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Announcing 40 Scholarships in Authentic Journalism in Mexico, May 2011

by Al Giordano Monday, Dec. 20, 2010 at 4:49 PM

Ten Days of Intensive Training in Central Mexico: Video Production, Investigative & Online Reporting, and Movement Strategies for Journalists

We’re on a roll, kind readers. Narco News’ School of Authentic Journalism is coming back, again. The next session will be held May 11 to 21, 2011, in Mexico City and surrounding mountains.

This will be the largest School of Authentic Journalism to date, with 40 students learning from 36 (or more) professors (many of whom are themselves graduates of the school since 2003, and all of whom consider ourselves permanent students, too). This session will build upon the February 2010 school’s work with intensive training in production of viral video, investigative and online reporting as well as deepening our understanding, as journalists and communicators, of the strategic dynamics of the social movements and civil resistances that we report.

The theme of the 2011 school is “Movement Strategies for Journalists.” Let me introduce you to some of our confirmed professors for this session. First, I’ll mention those with extensive experience organizing their own communities and nations and winning political and social battles against powerful interests.

We’re especially thrilled that Oscar Olivera of Bolivia – who due to sudden developments in his own country could not attend last February’s session – has reported to us “I will definitely be with you in 2011, that’s a promise.” Oscar is known far and wide as a key organizer of the city of Cochabamba’s successful 2001 struggle to expel Bechtel Corporation from control of its public water supply, a watershed moment for all struggles on earth against mighty economic interests. A longtime union leader and social fighter, Oscar will bring his years of experience as a strategist and organizer to the school to help us all become better reporters on social movements.

Janet Cherry helped end apartheid in her land of South Africa, organizing with union and student movements and the African National Congress. A prominent young political prisoner of that movement during the 1980s, now a lecturer at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, will share the story she lived when an armed underground resistance, the African National Congress, of which she was a member, converted itself into a national project of community organizing and nonviolent civil resistance and evolved to win one of the epic political struggles of the last century.

Renny Cushing, of Seabrook, New Hampshire, co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance which in the 1970s gave birth to an international movement against nuclear power, trained and inspired me as a community organizer when your correspondent was a teenager. He has also served multiple terms as a state legislator and currently directs Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, a national anti-death penalty movement. Renny has an organizing style reminiscent of The Preacher in John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath. You might say he was Preacher to my inner Tom Joad. I know he can teach, too, having learned so much from him.

Anne-Marie Codur, native of France, has worked for years in defense of Palestinian rights, with the Israeli peace movement, and with women’s movements in many lands. A former (and future) opera singer with a doctorate in economics, she recently wrote:

“My work with civic organizations involved in peace building between Israelis and Arabs, and between Jews, Christians and Muslims, has taught me that the problems don’t stem from the individual level. Conflicts result not from ‘existential’ hatred supposedly fuelled by incompatible values causing ‘clashes of civilizations,’ but from the dispossession of the ones by the others – dispossession of key resources whose control is determinant in the shaping and strengthening of structures of power.”

These are the kinds of social dynamics that we who want to be good reporters on social movements and struggles must better understand to be able to do our work with competence and excellence.

Stephen Zunes, professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco is a chronicler and scholar of nonviolent anti-imperialist struggles, a topic of a plenary session he’ll lead when he returns to the j-school next year.

Other outstanding teachers from the 2010 school will also be joining us again:

The Rev. Jim Lawson, who Martin Luther King Jr. called the most important strategist and theorist of nonviolent struggle in the world, delivered the keynote speech at the School in Mérida, Yucatán last February, and also made himself available for a plenary interview by two of our students. Jim reports that he’ll be at the 2011 j-school from its first day and will stay twice as long as the three days he was able to attend the last one.

Mercedes Osuna, human rights defender and organizer from Chiapas, Mexico returns, too, to teach safety for journalists in conflict zones among so many other lessons.

And, as is already tradition in this school, we’re very proud to premier some of our 2010 graduates as a professors in 2011…

Egyptian blogger-against-torture Noha Atef not only returns as a professor, but also as co-chair of the Internet Journalism work group at the School of Authentic Journalism, a job she will share with 2010 professor Richard Bell, another veteran of the anti-nuclear movements and the Internet pioneer who, in the 1990s, established the first website of a major political party in the US ( Returning professor Erin Rosa (also staff reporter for Narco News) will teach in the Internet workgroup, too, along with 2010 student promoted to professor Kara Newhouse, who spent much of this year reporting from Palestine, and a new talent in our ranks, the Mexican graphic designer par excellence Paola Galletta. I’ll be lending a hand in that workgroup, too.

Another 2010 graduate among those returning as professors, Chilean native Milena Velis of the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia, will be also be a department head at the 2011 School: She’ll co-chair the Viral Video Workgroup with documentary filmmaker Gregory Berger, a New York native that has worked twelve years alongside social and indigenous movements in Mexico. Other professors in the video workgroup include returning professors, among them; cinematographer Joshua Bregman, audio wizard Andrew Stelzer, photographer Noah Friedman-Rudovsky and Mexican television news producer Quetzal Belmont. Their team will be strengthened by 2010 students now promoted as professors in the video group: Ter Garcia of Spain, Karina González of Mexico, Katie Halper of New York, Sebastian Kolendo of Wisconsin, Franco-New Yorker Marine Lormant, 2004 graduate Sarahy Flores of Mexico, and some new talents, too, in Daryn Cambridge of the US and Marco Campillo of Mexico. Students in this workgroup will learn by doing while they videotape, audiotape, mix and produce online videos sharing the curriculum of the School with a global public, including with you, kind reader.

Rounding out the School’s three workgroups, at the helm of our Investigative Reporting department, we welcome back Natalia Viana from Sao Paulo, Brazil and Bill Conroy of San Antonio, Texas. They’ll be joined by returning professor the Englishman Roddy Brett coming from Bogotá, Colombia, and by 2010 graduates Fernando Leon (also a Narco News staff reporter in Mexico) and Mariana Simoes, of Brazil, now promoted to professors. By the way, did you notice? This has been an historic month for Natalia’s journalism, with her publication of the only interview with WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange on the eve of his arrest in London. Natalia graduated from the School of Authentic Journalism in 2004 and her extensive body of work serves as a shining example of what we hope our students will go out and do with the skills they learn here.

Everyone’s favorite fantastic fun support staff will be returning too: School of Authentic Journalism social directors Maia Facen and Tiberio Tinarelli (mixers of the best mojito in all the Americas), jack-of-all-trades Victor Amezcua, Johanna Lawrenson (who with her late husband, the American dissident Abbie Hoffman, were the first to take me to Latin America as a young community organizer), and Laura Tilsley Garcia of The Fund for Authentic Journalism.

As in 2010, the 2011 School of Authentic Journalism is only made possible thanks to the support of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which again offers ,000 in matching support if you, our readers and supporters, donate that amount in smaller donations to The Fund for Authentic Journalism. We’re especially appreciative of its director, Jack DuVall, himself an award winning television producer, who believes in the importance of organizing a new generation of authentic journalists to report accurately on the strategies and tactics of movements that the Center teaches. We hope he’ll be able to join us, too, in Mexico.

The Fund is a 501c3 organization registered in the United States, which means that your contributions to it are tax-deductible. In other words, every cent you donate in 2010 can be deducted from your 2010 taxes, and the same goes for anything you will contribute in 2011 for that year. With the end of the year coming up in two weeks, if you’re studying where your contributions will have the most impact, please consider that the work of Narco News and the School of Authentic Journalism keeps coming back year after year, as our graduates continue to report to you the stories you wouldn’t hear about if we weren’t reporting them. Your gift is literally a gift that keeps on giving.

Please help us sponsor the 40 scholarship recipients of the next generation of the School of Authentic Journalism – and gain ,000 in matching support – by making a contribution today.

You can make it online, right now, via this link:

Or you can make a check out to:

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

Everybody complains about the media, but we know of no other program like ours, that actually does something about it by replacing its ranks with better, faster, more coherent and more honest journalists: authentic journalists! We’re very proud, for example, that last week when British police were on his trail, the WikiLeaks founder chose one of our graduates to grant his exclusive interview, knowing that she would report it accurately, competently, honestly and at the high quality that would make sure his exact words were heard around the world in multiple languages.

Finally, this part of this announcement is directed at our next generation of students.

Many of the sessions from the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism are made available via online video at Narco News TV. We urge you to watch them if you’re interested in attending the School, to get an idea of what you, too, might become part of should you apply and be invited. And today we unveil the latest in that series of videos from the 2010 school: Organizing the Journalists.

In it, you can see that we’re not your typical academic institution (I never graduated from any college or university, much less an official journalism school, and I believe it gave me a head start and an edge up on most journalists who did.) This school doesn’t grade you, judge you, pass or fail you. We have learned that a horizontal learning process works better than all the pompous nonsense that passes for higher education these days. By horizontal we mean that the “professors” learn from the “students,” too, and many students end up leading plenary sessions and other classes when they have skills and experiences to share, too. In fact, did you know that the professors aren’t paid? We do this because we love it. The School gives us the chance to give something back, and to assure that our craft – which before the School of Authentic Journalism held its first session in 2003, was a dying one, but now thrives anew – continues on long after we’re not around to do it ourselves anymore.

That’s what I learned as a youngster, from more experienced maestros like Abbie and Johanna, like Renny and Richard, and others who took time (and probably required some patience) to show me the ropes of so many things years ago, especially how to understand the strategic dynamics of people’s struggles. It’s that knowledge and experience – at least as much, maybe more, than the technical skills of journalism we also teach – that has allowed Narco News to become what it is globally recognized today as being: Your most honest, feisty, creative and aggressive source of international news in this hemisphere. And we intend to keep growing, hopefully with you at our sides, too.

In this video, of February’s inaugural session, our two youngest students, Geovani Montalvo, then 18, of El Salvador, and Mariana Simoes, then 20, of Brazil, prepared interview questions to ask their School president. And that’s how the 2010 School began, not by giving a sermon or a speech, but by answering questions. Check it out, and decide if you want to be part of something like it.

And if you do want to be part of it, don’t tell yourself that you’re not good enough, not experienced enough, not privileged enough, not lucky enough or not anything enough to win this scholarship. Email us for an application form, fill it out, and email it to us by 11:59 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Sunday, January 23. And within two weeks from then, forty of you will be receiving calls inviting you to attend.

It’s not an easy application. It’s long and it has an essay requirement. It also has some unorthodox questions, some of which we’ve used since 2002, others which we’ve developed over time. It is designed to weed out the lazy or those who want something for nothing without also giving their all. It’s an application that seeks out people who can work well on a team. If you know how to work hard – and aren’t opposed to having fun while doing it – and you want to change or defend your community, your nation or our world by practicing authentic journalism, this application is for you.

For an English language application email and for a Spanish language application email We’ll send it to you immediately and hope to hear back from you by January 23.

Likewise, if the School isn’t for you, but you know of a person of talent, conscience and passion who you think should attend, encourage him and her to apply. You, too, kind reader, are part of our intercontinental scouting staff!

We’re so thrilled to be able to do this again. This will be only the fourth time in eight years we’ve been able to do it. And we still need your help – with your donation to The Fund for Authentic Journalism – to meet our ,000 goal and receive the matching support from our friends at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, without whose support, the 2011 School wouldn’t be possible.

It’s a wonderful thing, this School. And that comes from a guy who always hated school, who concluded that it was interfering with his education, and went, instead, to the streets and back roads, where everyday people who organize and struggle to win were the faculty. Maybe you feel the same way. That would be another hint that the School of Authentic Journalism might well be the place for you, too.

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