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Gritty journalism on a shoestring: send some string their way!

Nov. 26, 2016

Six staff members. 10 freelancers. 14 awards. 50,000 visitors a month. 10,000 facebook followers. 500 hundred original stories a year.

And they do it all for an annual budget of $20,000 USD!

Lado B is no milquetoast pamphlet for store openings and press releases (like the only newspaper in my city, sigh). It's a gritty, colourful, vibrant exposition of the extremes of life in Puebla, one of Mexico's largest and most modern cities. This week they've got a story on the city's alarming rate of murders of women, and another that looks at the phenomena across Latin America, there's a cynical take on the state governor's grubby positioning for the next presidential election, interviews with three survivors of torture while in jail, an essay on contemporary Mexican art and a photo essay of Central American migrants on the Mexican border.

It's not easy doing this work, of course. Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. In the neighbouring state of Veracruz, 24 journalists have been murdered in the last eleven years. Recently, the well-known journalist Carmen Arestegui, a long-time critic of the government, made the news when her offices were broken into. Less famous journalists suffer similar attacks all the time in relative obscurity. Within months of opening, Lado B's offices were were robbed at gunpoint, leaving the tiny media startup without computers or documents.

That comes with the territory, says Mely Arellano, one of Lado B's founding reporters. "We do this because we believe we can contribute to a better society in a country that looks like it's falling to pieces." They don't do it for the money, she admits. "We're journalists because we believe it's important to show what's happening here, even when the job is full of risks.

"Also, I guess, because we're stubborn."

But the daily grind of finding money to cover bills may be the toughest part of her job. Mexican salaries are low, but the cost of living is increasing dramatically. (Some cities are currently on par with my city in Canada). To make ends meet, Lado B staff often have to moonlight for other organizations... which was a stroke of luck for Round Earth Media last year! I was lucky enough to work as editor with Arellano when she produced this warm and insightful look at homesickness and migration among migrants from Yucatan. The collaboration was so successful, we also asked for her help with Vidas Cruzadas, our episodic radio series about two young brothers travelling alone from El Salvador to the US. She had never worked in radio before, but took to it like a fish in water, tackling everything from script writing to sound engineering with gusto.

If you are interested in topics like migration, environmentalism, latin culture, politics and the state of Mexico today, it's time to send some gusto back her way! Lado B has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $4000. The money will help cover office expenses, pay quality contributors and move them away from a dependence on advertizing as a main income source. And it will help keep alive an oasis of bright journalism in the heart of a country that some days looks very dark in dead. If you'd like to be part of that, here's the kickstarter link.


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For 15 years, Conrad lived in Mexico, where he worked as a freelance radio and print journalist. His work took him into a minefield, a gunfight, a dugout canoe and the homes of many fascinating, brave and generous people. He is also an avid teacher and has led classes in radio, robotics, soccer, physics and anthropology in a diversity of places, including office towers, lecture halls, fields and palm thatched huts.