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Published Monday, August 17, 2020

Needs of expats shaped
AM Costa Rica during 19 years

By James Brodell
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 Costa Rica.

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 Edition.

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 case of 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 brothers surnamed Villalobos 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 benefit all.

Editor's note: Mr. Brodell, founder and long-time editor of A.M. Costa Rica, can be reached at:

Today begins our 18th year

Published August 15, 2019
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. 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.

"Our 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."

His 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.

Since 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 grown.

The newspaper continues under the auspice of giving legitimate, fair, and relevant news toward the community of expatriates who call Costa Rica home.

We have 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 others.

The 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 Australia.

A.M. 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
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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 advertising vehicle.

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 publication.

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 of murder.

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 expat community.

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.

Number of

nationality data

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 media outlet.

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 wider public.


A.M. Costa Rica after one year

By Jay Brodell
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 here. 

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 a man surnamed 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 Spanish-language press.

We have a lot of respect for San José news people, 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 local news sites.  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 suggestions.

Technical stuff

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.

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.


We 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 commerce.

However, 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.

Naturally, 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.

Some 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 e-mails


Material 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 non-commercial entities.

Absent our approval, persons not connected with the newspaper must follow strict copyright guidelines.


A.M. 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 its facilities.