"Readers like how they stick it to those in power," said Jose Pablo Robles Martinez, the founder and publisher of a competing newspaper, Imagen de Veracruz.
Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco joined Notiver more than two decades ago, writing under the pen name Milo Vela, taken from the first letters of his complete name. Nervous but persistent and gifted at putting a bite in stories, Lopez was promoted after years on the crime beat to columnist on security matters and deputy editor in charge of crime reporters.
He operated in an environment in which corruption pervaded politics, law enforcement and even newsrooms. The previous governor of Veracruz state, Fidel Herrera, plied newspapers with generous advertising contracts to win favorable treatment. Even low-level journalists felt the governor's largesse.
"He'd give them computers, cars, trips and scholarships," said Hermann Ortega, the former Veracruz state chief of the center-right National Action Party.
Many journalists readily accepted. Everybody else had an angle, and their consistently poor working conditions gave them an easy justification.
"They are badly paid. They don't have life insurance. They aren't provided equipment. Photographers aren't even given cameras," Article 19's Gonzalez said.
In Veracruz, as in other parts of provincial Mexico, police reporters often hang together, trusting colleagues on the beat more than their own editors. In Veracruz, they'd even set up their own independent office.
As an editor and columnist, Lopez remained a trusted ear for police and military officers.
"He was a reserved man but affable and courteous, and unquestionably a good journalist," said Gerardo Perdomo, a former prosecutor who headed the state-financed Veracruz Commission to Defend Journalists until its dissolution in June.
The cruelty of the execution-style slaying of Lopez, his wife and their son minutes before dawn on June 20 sent ripples of concern through newsrooms across Mexico.
But anxiety wouldn't really spike until July 26, when the body of Yolanda Ordaz, a top crime reporter who worked for Lopez, was found dumped behind the offices of a competing newspaper. Ordaz, a single mother in her early 40s who'd moved to Veracruz from Oaxaca state, had been beheaded.
Within hours, the state prosecutor said Ordaz's decapitation was a settling of scores between crime gangs, an assessment shocking both for its conclusion and its speed from an office with a poor track record of solving crimes.
The prosecutor suggested that other crime reporters also might have links to criminal gangs, a statement that sent panic through the reporters' ranks, prompting several to flee the city.
"They just took off on their own," said Balbina Flores, the Mexico delegate of the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders. "The media owners didn't defend their reporters. It's sad. If there had been more solidarity, the authorities wouldn't get away with this suggestion that some reporters are criminals."
But questions lingered over a number of curious circumstances, including accusatory videos posted on YouTube, further leaks from the prosecutor's office and a sign found near Ordaz's body.
It read: "Friends also betray. Sincerely, Carranza."