Newspapers dying? A portrait in journalistic courage

CLICK THE MOVIE POSTER to visit the PBS POV webpage for Reportero. The PBS site provides access to TV listings in your region, information about online viewing—and other ideas for discussing the film.NEWSPAPERS & MAGAZINES are dropping like flies. After 90 years, 2013 dawns without Newsweek in American mailboxes. So, it’s timely for the PBS POV documentary series to remind us of the courageous role of journalism. Reportero debuts on the national network Monday, January 7, 2012. (Click the poster at right to learn about other viewing options from PBS.)

Even though most Americans will have to view the film with subtitles, Reportero is a must-see story of courageous journalists risking their lives to report on crime and corruption around Tijuana, Mexico.

The story spans the U.S. border, since founders of the Zeta news-magazine wisely based a portion of their publishing operation north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Zeta is hardly a household name across the U.S., but among journalists—and especially among journalists aware of chronic corruption involving drug cartels in northern Mexico—Zeta is a living legend. And that word “living” means that Zeta continues to publish. Here is the newspaper’s website. (Note: You may initially see an advertisement before Zeta appears; and the publication is in Spanish).

The documentary film Reportero tells the story of the newspaper’s defiant debut—when it was more of a sassy scandal sheet aimed at deep-seeded corruption in Tinjuana than a traditional newspaper. The most famous voice of Zeta in the early days was a no-holds-barred columnist who called himself Felix the Cat. In 1988, Hector “Felix the Cat” Miranda was murdered by two henchmen of one particular businessman he had targeted in his column.

It took courage to keep the newspaper going—and the violence wasn’t over. But Zeta plunged ahead with its mission to print “the truth” and investigate crime and corruption. We see Zeta reporters, now, investigating poverty and other urgent issues in Mexico. We see the presses still rolling. We see that Zeta covers a wide range of stories—although crime is usually the front-page focus. The film makes the point that journalism—good journalism—still matters.

Review by ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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