A life in newspapers


An anti-drug agent hikes up a steep hillside during a poppy-eradication mission in Mexico.

Today in Intro to Mass Communication we are going to talk about newspapers, which turns out to be one of the least favorite topics among students I’ve surveyed.

We’ll also look at America’s greatest newspaper rivalry: William Randolph Hearst vs. Joseph Pulitzer.

I grew up around newspapers and, yes, I even had a paper route. I delivered the Cedar Falls Record in Iowa.

Later I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for 24 years and so, unlike my students, I am an unabashed supporter of newspapers.

My loyalty to newspapers has a lot to do with the amazing opportunities I have had as a journalist to report fascinating stories around the world. Some of the most memorable stories, issues and people I’ve covered have been:

  1. The pursuit of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks
  2. Pope John Paul II’s visits to Havana, Mexico City and Jerusalem
  3. Fugitive Ronnie Biggs, who took part in the Great Train Robbery in 1963 before fleeing to Rio de Janeiro
  4. Underage drinking and the wild party scene in Tijuana, Mexico
  5. Harlistas, the incredibly resourceful Harley-Davidson riders of Cuba
  6. The Zapatista uprising in Mexico
  7. Illegal immigrant crossings at the California-Mexico border
  8. Marion “Mad Dog” Pruett, a depraved one-eyed killer with a penchant for murdering convenience store clerks
  9. The aftermath of civil war in Guatemala
  10. The rise of democracy in Mexico and the end of the one-party system
  11. The Nevado del Ruiz volcano disaster of 1985, which killed more than 23,000 people
  12. Islas Marías, a penal colony off the coast of Mazatlán, Mexico, home to killers and other convicts
  13. Colombia’s courageous counter-narcotics forces
  14. The rise and fall of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, nicknamed “Lord of the Skies” after he started using old commercial airliners to smuggle cocaine into Mexico, revolutionizing the drug trade
  15. Cambodian street gangs of Southern California
  16. Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and accused bomber whose lifelong dream has been to kill Fidel Castro
  17. Carlos Andrés Pérez, the former Venezuelan president who was accused of corruption and put under house arrest in Caracas
  18. Life for peasants at La Plata, site of Fidel Castro’s secret command post during the Cuban revolution
  19. Huaorani Indians efforts to preserve their primitive ways in the jungles of Ecuador
  20. U.S.-Cuba relations and the more than 50-year-old grudge match over the island

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