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
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
Editor's note: Mr. Brodell, founder and
long-time editor of A.M. Costa Rica, can be
reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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
Where would you find
our unique daily report of Latin American
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.
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.
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
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.