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These young, fresh faces are all journalism students here in Monteria. They were in the pressroom to watch the big wheels of paper get loaded onto the spindles, and for the big old creaky offset press to start churning out editions of El Meridiano de Cordoba (and de Sucre too!).
The gasoline-like smell of the ink was an instant time machine back to the days when I used to work at the Daily Journal in Caracas, and at the end of every exhausting 17-hour day, I would stand on the small corrugated metal balcony outside our dingy offices, and watch the presses start to roll… there was a real feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment to watching the papers come off the presses. I kinda miss that, I have to admit…
The papers here are run, well, not as a charity, but certainly as a form of societal outreach and building. The family that owns these papers also has built up clinics and other things to help out the people, and a big part of their strategy here has been good old watchdog journalism. And Good Christ, is there ever a lot to watch over.
For example: the streets here are in various stages of disrepair (and we were kept up by some absolute nutbar jackhammering the pavement outside our hotel last night until 11 p.m. – on a Friday), but the contract system to repair the roads is so unbelievably corrupt here that the money for some streets has been allocated and spent again, and again, and again … and still the streets are rutted dirt and rocks…
Taking on the narcos, the paras, the government and plain old banditos in this area has been a helluva task, and the fact that anyone involved in this paper is still upright and enjoying the benefits of oxygen is something of a miracle and a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.
We had a big conversation again today about how much things have changed in this company, sitting in the Gerente’s office. I think there’s a very large story happening here, but I will wait until after this trip is over to try to limn it.