The dangers of covering the drug business
By Sarah Frier
A colleague once called Alfredo Corchado and told him his name was on a list of American journalists who were going to be killed in 24 hours.
It was one of four times Corchado said he feared for his life while covering drug cartels — the most influential business in Mexico — for the Dallas Morning News.
Drug wars have led to about 60 journalist deaths since 2000, he said. Corchado hates the drug story, but it must be told, he said.
“I see it almost as covering Starbucks, and the growth of Starbucks, competing for market share,” he told the Society for American Business Editors and Writers annual conference in Dallas on Saturday. “These guys are very savvy businessmen.”
Except the loser in the competition for market share will die, Corchado said. And hard-hitting investigative journalism can cost your life, or family member’s life.
“You don’t really see much investigative journalism,” he said. “When you do, you don’t see bylines.”
Corchado said the danger and cuts in the bureau — from 13 to 5 to just Corchado — have led to a lack of important news coming out of Mexico. Stories of economic growth and tourism go untold.
The stories too dangerous to push include ones about the intersection between the public and private sector and the underground drug trade.
“We’re not there yet, as journalists,” Corchado said. “We know it’s there, we’re just waiting for someone to get us the first document.”
Sarah Frier is a business journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill who will intern at Bloomberg in New York this summer. She is also editor of The Daily Tar Heel.
Here is additional coverage of Corchado from UNC-Chapel Hill student Tori Stilwell.