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The latest in IRE’s series of bilingual border workshops

The latest in IRE’s series of bilingual border workshops was a great success. Held in Laredo Nov. 12-13 in a historic hotel with a view of the Rio Grande river and the border itself, the event attracted about 50 journalists from Mexico and the United States, including about a dozen who also used the trip to cover the outbreaks of violence in Tamaulipas that led to the forced evacuation of the town of Ciudad Meir (less than an hour away). The panels, offered in English and Spanish, covered topics including border storytelling, coverage of the drug trade, and use of documents and statistics to track military spending, environmental stories, movement of immigrants and their investments.

Many people donated their time to help, including Dean Graber from the Knight Center of Journalism in the Americas, El Mañana editor Daniel Rosas, NPR’s border correspondent John Burnett, Laredo Morning Times Editor Diana Fuentes and many other reporters from publications large and small. From Mexico, prize-winning reporter Sandra Rodriguez of El Diario de Juarez and Proceso border correspondent Marcela Turati took time out of their demanding work schedules to join us as presenters – Rodriguez generously shared tips about the way she’s used databases to analyze the blocks and the children most impacted by the wave of murders in Juarez and also obtained public records to show how very few U.S. arms are seized by Mexican border inspectors. Turati spoke about how she sensitively covers the conflicts for Mexico’s largest news magazine from the perspective of the victims – often women and children.

Sessions also discussed covering life on the border. Burnett told the audience about how he spots unusual border stories and characters – from the composers of narcocorridos to a guy who runs kayak tours on the Rio Grande in Reynosa. Burnett also treated participants to a few minutes of his own music on the harmonica.

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma co-sponsored the event,organizing sessions that focused on covering violence and dealing with trauma, and funding a dinner during which participants discussed ideas and ongoing efforts to help support U.S. and Mexican journalists who continue to cover the border conflicts despite fewer resources and increased threats. Participants with Dart included Donna DeCesare, Judith Matloff, Elana Newman and Kate Black.

Also at the conference, attendees were briefed on a preview of ground-breaking new research by the InterAmerican Press Association’s Dario Klein and Maria Idalia Gomez designed to help build a strategy to help prevent/respond to attacks on journalists and support them as well as their families. Gomez also presented her latest work in using Mexico’s public records laws to obtain incredible information on its war on drugs and related thefts and corruption.

The next two workshops are planned for 2011 in El Paso and Mexico City. Look for details soon on the IRE website.

By Lise Olsen
IRE Board member and
The Houston Chronicle

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