Congratulations to the talented newshounds at the online site Animal Político, especially reporters Arturo Ángel and Víctor Hugo Arteaga, for snagging the National Journalism Prize last week.
They won it for a series of exposés on the phantom businesses used by Javier Duarte, the corrupt former PRI governor of Veracruz, to misappropriate some 645 million pesos meant for the poor. Part of the reporters' methodology was ingenious in its simplicity — they paid visits to the listed addresses, but were more likely to find a farmer, a confused renter, a mom and pop store or empty land than any major business activity.
And further congratulations to Alejandro Hope, Mexico’s premier writer on security issues, who received special recognition from INEGI for his press pieces, including his regular Plata o Plomo column in El Universal.
Is it strange for a journalism honor to come from the official National Statistics Institute? In this case, it’s fitting. Hope is noted for mining and interpreting crime statistics (much of which comes from INEGI), and I’ve yet to find a writer or analyst more skilled at finding and communicating meaning in the numbers. In his words, stats are a way “to make the invisible visible.”
There was a period for about a year in 2015 and 2016 when Alejandro, the political animals and I were working in the same space in Condesa, literally steps from each other.
I was an editor at an English-language sister publication of Animal Político, which some genius decided to name El Daily Post. We were able to adapt into English some of the early entries in the award-winning phantom businesses series before the owners pulled the plug on the site, taking care to erase all the site's articles. (If you read Spanish, the original articles in the series are compiled here.)
Hope was the security editor at the Post — excuse me, El Post — contributing a regular column in English under the name Silver or Lead. It was brilliant, clever, readable, honest, and sometimes even optimistic. Those gems have also disappeared, or at least I can’t find them. If it’s true that nothing is ever eliminated from the internet, maybe somebody can track them down.
Meanwhile, here's a video interview with Hope recorded shortly after the recapture of El Chapo last year. It gives English speakers a pretty good idea of his understanding of the issues and ability to communicate it.
The photo of some of the Animal Político staff above is from a video about them that you can see here courtesy of a reporter’s Twitter page. Go to full screen.
One more thing about Animal Político. No other site aimed at a general audience has done more to publicize and combat gender-based abuse in this country. I don’t know if top editor Daniel Moreno (he's the one in the circle) has won any awards for encouraging his staff’s work on this, but he should. So, I hereby bestow upon him the Kagom Recognition for Journalism in the Interest of Combatting Abuse and Violence Against Women in Mexico. Congratulations.