“The price of supporting Narco News vs. the price of losing Narco News”

A Cost-Benefit Analysis by George Sanchez

On August 3, 2004, three young reporters – Amber Howard, Eartha Melzer, and Natalia Viana – and one experienced photojournalist – Jeremy Bigwood – rode with a Bolivian coca eradication unit into the jungles of the Chapare. The reporters gathered in the pre-dawn morning and met with soldiers still rubbing the sleep from their eyes. They waited, patient and observant, taking literal notes and mental notes of the sounds and images – round faced, brown, Spanish speaking soldiers dressed in American military fatigues, boarding and departing in military convoys. They asked questions when it was appropriate and watched in silence when they were called to be observers.

The four returned with a story that no one planned for, pre-arranged, or pitched in advance: the best kind of story.

They returned to the Narco News Chapare base with the only thing they were entrusted to return with: the truth.

“All around us we hear the chop, crack, slice of machetes cutting through the thin trunk of the plants,” writes Howard in her first person narrative.

“…the coca leaf is not a drug. What is more is that it has many medicinal purposes. It helps combat fatigue. Lamentably, the coca is also the raw material for the manufacturing of cocaine,” spoke Colonel Jamie Cruz Vera in a rare and candid interview to the four.

“We also thought it would be very important to speak with these drug warriors to construct a wider vision of the complex issue of the drug war, because, as journalists, we believe it is important to listen to all sides of the story,” explains Viana of her reporting.

But this kind of reporting needs no explanation.

It must be read. It must be disseminated. It must be discussed.

And it must be supported.

It’s really that simple.

Their reporting resulted in a narrative essay, a Q&A piece, accompanying photographs, and footage for Chew on This. Their work offered an unprecedented glimpse into the reality of a drug war that seldom escapes the lives of those who live them. It was daring, dangerous, and authentic. Their reporting brought truth to an issue irreconcilably muddied with disinformation and outright lies.

Please make a donation for Narco News to continue this work, online, at this link:


Or by sending a check today to:

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

The price of supporting Narco News is nothing compared to the price of losing Narco News.

George Sanchez
2003 Authentic Journalism Scholar
2004 Authentic Journalism Professor


Contact: info@authenticjournalism.org

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