Thursday, May 17, 2007

Investigative Reporter, Gary Webb

I remember the rumors. It even reached my young ears in Cambridge, MA. "The CIA is moving the crack, girl, don't you know that? Black folks don't have no boats. How else the crack gets here?" I put it off to the usual conspiracy theories. In the backdrop, crack houses were filling up abandoned houses in my neighborhood. Crack was claiming the lives of old friends. It was killing us and destroying families.

I remember running into an old classmate from my high school art class. He was literally sitting on the street curb looking ten years older than I knew he was, rocking back and forth.

"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Learnin' my lesson," he said.

Then the story came out that it was true, the CIA was indeed involved in trafficking drugs into our communities. The only part of the story that really surprised me was that the information actually got out.

Gary Webb was the investigative reporter who broke the story. I didn't know anything about the guy but I was grateful that he looked into the story and brought it to light. He paid darely for it. His life was torn apart. His book Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion brought down the wrath of the establishment. He was found dead on December 10, 2004 of an apparent suicide.

From a December 13, 2004 report:
"R.I.P. Gary Webb -- Unembedded Reporter" —

In August 1996, Webb wrote one of the first pieces of journalism that reached a massive audience thanks to the Internet: an explosive 20,000 word, three-part series documenting links between cocaine traffickers, the crack epidemic of the 1980s and the CIA-organized right-wing Nicaraguan Contra army of that era. The series sparked major interest in the social justice and African-American communities, leading to street protests, constant discussion on black-oriented talk radio and demands by Congressional Black Caucus members for a federal investigation. But weeks later, Webb suffered a furious backlash at the hands of national media unaccustomed to seeing their role as gatekeepers diminished by the emerging medium known as the WorldWideWeb.

We should remember Gary and his courageous act of revealing the evils done to the black community by the Iran-Contra scandal. We need to remember how important good investigative reporters are and that we need to protect them when they come under attack.


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