The Narco News Bulletin

June 25, 2018 | Issue #67 - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America

Where Do You Find Authenticity?

The School of Authentic Journalism Will only Happen with the Support of People

By Alex Mensing
School of Authentic Journalism, Class of 2013

April 19, 2013
This report appears on the internet at

Authenticity is one of those "you know it when you see it" sorts of things. I consider authentic those things that are heart-felt, thorough, and meaningful. I look for those qualities in the things I do, the places I go, and the stories I hear. 

So where do you find authenticity?

I have tended to come across authentic stories through direct personal experience: going to public school in Argentina for a year, wandering the Western United States with outdoorsmen-cum-scientists, talking with aging and disillusioned revolutionaries in Cuba, working with immigrants in San Francisco's after-school programs. 

The fact that I usually experience authenticity directly is not because it cannot be experienced indirectly. Occasionally a good book or an in-depth work of investigative journalism has an effect comparable to direct experience.

Rather, it is because many of the purveyors of indirect experience, those entrusted with telling the story of humanity today - the mass media - tend to communicate inauthentically. Their reports are neither heart-felt, nor thorough, nor meaningful. It would be nice if they were, though, wouldn't it? 

That's one of the reasons why the idea of Authentic Journalism was so intriguing to me. The School of Authentic Journalism is all about how to tell the story of humanity today, its struggles, successes and failures. Particularly the stories that matter in the course of history - the ones that bear witness to our degree of justice, liberty, human rights, and freedom of expression. What is going on the world, why does it matter, what is being done about it, what can be done about it? 

I applied to the School of Authentic Journalism because the answers to those questions are important to me. If they're important to you, too, please support the school in its efforts to equip journalists with the tools and knowledge to provide those answers:

You can donate to the Fund for Authentic Journalism at

Or you can mail a check to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism

P.O. Box 1446

Easthampton, MA 01027 USA

The pathway that led me to enroll in the School for Authentic Journalism can be described easily. I saw things that moved me and I realized that many people, like me, didn't know about them. This disturbed me, so I looked for other important things I didn't know by studying history. I became frustrated by the fact that I couldn't do anything about the things that I learned about in history books, so I started to look for moving things happening now.

I realized that it was not as easy to find out about those things, and much less to actually do anything about them. Many movements working for positive change are not succeeding, in part because people don't know about them or have a negative view of them. The people involved in movements often can't do anything about their image because they aren't in control of the stories that are told about them. What can be done?

I decided to travel through all of Latin America to see for myself one of the stages upon which the story of modern injustices is being played out. My intention was to gain a thorough understanding of the current situation and go about communicating the news to people back home. I wanted to work for a world with fewer injustices. I wasn't really sure how that was all going to work out, but I wasn't going to just sit around. I was going to go, and I would figure out the details on the way. 

In my preparations I looked for news about what was going on in the region, and I came across Narco News. There I found information about the kinds of movements and injustices I was interested in. But I also came across their announcement for the School of Authentic Journalism. Those details that I was going to figure out on the way? It turns out that there is an amazing opportunity to spend ten days with a group of people who have already grappled with those gritty details, tested techniques, and observed the results. There will also be a group of people just as thirsty as I am to learn about the work of authentic journalism and to work for authentic change.

The School of Authentic Journalism is going to happen for the 10th time this year. I'm excited that I'll have the opportunity to be a part of the wonderful community and amazing work that have blossomed as the result of the past nine sessions of the school. But like those other sessions, this one will only happen with the support of people who invest in authentic journalism.

Thank you.

Alex Mensing
Class of 2013
School for Authentic Journalism

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