Al Giordano, Valley Advocate, going gonzo
This is a story about working with Al Giordano I just wrote for the 35th anniversary of the Valley Advocate.It is an important edition of the paper with great insight into what it means to run a free press by Tom Vannah. Al is doing fantastic work on Narco news and covering the 2008 elections on his blog The Field. Both are a call to action and I highly recommend you check out this link.
This is what Wikipedia has to say about Al Giordano’s career before 1989, when he joined the Advocate as a reporter: “In 1976, when he was sixteen, he went to Albany and testified before a legislative commission in the state senate against nuclear power, felt completely ignored and concluded that the tactic of lobbying the government was futile. He was arrested for what would be the first of 27 times on May 1st, 1977. When he was 20 and living in a cabin in Rowe, Massachusetts, running the Rowe Nuclear Conversion Campaign, which ended in the first-ever shutdown of an operating nuclear power plant in America, he met Abby Hoffman, who called him ‘the best political organizer of his generation.’ The two worked together until Hoffman’s death in 1989, opposing U.S. intervention in Nicaragua and fighting to save the Delaware and St. Lawrence rivers.”
It was at that point that the kid from the Bronx who had fallen in love with Franklin County decided to take a breather from life as an activist and join a sympathetic newspaper, the Valley Advocate, as a reporter.
The first time I worked with Al at the Advocate, he very nearly got us both busted. I was rather pissed off at him that day. Al had come on board to cover politics in Springfield when we had a separate paper down there and a cozy little office on Main Street. He went to work immediately, trying to verify the rumors of drug corruption within the office of then-district attorney Matty Ryan.
That day I stopped by the office and Al said that he had gotten a tip about a new top-secret “drug room” that the district attorney had set up that was wired with all the latest high-tech devices. It had cost a lot of money and its secrecy was of paramount importance to the DA’s office. So off we went to find it. We arrived at a plain-looking doorway on the third floor of the downtown building and I began to take a few pictures, forgetting that my flash was on.
“Shit! Somebody is taking pictures,” we heard through the door. We ran up the stairs to the next floor, took the elevator to the top, then got out and took the service stairs back down, trying to fool our pursuers. We actually made it out of the building but were surrounded by detectives. They hauled us up into their secret room and began to interrogate us. They searched us, took my license, and tested it for cocaine. They threatened us, yelled at us and intimidated us however they could. Then, after Al had said stuff like, ” How many drugs has your boss moved today?” and I had told them there was no freaking way I was giving up my film, they did something amazing. They said, “Please don’t tell anybody about this, OK? Please?”
“My God!” I thought the next day when I had calmed down. “This guy has enormous cojones!” You see, that’s what Al did well. He was usually right and it pissed people off. If you were a fellow journalist, he did so because he worked harder than you did, or was more outrageous and seemed to always get away with it. And if you were on the wrong side of the truth, you were going to be angry with Al all the time. People told him stuff because, in the best tradition of journalism, if it was confidential or off the record or a source was not to be named, that’s the way it stayed. He could be trusted.
He always fought the good fight. And in the best tradition of the Advocate, he wielded the reporter’s pen like a very sharp weapon.
Giordano left the Advocate in 1993 and became a political reporter for the Boston Phoenix. In 2000, he began publishing Narco News, which carried articles with original research, and translations of Spanish-language media reports, about the political levels of the War on Drugs in Latin America. He currently writes a blog, The Field, with information about this year’s presidential election. No one who knows him would be surprised that he has an uncanny track record for correctly predicting the outcomes of presidential primaries.