In the latest The Field, an occasional column written by Narco News founder Al Giordano and published on the Narco news site, Giordano tells the story of his friendship with the late investigative journalist Gary Webb. In 1996, Webb wrote an investigative series on CIA cocaine trafficking for the San Jose Mercury News. His Dark Alliance series was a first for the Mercury News, going out of its way to post the series on the Internet, along with his interviews and notes.
From Giordano's perspective, this is the story that made Internet journalism what it is today, and I'd add that along with Giordano's work, can continue to offer a light to show us where this whole new journalism world is going and should go. It's a road map that we know is there, but often we ignore it, thinking the same old thing is going to work.
The old media's reaction to the story is what Giordano handily reexamines in his column—a push was felt by Webb's Mercury-News editors at the time. The stories were taken down and those who sought to discredit the reporter, including The New York Times, won. Webb eventually resigned from the paper and in 2004 committed suicide.
But before that, there was Giordano's own lawsuit. (Hopefully you guys and gals at the journalism department are learning about Giordano's victory in 2001 when the New York State Supreme Court dismissed the National Bank of Mexico's lawsuit against Narco News, establishing that Internet journalists have the same rights as the old boys, like at The New York Times.) Webb was a part of that victory, helping raise funds for Narco News. Then he and Giordano started the School of Authentic Journalism, a project I'm still proud I got to experience, receiving a swift journalism kick in the ass.
But look, while all this is a good history lesson—I urge you to read Giordano's entire column here — Giordano also wants us ready to be on the defensive, and not just every School of Authentic Journalism grad and past visiting professor. If you care about journalism and If Giordano's fight and Webb's fight mean anything to you, then he wants you to be ready to defend the movie "Kill the Messenger," that's coming out soon with Jeremy Renner starring as Webb. Giordano says that the old media guard is already trying to cast doubt and criticism on Webb with the movie bringing this bit of history back to life.
So there. Read the latest The Field at narcosphere.narconews.com/thefield/. Yo, j-school professors, MFA teachers and the rest of academia and legal folks who purport to care about the First Amendment and the future of journalism, I hope this year you bring Giordano and Webb into your classrooms.
The future depends on it.