Monday, August 17, 2020
Needs of expats shaped
AM Costa Rica during 19 years
Editor emeritus of A.M. Costa Rica
with Sharon Brodell, long-suffering wife
In 2001 after returning to Costa Rica for
retirement my wife and I saw the need for a
daily internet sheet that briefly listed things
to do each day. So A.M. Costa Rica, meaning
Costa Rica in the Morning, was born Aug. 15,
2001, some 19 years ago.
We figured there was a need for expats to
receive a daily update of meetings, deadlines
and other basic news that was not being provided
by the existing English-language weekly. When I
was general manager of The Tico Times for
a brief period, I urged without success
that the company increase its web presence.
So between drinking beer, watching “Betty, la
Fea” and otherwise trying to fill the daylight
hours, I approached my wife, who reluctantly
agreed that such a website would be of great
service to expats, including those who were far
from San José, the government center.
I envisioned perhaps a single page or perhaps
two in order to publish news updates, reader
comments and general information about living in
Then fate took a hand. My wife, Sharon, had
traveled to Escazú the morning of Sept. 11,
2001. She placed an urgent call to me as I
lounged around the Sabana Oeste apartment. She
told me of the aircraft hijackings and the
collapse of the first World Trade Center tower.
Quickly I learned that air travel had been shut
down and that many foreigners were trapped in
the country. From a handful of readers in the
New York area details began to arrive. I dove in
to provide the necessary information for readers
and others in the English-speaking community.
Read the first post at A.M.
Costa Rica Tuesday, September 11, 2001
The need was urgent. The information was flawed.
Fear was high. The U.S. Embassy locked down.
During that day and those that followed we tried
hard to provide the information expats and
foreign visitors needed. The crisis was real.
Tourists were at the airport or checking out of
their hotels as the news arrived. Residents here
worried about their relatives and friends who
may have been in New York. The newspaper
reported on prayer vigils, the heightened
security and the fears that Muslim residents
might face unpleasantness. The late columnist Jo
Stuart shared her anguish.
The need for daily news after that disaster
caused the newspaper to shift focus and begin
covering other aspects of expat life.
The second major tragedy for many expats
happened less than a year later when the
Villalobos family high-interest scheme and
several other similar operations began to
collapse. Many expats were horrified. Some had
millions of dollars invested in these schemes.
That was easy to do when the interest rate
promised was in excess of 30 percent a year.
Some expats in the middle of building their
dream home suddenly realized they were broke.
Retirees were jolted to learn that they must now
return to work. Family lives by the hundreds
were disrupted. The story played out for years
with the newspaper declining to sign on to the
claim that the Villalobos brothers had been
singled out by jealous bankers and, if the
government would just back off, the pair would
pay back all they owed.
Even critics of the newspaper admit that the
even-handed handling of these news stories was a
key to the publication's success. Readership
easily reached more than 100,000 visitors a day.
On the business side, the more alert business
people quickly saw that a daily promotion of
their products brought more sales. Costa Ricans
traditionally are suspicious of advertising, and
many expat business people had limited
experience running their own operation.
Still, those who saw the benefit of A.M. Costa
Rica advertising quickly became fierce
supporters. After all, the publication is in
dozens of countries at the touch of a computer
key. Tourism operations here benefit as a group
most of all. A.M. Costa Rica allows hospitality
firms to target their message directly to
potential tourists in the United States, Canada,
Asia or Europe.
Time gets us all. So three years ago my wife and
I ended our relationship with the newspaper in
favor of the employees. Sharon and I continue to
be amazed at how they quickly became competent
in all the details of newspaper management. We
were happy to leave the Costa Rica publication
in the hands of a highly competent team.
We look back on our 17 years operating the
newspaper as more of a service to expats than an
ordinary job. We appreciated the viewpoints of
Jo Stuart and the exclusive articles provided by
Garland Baker. We grimace remembering all the
hurdles the Costa Rican government throws up in
the face of private enterprise.
Yet, we are happy that along with the perceptive
Baker we could help expats navigate the
bureaucratic labyrinth. He continues to do so,
as does Victoria Torley in the gardening realm.
Costa Rica, like the rest of the world, faces
rocky times due to the viral epidemic. Yet, we
are hopeful that the next year will see a
resurgence of commerce and tourism that will
Editor's note: Mr. Brodell, founder and
long-time editor of A.M. Costa Rica, can be
reached at: email@example.com
begins our 18th year
Published August 15,
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Costa Rica began publishing a daily
newspaper on Aug. 15, 2001, under the
overall command of former company
editor-in-chief Mr. Jay Brodell, who
retired from the daily affairs of the
company back in April 2017.
news is written locally, and we are not one
of those parasite sites that steal news from
the Spanish-language press," said former
editor Brodell in the 2016 anniversary
editorial. "We are very aware of copyright
and ethical considerations."
idea continues with the newspaper's staff,
and the website which continuously changes
and refreshes itself with reliable news
reporting. It is a tradition to the
principles and spirit of fair journalism
that guide us in our reporting and
publication of the news.
its foundation of the newspaper, our
readership and stories have grown as much as
the country and the English-speaking
community, with whom we provide news, has
newspaper continues under the auspice of
giving legitimate, fair, and relevant news
toward the community of expatriates who call
Costa Rica home.
covered a wide range of topics from economic
issues as fiscal crisis or taxes, through
social issues as union's strikes, alerts,
emergencies, and cultural events such as
festivals, sports contests, among many
future remains bright for A.M. Costa Rica
because Costa Rica still is a top choice for
vacation and retirement. And our readership
remains solid with nearly 48 percent of
local readers are mainly foreigners from the
United States, Canada, Europe, and
Costa Rica will continue to be free for
readers. On our anniversary, we would like
to thank our readers and advertisers for
their support and for being an integral part
of the newspaper.
A Tribute to a Work in Progress:
A.M. Costa Rica
Published August 15, 2017
A.M. Costa Rica began publishing a daily
newspaper on Aug. 15, 2001, under the overall
command of company president and former
editor-in-chief Jay Brodell.
The longtime leader of A.M. Costa Rica and the
A.M. newspaper sites retired from the daily
affairs of the company back in April 2017. Since
that time, our readership and stories have grown
much as the country and the community, with whom
we provide news, to has grown.
The newspaper was founded under the auspices of
giving legitimate, fair and relevant news toward
the community of English-speaking expatriates
who call Costa Rica home.
That idea continues on as staff and the website
itself continuously changes and refreshes itself
with solid news reporting. We cover a wide
arrange of topics from crime to the arts. We
have been the or among the first to break new
stories and happenings within the country.
We do not limit ourselves to the confines of
Costa Rica’s capital, San José, in much the same
way as our English-speaking audience is not
confined to the edges of the capital.
We cover news across and related to the country.
Through the years, staffers have tried to
prevent scammers from using the newspaper as an
Throughout these 16 years, editors and reporters
have tried to fight for equal treatment for
expats and help those who are victims of the
pitfalls. Many of the latter efforts never see
Through aggressive reporting A.M. Costa Rica
takes credit for saving an innocent Canadian
man, surnamed Crouse, in Playas del Coco from
over-eager prosecutors who sought to convict him
That was in 2002, and there have been hundreds
of large and small cases of assistance
since. Most recently, staffers were able to
track down the missing Costa Rican father of a
U.S. woman. The man returned to Costa Rica and
died several years ago without the U.S. family
receiving any notification.
Perhaps the longest-running news story was that
of a man surnamed Villalobos, the operator of a
high-interest money scheme based at comercial
shop center in San Pedro. This newspaper
estimated that Villalobos had nearly $1 billion
of creditor money on his books when he shut down
his operation in late 2002 and vanished.
A.M. Costa Rica reporters and editors got death
threats and plenty of nasty letters because they
did not glorify Villalobos as an honest
businessman victimized by a greedy government.
The newspaper still gets emails asking about
Villalobos. His betrayal heavily damaged the
The future remains bright for A.M. Costa Rica
and A.M. Newspapers because Costa Rica still is
a top choice for vacation and retirement. And
our readership remains solid.
Readers recognize that our staffers actually are
in contact with officials and other newsmakers
instead of just copying stories of questionable
validity from the Spanish-language press.
We continue a policy that brought dozens of
young First-World newspeople to work for months
and even a year or more to learn about a
different culture and Costa Rica specifically.
For many, the time here changed their lives.
They are now major market news staffers,
lawyers, foreign correspondents in some of the
world’s trouble spots and in many other
positions where their Latin American knowledge
can enlarge their world view.
Based on our own
data, nearly 48 percent of our local readers
are mainly foreigners from the United States,
Canada and Europe. We are also being read
outside Costa Rica as well.
It is a tradition to the principles and spirit
of fair journalism that guide us in our
reporting and publication of the news. A.M.
Costa Rica is seeking to expand upon these
principles and move toward a more modern
format of news publishing as much as reporting
placing emphasis on the importance of social
media outlets as a means of expanding the
newspaper into an all-encompassing online
We embrace transparency, openness, fairness
and always attempting to give voice to
relevant issues of English-speakers here and
also to be open toward our readership or the
to subscribe and like us on our social media
outlets. For anything related to news or to
submit a letter to the editor, please email our
news and editorial team firstname.lastname@example.org.
For advertising, please contact our Advertising
Dept. email@example.com. Our offices can also
be contacted by calling the number at the top of
our main page.
A.M. Costa Rica after one
Editor of A.M. Costa Rica
(published Aug. 15, 2002)
We were thrilled by the response
from readers all over the world after we asked
for birthday greetings. The
newspaper's first birthday is a happy time for
us. But it also is a time to consider where we
have been and where we are going.
We started the newspaper only a few
weeks before terrorists attacked New York City
and Washington. We believe those
attacks quickly showed we were correct when we
said that Costa Rica needs an English-language
daily newspaper to help foster a sense of
community among the foreign residents
Since then we have imperfectly
filled our mandate by providing professionally
reported news of interest to our
readers. We also discovered that
we were correct when we said that a great deal
of important news was not being provided. So
did our meteoric growth in readership.
Where would you have heard of Roger
Crouse, the Canadian from Playas del Coco in
jail for a year for basically exercising his
right to self defense?
Where would you read of the
continuing threats to tourists as they walk
through downtown San José.
Where would you read Jo Stuart each
week as she finds hidden relationships between
seemingly unrelated situations?
Where would you find our unique
daily report of Latin American news.
As Costa Rica continues to
experience difficult economic times, we
promise to work harder.
We also promise to continue
providing original reporting. A.M. Costa Rica
news stories are not lifted out of the
We have a lot of respect for San
José newspeople, but not so much that we would
publish their news stories. And we believe
that taking stories without permission from
another source is stealing. As it turns
out, we work shoulder-to-shoulder each day
with the Spanish-language reporters, and we
consider them our competition.
There is no reason that English
speakers here should not have a news outlet as
accurate and as up-to-date as La Nación or
Teletica. A.M. Costa Rica also is a
training ground for English-speaking
university graduates who wish to learn Latin
culture and international journalism.
In 10 years we hope international
reporting from Latin America will have a large
contingent of our alumni. We appreciate your
support over the last year. We promise to do
better. And we are always open to your
The publication is being done on a Macintosh
iMac computer with Netscape Composer as a HTML
assistant. There are other better programs,
but the goal of A.M. Costa Rica is simplicity
because Internet connections in Costa Rica,
thanks to a government monopoly, are slow and
At times of peak use,
about 9 a.m. and between 4:30 p.m. and
6:30 p.m., a typical page from this
publication may take from two to five
minutes to load on a remote computer in
Costa Rica. This
also is why we have limited the use of
complex programming techniques.
publication is best viewed with Netscape
Navigator because Microsoft Explorer pretty
much does what it wants with font
are not going to share bulk e-mail
addresses, telephone numbers or other
information with anyone who is not connected
with A.M. Costa Rica. We would never provide
names and e-mail addresses of readers to a
list broker or others involved in online
We will put e-mail addresses as contact
information in classified advertising unless
the advertiser specifically requests that
the e-mail address not be included.
A.M. Costa Rica, as any newspaper would,
will use names, telephone numbers and e-mail
addresses collected through its daily
operations as contact information needed to
write news stories and to conduct limited
solicitations for advertising.
programs out there lift e-mail addresses
from our Web pages. Other program send out
unwanted e-mails using random return
addresses. If you get an unwanted commercial
message from A.M. Costa Rica, it is a forged
message. We do not do that. We also do not
send out vast quantities of unsolicited
published in A.M. Costa Rica is copyrighted
under U.S., Costa Rican and international
law. Anyone needs our permission to use any
of the material. We will be liberal in
giving permission to commercial and
our approval, persons not connected with the
newspaper must follow strict copyright
Costa Rica is published from our server in
the United States. Any disputes shall be
adjudicated according to U.S. law,
specifically that of the State of
California where our Internet provider has