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— One of the most deeply rooted customs overhanging from the days when the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) ruled unchallenged was the gacetilla, government-written stories that appeared in newspapers as articles. "In our newspapers, that's a thing that's already disappeared," he says. "When somebody wants to pay for a news or feature, we will put a caption: 'Paid for by -- ' 'Inserción pagada.' That includes private companies which sometimes want to put some [copy in the paper]."

And the other standard practice in Mexican newspapers -- reporters getting commissions for advertisements they bring to the paper -- "will not happen in our newspaper. All advertisements are managed by our advertising department, and our reporters only take care of the news."

But if Healy's invasion of Tijuana all sounds too squeaky-clean, he admits to worries. For starters, the question of whether his employees should belong to a trade union as powerful as the Federation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Mexicanos, known by its Spanish acronym CTM) is causing Healy headaches. So many that he asked not to speak on the record about details of the problem.

"We try to be very independent," he says, "because we think that the best union is [within] the same company. We try to pay more than the average wage. We also try to be independent because we prefer [our employees] not to participate in this kind of external association. If [employees] do not agree [with their conditions or their pay], we talk with them, and we reach agreement. But this issue is very critical here.... I would like if it's possible to not talk a lot about this, because in Tijuana this situation is very special."

Maybe that's because the powerful chief of CTM in Baja California, Eligio Valencia Roque, is also the power behind the main competition, El Mexicano.

Covering the volatile and dangerous narco-trafficking beat is something Healy is also staying close-lipped about. He recognizes the dangers of asking too much of his reporters. "Freedom of the press in Mexico [has been] seriously affected," he told a meeting of the Inter-American Press Association in 1996, "by fiscal intimidation, kidnapping, criminal charges and physical aggression against journalists and media workers."

So how would he cover stories about, say, the Arellano-Félix brothers? "We know that that's a very hot issue in Tijuana. We really don't know how. But like in other newspapers, if something happens, we'd publish the story in the news [section]. That's our way to do it. I don't think that that would be a problem, to publish a story about what's happening. We have investigative reporters, and we try to do investigations into many issues, like drug-traffickers and other issues, but neither do we try to be like police. We know our job. We don't try to do investigations that we cannot... I don't like to anticipate what might happen."

But when it comes to exposing corrupt officials, Healy says he wouldn't compromise. "When we investigate an issue and we have proof, all the elements to say what happened, we publish. We don't try to cover anything. On the other hand, you must have the facts. There are many [papers] in Mexico that are being amarillista -- sensationalist, yellow journalism. They make claims that, for instance, Salinas killed Colosio, and sometimes you don't have the facts."

Healy doesn't apologize for the fact that, even though he is owner of the paper, and runs its business side, he will be involved in overseeing the day-to-day editorial output too.

"I am a publisher and also I take care of the business side, that's true. But we don't try to cover, to protect anybody. For example, AeroMexico, that's a very good advertising client for a newspaper. If they give very bad service, or they have a crash, we publish. We say what's happening. And they know that we have to do it. I think the closer I can be [to the newsroom], the better. That's what I learned from my father and grandfather."

For some, it's too good to be true. "They make you wear ties," complains René Blanco, a photographer with Zeta weekly. "I have a friend, a top-line graphic designer, who landed a job with Frontera -- until he refused to cut his long hair. They didn't care about his abilities. His image came first."

Still, "this publication will be an enormous step forward for Mexican journalism in the Tijuana area," says Chappell Lawson, an assistant professor of political science at MIT and visiting scholar at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UCSD. "Tijuana has been underserved by the current dailies."

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