A Letter from Ben Melançon

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March 14, 2004

Dear Friend,

If most people in the USA, France, and Canada, had known the basic facts of the predicted coup in Haiti, I don’t think it would have happened.

Many lives could have been saved. The democratic experiment would have continued for a people who, in the rare times they have gained power, have made great choices. Like when they ended slavery while winning a revolution.

It’s a heavy burden to live with: how things could have been different, how people might not have been murdered, a nation not forced still further into desperate, killing poverty, if only the truth had been known.

If, in other words, Narco News had never stopped publishing, but had continued its good, honest reporting; if this had grown to include solid news and analysis about Haiti; if these reports reached at least as many people in the US as now vaguely know that yeah, something happened in Haiti.

If, if, if…

The first ‘if’ is taken care of: Narco News is back with great articles. The third ‘if’ is something that’s going to take a lot of work: building a physical or person-to-person network that can get authentic news to every person, at least on big events like a coming overthrow of a true democracy. The second ‘if’ is the purpose of this e-mail: expanding authentic journalism to everywhere in the Americas, starting with the places most in need.

This is the raw material of an informed world citizenry— news of what matters to people’s lives before it is too late to change it. This is the raw material the School for Authentic Journalism teaches people how to produce.

Giordano and the Narco News team will be bringing a greater focus on the Caribbean to the next session this summer. We’ll be two-thirds of the way to helping people gain far more power over their own lives, to stopping the next US-backed coup attempt— perhaps to removing the new US-France dictatorship in Haiti.

That’s the situation we could have now.

If… We support the School of Authentic Journalism.

That’s why I’m asking you to send — or promise (see how you can get an interest-free loan, below, to support the J-School!) — money.

Some of you may not like fundraising on the front page of Narco News. I don’t like asking for money myself (I nearly didn’t write this letter; you might notice there are just three days left to meet this donation deadline). I don’t like asking for money. We’re in good company: Al Giordano and Luis Gómez, explaining Narco News’s then-indefinite suspension last October 18, wrote why they wouldn’t do fundraising: “asking for money with one hand, while trying to report the news with the other, ends up making people tailor their work to those who have money and, sadly, to abandon and to betray the majority that does not.”

Because good reporting still takes time, resources, and people (and is most useful if available free), some true civil society leaders stepped up and created the Fund for Authentic Journalism to provide support without Narco News’s solicitation. The Narco News team allows readers (such as myself) to reach out to other readers through the newspaper, The Narcosphere, and sometimes even its subscriber list. Only when it comes to the Fund’s campaign for the School of Authentic Journalism, the academic flank of this revolution in reporting, do Narco News reporters ask directly for your help: to train the next generation of journalists. The rest is up to us.

This isn’t a PBS telethon. It’s not nearly as annoying, I hope. More important, neither Exxon-Mobil nor the U.S. government will ever fund any part of Narco News. This means your money will have an impact here. It also means it is wholly up to us: to help the School for Authentic Journalism, which will help Narco News along its rapid path toward full reporting, not just on the drug war in Latin America, but on the larger war it is part of, the ongoing war for profits, power, and privilege in all of América.

As of my writing this letter, according to Treasurer Andrew Grice, the Fund is still $3,372 short of what it needs for the second $10,000 matching grant (that means you and I have already responded, collectively, with $6,628 dollars since February 5th). I have given more tzedakeh (“justice”) money to Narco News in the past weeks than to anything else I’ve ever supported. I am not going to see Narco News undercut one month after its return, when the stakes are higher than ever. Are you?

Don’t have the money to give before the 18th? Not sure your check will get there in time? I will front you the money. Because I have a $9.73 an hour job and still live with my parents, I have just enough in my savings account to do it. E-mail me with the amount you want to give and which fundraising letter you want to credit it to, if any, and I’ll PayPal it over to the Fund for Authentic Journalism. You have no excuse now. I’ve thrown emotion, logic, guilt, and interest-free credit at you.

We’ll give because we’ll have no say over the news content.

We’ll give because Narco News has a track record of great reporting.

We’ll give because Al will continue to assemble the greatest cast of fighters for truth, for the people— before, not after, it’s too late for the truth to do the people a lot of good.

Give. Please.

Here’s the link.

Or send your contribution to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 71051
Madison Heights, MI 48071 USA

(And if anyone has any ideas for the third step toward pushing back against current and future coups — putting Narco News and other authentic journalism out there in such a way that every person in North America is minimally informed and knows how to know more — please e-mail me. Because ignorance is not a right and this stuff matters, to life, death, health, and hope.)

[Aside from everything on Narco News and my life experiences to date, the biggest influences on this letter were the coup in Haiti (of course), Al Giordano’s post Democracy, Dictatorship, and Definition in which he says we got beat in Haiti and vows to push back, and the quotation from Stig Dagerman included in Nate Johnson’s fundraising letter: “Journalism is the art of showing up too late, as soon as possible. I’ll never practice that.” Here’s to authentic journalism and showing up on time— which right now means giving (or promising me) your money by March 18th, this Thursday. Three thousand three hundred seventy-two dollars to go. Thanks for reading.]

Benjamin Melançon
ben_nn@melanconent.com

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