<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español November 18, 2017 | Issue #29


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“American youth hold the biggest responsibility on the planet”

Anthony Lappé, Guerrilla News Network


By Dan Malakoff
Narco News Authentic Journalism Scholar

March 8, 2003

You’re standing at a fork in the road. Down one path lies the stability of a steady paycheck, a corporate career, security, the ability to entertain a large audience. The other, bumpier, path leads to the freedom to innovate and the power to change the way people think. Or it could lead nowhere, right off the edge of the map.

It’s a dilemma that stops many in their tracks, but not Anthony Lappé. Stoic, stocky, and egotistic by his own admittance, Lappé, 31, is one of four people behind the offensive-minded Guerrilla News Network (GNN), a news website that combines controversial stories, elements of pop culture, and a sleek, militaristic aesthetic.


GNN’s Anthony Lappé
Photo D.R. 2003 Jeremy Bigwood
Born and raised in Berkeley, California, he now lives in Manhattan, a seemingly natural progression for the aggressive Left Coaster. Lappé got his journalistic cue from reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, He followed it through Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and into print and video work with such outlets as Black Book, The New York Times, and MTV. And he might easily have continued down that path had he cared to.

But the prevailing models of journalism—the 60-minute news program, the daily newspaper, even the magazine format—left Lappé unsatisfied. “Ever since I was in college, I was trying to do something different in journalism,” he said. “I was always more interested in trying to use technology… and also in reaching young people, which was more interesting and more of a challenge.” So Lappé enlisted with the nascent GNN in 2001, hunkering down in his DSL-equipped apartment and firing off daily rounds of news, as well as editing the site, which now draws over 15,000 readers a day.

GNN’s core product is the NewsVideo, a fusion of music video and documentary film. Running time is a few minutes. The score is electronic and heavy on bass. Cuts between expert interviews and graphically charged footage are quick and clean. The subject matter is always controversial: the illicit diamond trade in Sierra Leone, the CIA’s involvement in drug trafficking, or unanswered questions about 9/11. The target audience is American youth. Once hooked by the video, the site offers its viewers full transcripts, documents, a newswire, and a chat room.

To win youth away from the mainstream media is to win the information war, an imperative for Lappé and the GNN. “American youth hold probably the biggest responsibility on the planet,” he says. To get them interested in the news is to get them interested in the world.

“You have to change the paradigm,” Lappé insists, creating “an alternative aesthetic, an alternative understanding of cool,” one based not on image and consumption, but on humanism, resistance, and “using your mind as a weapon.”

When GNN started, Lappé said there was little “money per se, at all.” The only thing fueling GNN at the time was the conviction that, technologically, a youth alienated by the mainstream news operations could now be reached through an entirely new medium: the Internet.

After hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours of personal time, GNN now boasts the same talent agency as Dan Rather. It has collaborated with hip-hop artists the Beastie Boys and Dead Prez and recently produced a music video for Grammy-winner Eminem. A NewsVideo, “Crack the CIA,” won an award at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Still, the Network is far from its goal: a 24-hour cable channel that bypasses the mainstream. Lappé is a pragmatist when it comes to getting there: GNN must compete as a business, he says, not subsist on donations or grants that depend on the whim of the moneyed. Lappé learned this from parents who lived “from grant to grant” in the non-profit world, and it is a tenet of what GNN is all about: If you can’t compete with the entertainment business, you lose.

Anthony Lappé and Stephen Marshall, both of the Guerrilla News Network, were in Mexico with the NarcoNews School of Authentic Journalism. They are producing a video on this expreiencie.

Full Disclosure: The author wishes to acknowledge the material assistance, encouragement, and guidance, of The Narco News Bulletin, The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, publisher Al Giordano and the rest of the faculty, and of the Tides Foundation. Narco News is a co-sponsor and funder of the international drug legalization summit, “OUT FROM THE SHADOWS: Ending Prohibition in the 21st Century,” in Mérida, Yucatán, and is wholly responsible for the School of Authentic Journalism whose philosophy and methodology were employed in the creation of this report. The writing, the opinions expressed, and the conclusions reached, if any, are solely those of the author.

Apertura total: El autor desea reconocer la asistencia material, el ánimo y la guía de The Narco News Bulletin, La Escuela de Narco News de Periodismo Auténtico, su Director General Al Giordano y el resto del profesorado, y de la Fundación Tides. Narco News es copatrocinador y financiador del encuentro internacional sobre legalización de las drogas “Saliendo de las sombras: terminando con la prohibición a las drogas en el siglo XXI” en Mérida, Yucatán, y es completamente responsable por la Escuela de Periodismo Auténtico, cuya filosofía y metodología fueron empleadas en la elaboración de esta nota. La escritura, las opiniones expresadas y las conclusiones alcanzadas, si las hay, son de exclusiva responsabilidad del autor

Abertura Total: O autor deseja reconhecer o material de apoio, o propósito e o guia do Boletim Narco News. a Escola de Jornalismo Autêntico, o editor Al Giordano, o restante de professores e a Fundaçáo Tides. Narco News é co-patrocinador e financiador do encontro sobre a legalizaçao das drogas Saindo das Sombras: terminando com a proibiçao das drogas no século XXI em Mérida, Yucatan, e é completamente responsável pela Escola de Jornalismo Autêntico, cuja filosofia e metodologia foram implantadas na elaboraçao desta reportagem. O texto, as opinioes expressadas e as conclusoes alcançadas, se houver, sao de responsabilidade do autor.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America