April 4, 2003

Ford Foundation Grant Leads to Border Journalism Conference in Tijuana

With funding from a Ford Foundation grant, US-based Homelands Productions has been working collaboratively with Mexican journalists to create radio documentaries that are airing in both Mexico and the US. Besides producing the “Border Stories” series on various aspects of the US-Mexico border, the project has been an exploration of the possibilities and difficulties of transborder journalism. This aspect of the grant—transborder journalism—will be examined at the Border Journalism Conference in Tijuana, on May 15, 2003.

New opportunities for investigative reporters

While some panels at the conference will look at such topics as border reporting, differences between Mexican and US media, and cross-cultural perceptions, other sessions will inform journalists about new opportunities for obtaining information and data.

Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) will present a Computer-Assisted Reporting (CAR) workshop structured around a hypothetical border news story. One of the goals of the CAR program is to empower journalists to reduce dependence on press releases and be able to do original, investigative work from electronic information sources analyzed with databases and spreadsheets.

A separate panel is devoted to issues surrounding access to government information and freedom of information laws in both the US and Mexico. Mexico’s new freedom of information law, established by the Fox administration, will be one of the main topics of discussion. Issues pertaining to access to government information in binational reporting will also be examined. Panelists include Dan Barr, attorney and freedom of information specialist; Enrique Villanueva, Libertad de Información; and  Pedro Enrique Armendares of the CPI.

A plenary session will be devoted to the theme of “How They Got the Story” at which journalists will reveal the investigative techniques they used to get their border stories. In another panel, journalists and story subjects will discuss the realities and complexities of working together.

Discussions about US and Mexico media and border stories

One specific issue that the conference will address—one that has been written about for approximately a decade by journalists on both sides of the border—is the serial-killing of young women in Ciudad Juárez. Since 1993, approximately 93 young women have been brutally raped and murdered in Cd. Juárez. The stories of their deaths have been reported on continuously as the body count mounts.

Another session will have Washington D.C. and Mexico City correspondents comparing and contrasting their views of US-Mexico relations.

Border literature

The Border Journalism Conference will also look at border non-fiction literature. Bobby and Lee Byrd, of El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press, will be on a panel related to this topic. Recently, Cinco Puntos published “Puro Border: Dispatches, Snapshots and Graffiti from the U.S./Mexico Border,” a collection of essays about the frontera produced by noted border writers from the US and Mexico (). Other people on the panel include authors Gabriel Trujillo and Tom Miller.

Keynote speaker: Sam Quiñones

Sam Quiñones, the author of “True Tales From Another Mexico,” will give the conference’s keynote address. “True tales” is a collection of writing about the Mexico that US visitors rarely see and that is rarely represented in the US media. Quiñones has been a freelance writer in Mexico since. For more information on the Border Journalism Conference, or to register on-line, go to http://www.homelands.org/confgene.htm.

Encuentro Fronterizo

Coinciding with and following the Border Journalism Conference is the Fourth Meeting on the Border Environment, held at the same location in Tijuana, and also sponsored by the Ford Foundation. Commonly referred to as the “Encuentro” (from its name in Spanish), the conference addresses border environmental concerns and the difficulties facing binational attempts to remedy these problems. Running from May 15th through May 17th, the Encuentro also works to motivate and network border environmentalists and to enhance collaborative cross-border efforts.

For more information on the Encuentro go to http://www.encuentrofronterizo.org.

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