An international blogger

By Josh Newkirk

An international writer with more than 30 years experience, Tim Johnson has covered public affairs issues all over the world. He has personally interviewed 19 current or former presidents around the globe, and is currently the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspaper.

Johnson grew up in Thailand until he was seven-years-old. He then moved to the United States, and would become a citizen and later graduate from St. Petersburg College in Florida in 1979.

“I grew up ’till I was seven in Thailand and come from a very international family, so foreign affairs was always a strong interest,” he said.

Prior to Mexico, he was the Beijing bureau chief for Knight Ridder and McClatchy from 2003 to 2009.

He previously worked for 14 years for the Miami Herald, covering U.S. policy toward Latin America. He served as a foreign correspondent for The Herald through most of the 1990s in Central America and the Andean region.

Johnson has won numerous amounts of awards for journalism excellence. He won the 1996 Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University for “courageous and valiant reporting” from Latin America, and was a 2000-2001 Knight Fellow at Stanford University. In 2000, Brill’s Content Magazine listed him as one of 62 “All-Star” journalists.

Johnson is fluent in oral and written Spanish, and conversational Mandarin and basic Thai.

Here are some links of Johnson stories

Overrun by narcos, once-posh Acapulco is in agony

Killings of journalists lead to news blackouts in Mexico

Holy mole! The sauce Mexicans love (you may, too)

1. What are the biggest challenges as international blogger today? Trying to generate a readership, then trying to generate intelligent debate in the remarks section.

2. Since more media outlets are cutting back on international news correspondents, do you think many issues internationally are going uncovered? Yes, many issues and regions are not covered. To name a few in Asia, who knows what is happening in Mongolia? The Philippines? Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia? How often have the NYTimes, Post or WSJ made it in the past five years to Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay? Maybe one could argue that there is little of news there. I would say the retreat of news orgs, including our own, make it harder to even know what we are missing.

3.You have been covering international issues for years. I read that you had a break from covering Latin America from 2003-09, while you were in Beijing. Have the major issues of Latin America changed much, since you left in 2003? Yes, ideology seems less important than effective government. I think we’ve seen with repeated Chilean administrations, with Lula in Brazil, with Uribe in Colombia, and with some cases of big city mayors, voters offer their support to those who resolve problems, regardless of political stripe.

4. Now that you are in Mexico City, what are the current major news events and stories in Mexico today? And what is their impact on public affairs? Wow, this would take hours to discuss. In a nutshell, ongoing violence from criminal organizations, often with deep corrupt links to public officials; failure to increase economic growth to a level that would slow immigration; monopolistic control of broad sectors of the economy.

5. I have read about journalist being killed in Mexico, what is the fear factor of covering news events in Mexico? If you write a story about the cartel, is there ever fear that comes with that? So far, knock on wood, foreign journalists have not suffered the kind of violence perpetrated on Mexican journalists, dozens of whom have lost their lives. I try to be careful, checking with colleagues and with local reporters in areas where I travel. I also often travel with an experience Mexican photographer, and trust his acute sense regarding safety.

6. I noticed that you cover various stories from food reviews, child bull fighting and drug violence. Most news coverage provides Americans with negative news about Mexico.  Do you feel there is more pressure to cover the violence and negative news in Mexico? I am given wide latitude about what to cover. I try to cover a range of topics that I think would be of interest to our various newspaper readerships. I also try to write a story unrelated to violence at least once a month to offer readers a sense of a country with a very rich culture and history.

7. How do you think news coverage has changed in Mexico and other Latin countries since when you first started in the early 90’s? It’s gone through many changes. In the 1980s, there was tremendous emphasis on the Latin debt crisis and the decade of stagnancy. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was also a need to focus on armed insurgencies in Chile, Peru, Colombia and even in places like Ecuador and Mexico with the Zapatistas. The armed uprising seemed a viable political option to many Latinos fed up with the status quo. That isn’t the case any more. The last decade has brought steady growth to many parts of Latin America, reducing poverty levels. The predominant role of the United States has also diminished, partly because China has become a strong customer for Latin commodity exports, but also because Brazil has risen rapidly.

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