<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 May 24, 2017 | Issue #67


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Place a Bet on the Future and Support the 2016 School of Authentic Journalism

With your help, we can create a perfect storm of change


By Bill Conroy
School of Authentic Journalism, Class of 2004

February 28, 2016

It’s hard to believe it’s already 2016, and we are once again doing our best to raise the money necessary to launch this year’s School of Authentic Journalism. It’s an effort that binds me with both the best of my past and the greatest expectations of the future.

The year 2016 was a distant future for me when I first started out in the media business some 35 years ago. I went on to work for a variety of publications, some with national reach, but none of those paying gigs was as gratifying as the first media job I had with a monthly newspaper tabloid called The Crazy Shepherd — named for a line in the Allen Ginsberg poem, Howl: “The Crazy Shepherds of Rebellion!”

The Crazy Shepherd didn’t pay the bills. In fact, it cost all of us involved money and countless hours of volunteer labor gladly provided — reporting, writing, helping with layout, whatever needed to be done.

Back then, in the early 1980s, we didn’t even have computers. The paper was put together with typewriters, glue and X-Acto knives — usually as part of a nightlong binge of dedication and passion.

But, together, we learned how to put out a newspaper — how to report, write, take photos, create graphics, prepare the boards for the printer and deal with all the logistics, intricacies, headaches and excitement of creating, printing and distributing a newspaper. We also soon learned that what we printed in that scrappy little newspaper had impact. It became a voice for those without power in the city, and it kept that social mission alive for many years as it morphed from a monthly publication, to a biweekly and finally a weekly newspaper.

Now, as I look back on my life, I realize the media endeavors that are the most vital, authentic and capable of changing the world often start out as very small kernels of hope, and typically find success, when they do, against all odds — a success not measured in terms of profits, but rather in terms of the passion and dedication of the participants and their ability to give voice to larger social movements.

I attended my first School of Authentic Journalism in 2004 in Bolivia. It was a life-changing event for me. By that time, I had soured on the journalism world. The federal government had just tried to seize my computer after retroactively classifying public court documents that I made use of for an investigative series. My employer at the time, a major media organization, had ordered me to stop pursuing the story and http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/bill-conroy/2014/07/untold-story-behind-why-i-am-narco-news-journalist
>investigative journalism
.

In Bolivia, however, I met dozens of authentic journalists and community leaders — including school founder and longtime organizer and journalist Al Giordano, filmmaker Greg Berger, and Bolivian social-movement leader Oscar Olivera, and many more. I once again had found my way to a group that was fueled by passion and dedication (not ego and profits) and, more importantly, they were focused on providing social movements with a voice and the media tools necessary to tell their own stories. I knew firsthand by that point in my career that those stories simply would not be told by the commercial media, because rocking that boat was not a way for them to make money.

So, for the past 12 years, I’ve been committed to being part of a team that is spreading the seeds of a media revolution, one that empowers the powerless, and provides a forum, a school, where veteran journalists and social-movement leaders can meet, exchange ideas and share their decades of experience with a younger generation. As part of that effort, the veteran journalists and organizers also are reinvigorated in their own endeavors. It’s a perfect storm of change. I know that because I have been both a student and professor at the School of Authentic Journalism over the years and have experienced the best of each of those worlds.

One of the founding principles of the School of Authentic Journalism is that the professors pay their own way, and the students’ expenses are covered. That’s where the money donated to this effort goes, to the future of journalism. It’s an intensive program that is fun and exhilarating, yet packed with difficult work that challenges conventional thinking and forces all participants to rise to a higher-level of awareness about how they pursue journalism and how that work affects social movements and the quest for social justice around the world. No one is left unchallenged and unchanged by the time the school draws to a close. And from that point on, the newest class of the School of Authentic Journalism goes back into the world and into action, changing the globe for the better, one day at a time.

The Crazy Shepherd newspaper is a part of my past, a fond memory of my youth. But to this day, I still believe it will take a lot of crazy shepherds of rebellion to change the media, and our world, for the better. So be a little crazy with me, and join the struggle to keep the School of Authentic Journalism alive by donating whatever you can spare.

Join the Kickstarter campaign or go to authenticjournalism.org to learn more about the school.

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