Anger, curiosity and hope
By Carlos Dada,Posted on October 27, 2011
This is the speech that the editorial director of El Faro, Carlos Dada, spoke Wednesday night at Columbia University, New York, during the award ceremony of the Maria Moors Cabot:
“It’s an honor to be here tonight, in a place that has seen extraordinary people speak after receiving a distinction as the Maria Moors Cabot Prize.
I come from a small Central American country that we have done our own center of the universe, which used to be on the front pages around the world during the eighties, when we suffer a bloody civil war that some historians marked the last battle of theCold War. A whole generation of journalists from the United States and Europe began his career in El Salvador, but then, of course, what happened in Central America cared much of the world.
Two decades have passed since then, and you have not had hear much about us. Let me tell you briefly what is happening there: We changed to live with political violence to live with a social and criminal violence. Now, officially, is supposed to live in peace. But in reality, Central America is the world’s most violent region, with weak institutions, a large gap of inequality, many weapons, rampant corruption and the rapid and widespread penetration of another form of organized crime: drug cartels. Of course, there is another way of looking at this situation: a place full of stories. Of stories that deserve to be told.
For almost 14 years, Jorge Siman and I embarked on an adventure. We wanted to provide independent journalism and treat our readers as intelligent people. But in 1998 was, at best, an adventure around, and not very promising. We were born on the Internet in a country where less than two percent of the population had access to the network at that time. Even in our best projections could imagine that I would be here tonight. And would not be here without sacrifices, commitment and passion of a group of talented journalists and technicians who have walked with me where we are today. A group of people who share the view that independent journalism is important and that have demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice much to keep alive this vision.
My job, our work stems from anger, curiosity and hope. Outrage poverty, corruption, violence, abuse of power, inequality, impunity … Curious to understand, and hope that our world can be a better place for everyone.
It is worth noting that even when we are the deans of online journalism in Latin America, we are what we are by our content, because we practice newspaper of the classic way. The discussions in our newsroom deal more with sources, fact checking, accuracy and fairness in a story with anything else. The technology is the means, but the content is the meaning.
Independent journalism is not, of course, a practice welcomed by everyone. Some politicians and business people see us as an uncomfortable rate band strangers who just do not understand how the system works. And worse than that, we are actually trying to understand how it works.
In a fragile society like ours, with such violence, corruption and poverty, our hope is that good journalism can help our readers make better decisions in their lives and in public life, empowering citizens and push them to become agents of change toward a more just, more peaceful and happier.
Probably in our pages do not find who was killed yesterday, but maybe, if you give us some time, we might be able to tell why so many people are being killed in our part of the world. Or explain how drug cartels are entering our countries, how to take advantage of corrupt officials and institutions, how they build schools and clinics that a country without resources can not build.
Or how natural reserve lands into the hands of public officials, or how gangs became the boys in the neighborhood complex criminal organizations.
I want to thank Columbia University, its School of Journalism and the Committee of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for encouraging us through this high distinction, to continue this journey.
To our friends and organizations that have kept us alive, I hope, tonight, that this recognition confirms that they were not wrong.
For our families, who pay the highest price for what we do, I hope this helps convince them that their sacrifice is worth it.
And to our readers, let me now send a message: we will not stop. Thank you very much. “