Reading Charles Bowden in Júarez

Charles Bowden

Charles Bowden, a prolific writer and critical observer of the U.S.-Mexico border, died at home in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Saturday. I was introduced to Bowden’s work on my first night in Ciudad Júarez, when I visited in January 2011. The passage below, an excerpt from Amor and Exile, attempts to capture the experience of reading Bowden in Júarez.

An earlier version of the story on Bowden’s death in The Arizona Republic closed with a fitting tribute, a line Bowden once dedicated to another writing hero, Edward Abbeey: “R.I.P., but I doubt it.”


Excerpt from Chapter 7 of Amor and Exile: The Waiver Scene

Betty Campbell has a mischievous, sardonic grin for a 77-year-old nun. My first night in Ciudad Juárez, she offered me her cluttered bedroom, insisting that she preferred sleeping on a mat on the living room floor so she could hear sounds from the street—the sounds of gun shots, peeling tires, and screams, maybe not every night, but frequently enough.

I threw my bag down in the quiet, cold back bedroom at Casa Tabor, Sister Betty’s house in one of Juárez’s northwestern colonias—the unpoliced and forgotten dirt and cobble street neighborhoods that house tens of thousands of underpaid factory workers and urban poor and now drug dealers and gangsters as well. It’s a neighborhood of concrete block houses of mixed quality—some with iron gates and red roof tiles, others run down and abandoned with tin roofs, boarded up windows and holes in the walls. The modest Casa Tabor stood out with its neat yard and pink hued adobe façade.

Charles Bowden
Charles Bowden (1945-2014) / Jack Dykinga via Simon & Schuster

Later that first evening, with a warm smile and slightly manic glint in her eye, Betty handed me the May 2009 issue of Harper’s Magazine folded back to Charles Bowden’s “The Sicario,” an intense interview with a Juárez hit man that Bowden later turned into a book. At first I thought that Betty was trying to haze me into the fraternity of fear that has gripped this town since about 2008, when murders began to skyrocket. But the gleam in her eyes also served to inoculate me from that fear with her absolute faith in the resiliency and creativity of poor people in Latin America.

I wrote “sicario” in my little notebook, knowing it would come in handy over the next couple of days. Mexican sicarios have gotten the upper hand on reporters in recent years, enforcing a regime of censorship through fear at Mexico’s still spunky and highly competitive newspapers. Ten journalists were killed in Mexico in 2010, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which ranked Mexico among the top ten deadliest countries for reporters every year between 2004 and 2011.

At least 29 people were murdered in Juárez during my five days there in January 2011. That statistic comes from the “Frontera List,” an archive that New Mexico State University librarian Molly Molloy maintains, dutifully recording Mexican media crime reports and relevant commentary on the drug wars, mainly from Juárez. I read Molloy’s dispatches every day for a few months, but then had to stop reading every single report because they were becoming too easy to dismiss, as in: There were only three murders in Juárez today.

For the Harper’s story, Bowden, an American writer who has followed drugs and crime along the border for decades, tracked down a former Mexican police officer who had worked for years as a hit man for narcos, kidnapping and executing and burying people across the country. The man was in the U.S., hiding from the drug cartels. Bowden sat with him at an anonymous motel, recording his life story in gruesome detail: the stranglings—his expertise—the chemicals he used to literally disappear bodies, the anonymous holes in the ground where mass graves still lie, undiscovered by authorities. The cocaine and whiskey and paranoia and the eventual salvation that came with being hunted himself.

Betty warned me before I read the piece that it’s a searing account, essentially damning to the Mexican authorities in passages like this one:

They hardly ever do police work; they are working full-time for narcos. This is his real home for almost twenty years, a second Mexico that does not exist officially and that coexists seamlessly with the government. In his many transports of human beings for bondage, torture, and death, he is never interfered with by the authorities. He is part of the government, the state policeman with eight men under his command. But his key employer is the organization, which he assumes is the Juárez cartel, but he never asks since questions can be fatal.

The Sunday Rumpus Feature |Amor and Exile Reviewed in The Rumpus

Amor and Exile made the front page of The Rumpus.net, a popular online literary magazine, in today’s The Sunday Rumpus Feature. Allison Cay Parker gave it a great review, here are some excerpts:

“Although I can now boast intimate familiarity with many infuriating aspects of our country’s immigration system, the truth is that in relative terms our process was an emotional and logistical cake walk compared to what Amor and Exile coauthor Nicole Salgado, her family, and other bi-national couples represented in this timely, urgent book are experiencing. The crucial difference impacting their cases: the “undocumented” status of their foreign-born partners.

Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders reads as one part memoir, penned by American expat Nicole Salgado, and one part journalism, researched and written by Nathaniel Hoffman (editor of TheBlueReview.org). Combining forces, the coauthors have produced a story that is in turns informative and deeply resonant, and that captures the complex, often contradictory set of laws and emotions that govern the lives of immigrants and their families. […]

At its heart, Amor and Exile is a plea for the reunification and repatriation of American families. The book’s unique contribution is that it illuminates the ways in which our increasingly punitive immigration laws, designed to criminalize and remove migrants in the name of national interests, in fact force many ordinary Americans into financial and emotional hardship and deprive them of rights otherwise considered inviolable in our society—chief among them, the “freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life,” which the U.S. Supreme Court defends under the Due Process clause of the Constitution.”

The review says many more great things about Hoffman and Salgado’s writing and the impact the book can have, but you’re better off reading the review in entirety yourself, here. Thanks to Allison Parker for the review, and to The Rumpus Sunday editor, author Gina Frangello, for selecting Amor and Exile for this Sunday feature review.

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Amor and Exile Year-In-Review 2013

An Amor and Exile Year-In-Review, 2013 timeline

2013 was a big year for Amor and Exile and for the pro-immigration movement. Brush up on the issues of the past year with this Amor and Exile Year-In-Review for 2013.

January

Obama administration announces stateside waiver processing, creates relief for some families (Take Two, Southern California Public Radio)

February

Action for Family Unity collage of photos of families separated or in exile due to immigration law
Action for Family Unity collage of photos of families separated or in exile due to immigration law

March

April

May

June

  • “Send Amor and Exile to Washington” campaign raises over $12,000 and delivers a copy to every member of Congress, the nine Supreme Court justices, President and First Lady Obama and Vice-President Biden and other D.C. officials
  • A&E featured on the News and Politics section of BlogHer (BlogHer.com)
  • Nicole and Nathaniel launch A&E on the East Coast with the first public readings at AILA D.C. headquarters and Ukazoo Books in Baltimore, MD
  • Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) calls for relief for exiled/separated families with colleague letter supporting Amor and Exile (amorandexile.com)
  • Nathaniel launches A&E in Boise at Hyde Park Books, with Nicole skyping in from Querétaro (facebook.com)
  • SB 744 passed in the Senate (New York Times)
  • A&E discussed in “All About Family” (Baltimore Jewish Times)
  • Nathaniel’s work as Idaho journalist and A&E highlighted (Idaho Press-Tribune)
June collage
Clockwise from bottom L: Constituent letters to Congressional reps; Nicole and Nate meet with Rep. Luis Gutierrez; Nicole and Nate after hand-delivering over 100 copies of A&E; Nicole on Capitol Hill; Nicole at Ukazoo reading in Baltimore; Nicole, cover designer Gilad Foss and Nate in Baltimore; Nate and Margi Hoffman mailing books to D.C. officials; and the audience at the A&E launch at Hyde Park Books in Boise, ID.

July

  • Nicole launches A&E in Mexico with Nathaniel skyping in, starting in Querétaro at the Casa del Atrio (amorandexile.com)
  • A&E and Nicole’s story covered in Boulder, Colorado (Boulder Weekly)
  • Nathaniel hosts reading at the American Friends Service Committee in Denver with a call-in by Nicole
Top: Nicole at La Casa del Atrio reading, Querétaro, México; Nicole and friends of A&E at the Querétaro reading
Top: Nicole at La Casa del Atrio reading, Querétaro, México. Bottom: Nicole and friends of A&E at the Querétaro reading

August

  • Reading in San Miguel de Allende, home of J.W. Lown, profiled in A&E
  • Edgar Falcon marries on the border in highly publicized wedding on the El Paso/Mexico border (Texas Tribune)
August collage
Clockwise from top: San Miguel de Allende reading, Nicole with supporter at SMA reading, U.S. citizen Edgar Falcon marries Mexican citizen Maricruz Valtierra at U.S./Mexico border in August.

September

October

  • HR 15, a comprehensive immigration reform bill largely based on SB 744, is introduced in the House of Representatives (ImmigrationImpact.com)
  • Nathaniel shares A&E at the International Institute of the Bay Area on October 24th
  • A&E and Nicole and Margo’s story featured on PRI The World (PRI The World)
  • Rift surfacing between some immigration reform activist groups (prernalal.com)
  • House Reps Pearce (R-NM) and O’Rourke (D-TX) sponsor the American Families United Act (AFU website)
Amor and Exile in October 2013
Nathaniel signs copies of Amor and Exile at reading at the International Institute of the Bay Area in October.

November

  • Nicole and Margo’s story featured alongside series of profiles of SF Bay Area immigration activists (SF Bay Guardian)
  • Town-hall discussion of A&E and immigration issues at Rediscovered Books in Boise and Baltimore event co-hosted by Chizuk Amuno and Beth-El congregations (amorandexile.com)
  • Illegal Immigration and Marriage,” discussion of A&E with Nathaniel and Nicole on “Midday with Dan Rodricks” (WYPR.org)
  • Pre-Thanksgiving Reading of A&E in (Nicole’s hometown of Syracuse, NY (Post-Standard | Syracuse.com)
Amor and Exile in November 2013
Clockwise from upper L: Nate on the air with Nicole on the Midday with Dan Rodricks show; Nicole skyping in from Mexico with Deyanira and Ben at Rediscovered Books reading; the audience at the RD Books reading in Boise; the audience at the reading at the Jefferson Clinton Hotel in Syracuse, NY; Nicole and her grandmother, Thelma Kinney, at the Syracuse reading, the day before Thanksgiving.

December

  • Immigration reform officially “dead” for 2013 (Hispanic News Network)
  • Fight for comprehensive immigration reform shaping up for 2014 (Grand Island Independent)
  • A&E available on Kindle in the Amazon Prime Lending Library
  • A&E has sold over 1,000 copies and hosted 14 public readings in the U.S. and Mexico in its first six months.
  • Giveaway days planned in January to coincide with the start of the Congressional session, to help elevate the debate on immigration reform—stay tuned!

Mexico readings of Amor and Exile | Lecturas de Amor and Exile en México

In the next two weeks, Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders will be presented for the first time in Central Mexico, with readings in Querétaro and San Miguel de Allende, hosted by Nicole Salgado. At both events, co-authors Salgado and Nathaniel Hoffman will read excerpts of the book with a short summary in Spanish, and answer questions from the audience. Hoffman will attend virtually, via the Internet. Both events are free and open to the public. Copies of Amor and Exile will be available for sale at the events.

The Querétaro reading will be this Wednesday, July 24th, at 7 pm, at the Casa del Atrio, Allende Sur 15, in Querétaro´s historic downtown. The San Miguel de Allende reading will be Saturday, August 3rd at the San Miguel Public Library in the Sala Quetzal, entry from Relox-50, San Miguel Centro Historico.

In Amor and Exile, Salgado details her inability to legalize her Mexican husband because of a permanent bar that he incurred due to a previous illegal entry, and how they arrived together to Querétaro in 2006 to wait out the 10 years before he can apply for legal entry. In addition to providing the backdrop of U.S. immigration policy history, journalist Hoffman tells the stories of more than 12 couples torn apart or displaced by current immigration law, including the experience of former San Angelo, Texas mayor and current San Miguel resident, J.W. Lown.

Amor and Exile offers a new perspective on a problem that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans and their families. As U.S. legislators debated immigration reform in June, Hoffman and Salgado raised more than $12,000 dollars to publish their book, travel to Washington, D.C., and deliver 550 books, to each of the members of Congress, the President and Vice-President, the Supreme Court, and other officials, along with letters from constituent supporters. Amor and Exile provides important perspective for the current immigration reform debate going on in Congress and demonstrates why millions of people need a more humane immigration policy that reestablishes families’ autonomy.

We hope you will join us! You can obtain more information about the local events by contacting nicole@amorandexile.com

101-queretaro-casa-atrio
Casa del Atrio, site of upcoming Amor and Exile reading in Querétaro, México

En las siguientes dos semanas, las primeras dos lecturas de Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders serán en México Central, por coautora Nicole Salgado. En los dos eventos, los coautores, Salgado y Nathaniel Hoffman, leyerán excerptos del libro y estarán dispuestos para contestar preguntas de la audiencia. Hoffman estará presente por medio de internet. En las dos ocasiones, la entrada es abierta al público y gratuito y libros estarán a la venta.

La lectura en Querétaro será este miercoles, 24 de julio, a las 7 pm, en la Casa del Atrio, Allende Sur 15, en el Centro Histórico de Querétaro. La lectura en San Miguel será en la Sala Quetzal de la Biblioteca Publica de San Miguel de Allende, entrada por Relox 50-A, Centro Histórico.

En Amor and Exile, Salgado detalla la imposibilidad de legalizar su esposo mexicano debido a una barra permanente que él tuvo por una entrada ilegal previa, y como llegaron a Querétaro juntos en 2006 para esperar 10 años antes de que él puede solicitar una entrada legal. Coautor y periodista Hoffman relata la historia de la política migratoria en los Estado Unidos y las experiencias de mas de 12 parejas con situaciones como Nicole, que han sido afectados negativamente de parte de leyes migratorios actuales de Estadosunidos.

Amor and Exile ofrece una nueva perspectiva sobre un problema que afecta cientos de miles de Americanos y sus familias. Mientras legisladores Estadounidenses debatieron reforma migratoria en junio, Hoffman y Salgado recaudaron mas de $12,000 dólares para publicar su libro, viajar a Washington, D.C. y entregar 550 libros, a cada uno de los miembros de Congress, el presidente y vicepresidente, la Suprema Corte y otros oficiales. Amor and Exile provee importante perspectiva para el actual debate en Congress de Estadounidos, y demuestra porque millones de personas necesitan una política migratoria mas justa que restablece la autonomía de las familias.

Esperamos que nos acompañen. Se puede conseguir más información acerca de los eventos locales al escribir nicole@amorandexile.com

sala quetzal mural
Sala Quetzal, San Miguel Public Library, site of August 3rd reading of Amor and Exile

 

 

 

To more rights for mixed-immigration status couples in 2012

2011 brought a higher profile to the plight of mixed immigration status couples in the form of news articles and public campaigns, but there is still much work to be done to educate the public about the impact of immigration bars, detention and deportations on tens of thousands of American families.

U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, held tours throughout the spring touting family reunification and the Dream Act. Most of the coverage focused on his call for President Obama to use his administrative powers to halt deportations of people with strong family ties to the Unites States.

The events that Gutierrez held included hundreds mixed-status families, however the spin often focused on the U.S. citizen children, which some polling has shown to be the most sympathetic victims of deportations, rather than spouses. Also, media coverage tends to label, or dismiss these stories as “Hispanic issues.” However, American citizen spouses also gained some traction in the press in 2011.

In one of the most high profile cases of the year, Pedro Guzman and his U.S. citizen wife, Emily Nelson Guzman, won a reprieve and were reunited [with video] in May after Pedro spent 19 months in immigration detention.

Being the spouse of a U.S. citizen didn’t help much. Emily could petition for him to become a legal resident, but in that scenario, an attorney told her, Pedro would have to leave the country before being accepted for reentry. He would also have to obtain a special waiver because of his arrest record. She was advised that his chances would be slim.

In May, Kevin Sieff wrote an interesting Washington Post story about the families of deportees trying to educate their kids in Texas.

In June, three exile bloggers were featured in a UPI wire story about the many online ties that bind their community together. Kelsey Sheehy, a reporter at Medill News Service, which I think is a service of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern (though it’s hard to tell for sure), starts with Cheryl Arredondo at Monterrey, What the Hell?.

Arredondo is part of a growing online demographic: American-born wives of deported immigrants who are using blogs, forums and Facebook to find support and sanity. Their spouses entered the country illegally and, when the immigration system caught up with them, their wives relocated to Mexico to keep the family together.

Erica Pearson at the New York Daily News wrote a similar story in July.

Bonding with each other online, the wives describe enduring months of separation or moving to their husband’s home country to face learning a new language or figuring out where to send their kids to school.

And in September, PRI’s radio program The World ran a piece from Britta Conroy-Randall that discussed the vibrant online club of “deportees wives,” quoting Emily Cruz, the Real Housewife of Ciudad Juárez:

“I’m so happy because in Juarez of all places, I’m not afraid to go to the movies, we can go out and be about and be normal and not constantly be afraid,” Cruz said. “I feel more-free in Juarez, Mexico than I did in the suburbs of Phoenix.”

And as the year went on, more and more American spouses began to use the online petition site change.org to rally support for their families.

Another high profile couple was reunited in August—Tony and Janina Wasilewski were featured in the documentary Tony and Janina’s American Wedding. Janina was deported back to Poland and Tony, her naturalized Polish-American husband, fought a long battle to get her back.

2011 was also a fast paced year for same-sex bi-national couples. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Obama administration’s decision to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court leant much momentum to the movement for equal immigration rights for same-sex couples. Still, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security has not moved as quickly as many would like to either delay decisions on spousal visas until DOMA is officially repealed or to begin to grant them administratively.

Anthony John Maak and Bradford Wells, a married, bi-national couple from San Francisco, were denied a visa in August, but appealed the decision and Maak has not been deported yet, as far as I can tell.

Same-sex couples have had some success in winning stays of deportation, based on new DHS guidelines that require adjudicators to take into account an immigrant’s ties to the country before deporting them.

Sujey and Violeta Pando are one recent couple that has been able to stay together after Sujey won a delay pending establishment of the new deportation guidelines. Henry Valendia and his husband, Josh Vandiver, won a similar reprieve in June. And a Connecticut congressional candidate, Mike Williams, and his Dutch partner Bart Hoedemaker, raised the issue in August, when Hoedemaker’s job was to come to an end, costing him his work visa.

And then there is this couple, which makes an excellent point:

In 2012, our book, Amor and Exile, will tell the stories of more mixed-status couples—both gay and straight—to demonstrate that a broken immigration system affects the rights of American citizens in very serious ways. We look forward to continuing this dialogue here, on our Facebook page and through my Twitter feed, where most of these links have appeared previously. May the new year be prosperous for the ever-winding American experiment with democracy!

On reporting and identity

A few weeks ago, I sat in the basement studio of Boise’s brand new community radio station discussing #OccupyBoise with eight or nine people who were fired up to cover the movement in some way. The radio station has only been on the air for about six months and we don’t have a local news segment established yet, but two talented and creative volunteer DJs who host mostly music shows wanted to report on the surprisingly robust Boise wing of #Occupy. Part of our discussion was whether or not the guys had been “too involved” in the organizing of the marches and general assemblies in Boise to credibly report on the phenomenon.

I am very reticent to judge who is credible to report on anything these days, as I think journalism ought to be—and is—judged more for the character of its content than for its pedigree. Also, I am just a volunteer at Radio Boise as well, bringing my decade of experience in the mainstream and alternative media to the table to help establish a news department at the station. Furthermore, community radio was doing consensus and direct democracy work before hash tags were even invented, so I was not about to make any decrees about who can report on what. But I did suggest that anyone who wanted to report on #Occupy Boise ought to be very clear on their involvement in it—both to themselves and to the public.

Jose Antonio Vargas defines American

Jose Antonio Vargas, the undocumented reporter who is reporting on immigration through his own new organization, Define American, has done just that, and he comes off as extremely credible. Vargas, borrowing from journalism prof Jay Rosen, calls this style of journalism “The View from Somewhere“—the idea that our experiences and biases and power of ideas make our journalism more interesting and useful. But Vargas, while clearly advocating for justice in his own case and in the case of millions of immigrants stuck in what a large majority of Americans believe is a “broken” system (in whatever way they feel it may be broken), has made the clear distinction that he is a reporter first. He is taking on the role of investigator, critic, chronicler and working in the realm of ideas first and foremost. It is a great feeling of liberation—a graduation of sorts—to move from the he said/she said, transcriptionary, third person, “fair and balanced” approach that young reporters are still taught at newspapers across the country to realizing that the reporter has thoughts and feelings and a mind as well and that his or her thoughts and feelings matter.

I worked as an immigration reporter in the mainstream system for about six years, first at the Idaho Press-Tribune, a small town paper in Idaho’s second largest city, just west of Boise. It was my first real job and the place that I learned how to be a newspaper reporter. And I quickly realized, perhaps because I had moved to Idaho from the East Coast, that there was a large population of Latinos who were excluded from the community in many ways, including in the pages of the newspaper. So I created my own beat: the Latino beat and started writing about farmworker labor issues, offering farmworker perspectives, publishing short A&E (Arts and Entertainment) pieces in Spanish and English on cultural events and music in the Latino community and looking into bilingual education in the schools.

But my first inkling that I was not going to make it as a straight up newspaper reporter came when I witnessed an act of blatant racism at a city event before the annual rodeo—the biggest show in town. The story was supposed to be something like “City Council Excited for 75th Annual Rodeo” or something like that. But I returned to the newsroom with a much better story: “City Councilman Pans Black Rodeo Clown with Fried Chicken and Watermelon Jokes.” The newsroom was not equipped for such a story questioning the town’s most sacred traditions. There was literally no newspaper mechanism to get that information on the front page the next day—I, the reporter, was the only witness who was talking. But to their credit, my editors let me write an op-ed about the experience for the weekend paper, after the rodeo was over, if I recall, and it generated record numbers of letters to the editor, some urging me to go back to where I came from and others thanking me for pointing out the overt yet unspoken racism in the community.

That’s just one example of how the view from somewhere ought to work; the op-ed, or whatever we called it, should have run on the front page the next day.

In Vargas’ call to action for reporters to take a new line on immigration, he refers to the nefarious role that FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies have played in media coverage of immigration for the last decade or more. The groups, part of the Tanton Network, espouse what I consider to be an anti-immigrant or racist position but masquerade as think tanks or mainstream policy groups and get quoted all the time.

Vargas cites a Republican source:

FAIR, CIS and Numbers USA have “played an outsized role in speaking for conservatives. They’ve had an outsized role in this debate. They’ve framed the debate in their terms and that’s been really unfortunate,” Robert Gittelson, a Republican businessman, told me.

I have quoted them and I knew at the time that it was an intellectually dishonest thing to do, but my editors wanted to know what the antis had to say so I had to make the call. In 2005, I wrote a story for the Contra Costa Times, where I was the Immigration and Demographics reporter, about a woman whose husband was undocumented and had gotten stuck in Mexico after tending to his sick mother. It was a great story and one of the early inspirations for Amor and Exile. But I was forced to add these two lines to the story:

But for advocates of stricter immigration enforcement, having a family is no excuse for breaking the law.

“The illegals need to either get on the path to get their citizenship squared away, or they shouldn’t be here in the first place,” said Rick Oltman, western field director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In those two sentences, my only chance to frame Oltman’s comments were in my definition of his camp: strict enforcement. At least the tone of Oltman’s comment speaks for itself and he is not the focus of the story in any way. Vargas generously refers to the Tanton network groups as the “anti-immigration reform community.”

Despite my discomfort with these mainstream journalistic habits of framing stories in terms of conflict and stripping the pyramid of any personality, they are difficult habits to unlearn. It’s taken me several years as a freelancer and at an alternative weekly to come out of my shell and it’s still hard for me to write lengthy, self-referential blog posts like this one. But I’ll give one more example of how it can be done before getting back to #Occupy.

I went into coverage of the Tea Party phenomenon in 2009 with the same (kind of boring) questions that are being asked of #Occupy today: What’s this all about? And I wrote about it with some degree of personality (snark) at first and then with an all-out opinion formed from spending the time talking to people at many Tea Party rallies in Boise in this post entitled Tea Party Inspired by Racial Fears. My point is that I was neither for nor against the Tea Party or the Tea Partiers. I was acting and writing as an informed observer, staking out an informed position and offering readers a viewpoint that they could make use of. Many of my friends showed up to protest the protestors, but my form of activism has almost always been through the media. I suspect that is the way Jose Antonio Vargas views his activism—an informed observer with a lot to say about immigration in the United States. Though his coverage may well serve to rally the public—as good journalism should—it is journalism first, not preaching or protest.

So my advice to my friends at Radio Boise was this: you can have opinions and stances on #OccupyBoise and present them as news reporting if they are well developed and fair. You can let the marchers and occupiers speak for themselves on the air and call it news reporting. You can do any number of creative audio reports from the rallies and marches and call it news reporting. But you can’t claim to be part of #OccupyBoise and still call it news reporting (even if the movement is leaderless and tries to embrace “99 percent” of America), because that’s called public relations or propaganda and it’s not fair to news consumers and it’s boring.

It remains to be seen if we will break in the news department at Radio Boise with a story on #Occupy, but one thing we all learned is that despite the democratization of the media through the internet, journalism is still hard in two ways: it’s a daily applied ethics debate and it’s damn hard work.