< Reporting via Placemat


Friday, August 23, 2013

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  One last tale of a reporter who stuck it to the mob by slipping some real journalism under the entrée. “Alejandra” (not her real name) was a newspaper reporter and radio news anchor in the Zetas stronghold of Tamaulipas, until the Zetas threatened her son. Forced to quit 18 months ago, she began to publish the news on placemats every day, upholding the highest journalistic standards under the plates of myriad restaurant patrons. She even resisted the PRI’s offer to buy ad space if she refrained from reporting on Lopez Obrador.

INTERPRETER FOR “ALEJANDRA”:  I did not agree. It is more important to keep my freedom and protect the right of people to be informed than to lower myself for the money.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  But eventually, she ran afoul of the Zetas again.

INTERPRETER FOR “ALEJANDRA::  One day I was coming back from being out of town with my daughters and son, and I see that my car that had been parked for days outside of my house was covered in dust. My city is very dusty. In the dust they had written, “If you keep bothering us, if you carry on, we are coming to rape and kill you and your daughters.”

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  She packed up her daughters and fled, leaving her older son to carry on publishing the placemats. One day, she says, she wants to write a book about all the murdered journalists, but when she does she’ll have to leave the country, partly because her research suggests that most of them were compromised by the cartels, and partly because:

INTERPRETER FOR “ALEJANDRA”:  I will be explicit about a government that provides no support, a government overwhelmed by the drug trade. And whether we’re citizens, merchants or journalists, we all have the same fate. A non-functional government, so-called rights organizations that only look for international funding and, at the end, journalists who are all alone.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  She teared up a little during our interview. She says she never does that but it was Friday, and though Tamaulipas is a hive of maniacs and misery Friday was a time reserved for her friends. She misses them terribly, and she doesn’t know when or if she can ever go home.