A sold-out house came to MOCA to hear five journalists talk about the challenges of covering Mexico. “We call it the war next door, and I find myself going into Mexico’s murder capital every day … and coming home to El Paso, one of the safest cities in the United States,” said Belo TV border bureau chief Angela Kocherga. Others on the panel were the L.A. Times' Reed Johnson, Dallas Morning News Mexico City bureau chief Alfredo Corchado, Imagen News host Ana Maria Salazar and moderator Susana Seijas, a Mexico City-based news producer. Zocalo co-hosted the panel with the Azteca Foundation.
In 2004, when Johnson began reporting from Mexico, the country “really began to establish the makings of a middle class in some essential size,” he said, and that economic growth was the dominant story. But then the drug war took over.
“There was always that theme present in the culture I was reporting on, but that story just began to overshadow everything … and make me question ‘what am I doing here writing about culture given the serious nature of the problems?’” he said.
Cochardo agreed, saying he had tried to deny the gravity of the drug-related issues for too long. He had focused the vast majority of his attention on issues relating to the U.S.-Mexico border when his newspaper had 13 reporters in Mexico and didn’t adapt quickly enough when it dwindled to one, he said. The current situation has escalated to become the biggest national crisis since Mexico’s revolution in 1910, he said.
Salazar said she deals with the tension between different themes in Mexico every day in choosing stories for her radio and television shows. She said she often wants to lead her shows with news stories unrelated to drugs but feels conflicted.
“The temptation is ‘let’s try to change this a little bit and not talk about it today … but it comes to a point that you can’t hide from it,’” she said.
Video and photos at Zocalo Public Square.