brandon c janes iv

is a writer from Austin, TX.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts in 2007 at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM/ Annapolis, Md.

After stints as a commercial salmon fisherman, a math teacher and a construction worker, Brandon began his career in newspaper writing in 2010.

Since then his work has been published by the the Uvalde Leader-News, the Port Arthur News, the Killeen Daily Herald, The Temple Daily Telegram and the Associated Press (chronological order).

Brandon is the recipient of a five awards from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, including a 2014 award for his Freedom of Information reporting.

To contact him go to his contact page.

newstrampNEWSTRAMP.COM

Reporters tell the story of their community and – in many parts of the world – their efforts meet resistance and even danger.

Launched in August 2013, newstramp.com is a blog about journalists who take risks to keep their communities informed.

These are their stories and the stories they tell. 

Have a yarn to spin, email us at bjanes@newstramp.com or see the contact page.

INSPIRATION

In the spring of 2013 I ate a breakfast taco with Carlos Fernando Chamorro at the International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin, TX.

Mr. Chamorro is the son of former Nicaraguan Presidenta Violeta Chamorro. Mr. Chamorro’s father, former editor of the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, was assassinated in 1978 for criticizing the Somoza dictatorship.

The Somoza regime fell to the Sandinista rebels in 1979 and the Chamorro name is now synonymous with  the battle for press freedoms in Latin America.

Today, Carlos Chamorro runs the hard-hitting Nicaraguan news agency Confidencial – which airs a 60-Minutes-style television news broadcast.

In the middle of chowing down on our tacos, I asked Mr. Chamorro about press freedoms in Central America. His appraisal was no good news.

In the U.S., it is essential to the practice of journalism for reporters to request documents, such as campaign finance reports, government expense accounts, governmental contracts and police reports, as part of their research.

So called “sunshine laws,” such as the Texas Public Information Act,  give all citizens the right to investigate their government – any information at anytime – through freedom of information requests (some exceptions apply).

All of the public in the U.S. is granted access to all meetings where government business takes place, through laws such as the Texas Open Meetings Act (some exceptions apply).

Mr. Chamorro told me that, in Nicaragua, no such laws exist.

‘The government of (current Nicaraguan president Daniel) Ortega is closed,” he said. “In his six years in office Ortega has not given one press conference.”

As a consequence, Mr. Chamorro has to rely on non-govermental organizations and on-the-street citizens as sources to tell the stories of his country. Mr. Chamorro’s team does very well considering the challenges they face.

“We do the best with what we have,” Mr. Chamorro said.

After meeting with Mr. Chamorro, I realized two things: 1) information laws are powerful tools, and 2) those who work without them have powerful stories to tell.

Sunshine: a good disinfectant

Countries, such as Nicaragua, have little hope of reform if the public is not granted the right to investigate its own government.

Without government transparency and a free press, true democratic social and political reform is impossible.

My hope is that, through this website, I can bring awareness to the issues of transparency in Latin America and bring a little more sunshine into the world – Brandon C Janes IV, 2013.

“The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created,” – Texas Government Code, Open Government Ch. 522