Open Journalism Challenge: Can Paid Media Report on Plan Mexico this Well?

    by Benjamin Melançon
    November 20, 2007

    Immigration, military contractors, fiscal responsibility, foreign policy, domestic policy, trade policy, business, labor, crime- this story has it all, plus underlying themes about access to information and democracy (optional, if you care to report on those kinds of things). And all with a presidential race coming up! Is your favorite news source keeping up?

    The Bush administration is trying to get Congress to approve what it calls the Merida Initiative, a $1.4 billion aid package to Mexico in order to fight drug cartels. The plan is more commonly known as Plan Mexico because of its inevitable similarities with Plan Colombia, another U.S. aid package to fight drug cartels in Colombia. Even while the administration has refused to release details of the initiative since planning began in March, Congress is being pressured to pass it. The first $500 million of Plan Mexico is now attached to the appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008.

    That’s Jennifer Truskowski, reporting for Chicago Indymedia, and I encourage – ask – you to read her whole article: Public Demand Grows For President Bush To Reveal Details of Plan Mexico.

    It’s a comprehensive look at what’s publicly known about the initiative so you should read it anyway. But I’d like you to read and offer comments and criticism. You, readers (and author-readers) of the Idealab can directly impact an exciting and potentially crucial experiment in public interest journalism.


    Truskowski’s current article incorporates constructive criticism from Amanda Hickman (of the Knight News Challenge and the Gotham Gazette) posted on this blog. I feel very lucky to have picked up on Jennifer’s earlier post and gratitude to Amanda for having a robust look at it.

    My grandfather read an entry here and told me to stop talking about the problems that everyone already knows exist, that it’s not worth reading if I don’t have any solutions to offer. So I’ll get to the point, (also thanks to Amanda, for reframing “what is news?”) my suggested foundation for any media project:

    • Public standards for news subject matter
    • Public standards of reporting and editing practice

    If we are going to have a media that meets our need for information, these qualities needs to be the focus- not who does the reporting or why. Jennifer Truskowski on her own, by her use of the NewStandard’s handbook, comes closer to this than any news organization I know since the NewStandard itself. Do you have or know of anything equivalent- or disagree that these standards are the ones we should define?


    Indymedia see Jennifer Whitney for a broad critique wasn’t the movement I saw leading this, but open standards meet open publishing could be pretty powerful.

    Define your criteria, and tell us: Has your news organization (that you read or work for) been shown up by a volunteer reporter’s third article at Chicago Indymedia? It’s only the future of the country at stake.

    Tagged: Indymedia journalism mexico Plan Mexico

    2 responses to “Open Journalism Challenge: Can Paid Media Report on Plan Mexico this Well?”

    1. Harry says:

      Great writing, and great writing is great when it spurs action!

    2. From the former director of Colombia’s central bank, Salomón Kalmanovitz, in favor of legalizing and regulating drugs:

      “From down here, where it has caused us so much suffering, rational voices should speak up to convince world opinion that we need to change course“

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