the commercial media up above also means that we all have to become better, faster and more coherent at this work of news reporting – written, online, documentary and viral video – and that goes for our j-school professors as well as our students (which helps explain why so many talents of great accomplishment volunteer their time and pay their own way to get to the school: it’s an important tune-up and upgrade for us, too).
So, this is to remind that if you want to attend this ten-day intensive training session in authentic journalism next February, you need to complete the application by Sunday night, November 1, at midnight Pacific Time. To receive an application in English, send an email to email@example.com. To receive an application in Spanish, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you can’t attend, this time we’ll be producing a series of viral training videos from the School’s sessions and posting them online for free, so the world can learn these skills, philosophies and ethics with us. If you share our belief that it’s important to scout, recruit and train the next generation of authentic journalists then please also remember that this school happens only because so many people like yourself donate what they can, large or small, to make it happen, and consider dropping a coin into the cup today, via The Fund for Authentic Journalism at this link.
Ten days, future School of Authentic Journalism scholars: that’s the window of time left to remain eligible for one of these scholarships. After November 1, the door closes for everyone else, and we’ll carefully study each application, conduct interviews with some promising applicants, and then announce the class of 2010 in mid-November. Some applicants complete the questionnaire and essay requirement in a day. Others take more days to do it. Both kinds have traditionally been chosen. But all have to meet deadline and get their completed applications in on time. The clock is now ticking: Ten days to shake your world… and everyone else’s.