Tuesday, March 17, 2009
See Editorial Update below.
Tomorrow's New York Times features reporting from Canayre, Apurimac on the continued relationship between coca, cocaine, the Shining Path and the government's response.
The package includes:
The package includes:
- the article, 'Cocaine Trade Helps Rebels Reignite War In Peru', by Simon Romero (the International Herald Tribune's version is 'Rebels and Cocaine Revive Old War in Peru').
- a 5-minute video headlined on the web 'A Hunt for Rebels in the Jungles of Peru' but on the video titled, 'Narco Trafficking in Peru's Jungle: The Resurgence of the Shining Path'. It is credited to Simon Romero, Andrea Zarate, and Eric Owles.
- and 24 photos online, Inside Peru's Cocaine War, by Moises Saman.
While purportedly about the continued relationship between drugs and the re-emergence of Shining Path ("it rouses the ghosts of a brutal two-decade war"), it is mainly about coca growing in "one of the most remote parts of the Andes", and the government's response to it. Shining Path connections are certainly evident in the region but this reporting doesn't reveal any news on it.
Simon Romero has reported on Peru for The Times since 2007.
Moises Saman's photographs are stark and vivid particularly in his ability to show what the armed forces or police patrols see. Saman is a Peruvian photographer, has worked off and on in Iraq since 2002, first for Newsday and more recently, for the New York Times. (See his recent book, 'Afghanistan: Broken Promise'.)
The video is also well presented although after a first view a few questions lingered:
- In the first minute, reporter Simon Romero suggests that 2008 was the deadliest year - but then shows a funeral plot of 2006.
- In the last minute, after video of Prime Minister Yehude Simon offering a village help, reporter Romero says "months later, despite some progress, the villagers are still waiting for the promised aid." So, did the village receive "some progress" and are now waiting for the completed aid?
Andrea Zarate has been a stringer for the New York Times since 2005 including supporting several pieces on Peru. Eric Owles, the paper's Chief Multimedia Producer, has done video pieces on Mexico and Colombia. Most recently he was in The Times' Bahgdad bureau.
In general, this was well-produced and financed reporting, on a level that few media outlets could produce. It was largely reported from the VRAE, the Valley Region of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, a region that continues to see extreme poverty and violence, issues that The Times highlighted well. The reporting on the government's response and on Shining Path was more limited - no mention of Plan VRAE, or its limitations, and no reporting on what the scope of Shining Path's presence may be in the region.
Other recent stories include:
- Government Prepares Decree to Speed Up VRAE Roadways (BNAmericas, March 13, 2009)
- Interview with Carlos Tapia on Canal N, Part I and Part II (Oct 20, 2008)
- Operacion Militar en el VRAE Obliga a Pobladores a Abandonar Comunidades (La Republica, Sept 29, 2008)
- Shining Path Rebels and the War On Drugs (Inter Press Service, Nov 27, 2007)
- New York Times reporting on Shining Path and cocaine in Peru.
Update: Assistant Managing Editor Richard Burke talked about this article in an interview later in the week when he was asked about the importance of being first in reporting an article:
"We're all about thrashing the competition, whether it be a magazine, another newspaper, a web site or a television or radio outlet. Take the article from Peru about the revival of the Shining Path rebels that went up on our web site Tuesday afternoon and is set to run on our front page Wednesday. It's a fine piece by Simon Romero.
"As of Tuesday morning, our plan was to hold off running it for at least a day and use a wholly different foreign-news article instead. But then editors on our Foreign Desk warned us that Simon, on assignment somewhere in the Andes, was "hearing footsteps," meaning that he had caught wind that a reporter for a competing newspaper was working on the same story. ... So we shifted gears, went with the Peru story immediately, and held off the other foreign story, which was not time-sensitive, instead. ... We think readers have come to expect us to be first and always aggressive on major stories of the day, whether they are breaking news events or trends like the rise of the rebels in Peru."
Berke makes it explicit that it was a trend story on the revival of the Shining Path. We thought it was a fine package of journalism but the story has received regular attention in the international press over the last few years.
Does anyone know if those audible "footsteps" materialized?
Send us the articles you may think were those footsteps - was it the LA Times?
- Mexican Drug Lords Look South To Peru, Los Angeles Times, March 25
Send us an email for corrections or suggestions.