From The Publisher

January 25, 2016 Edition


Did you read our Ask A Mexican column this week? Go read it and come back. That was quick, too quick, but that’s your loss, I will press on.

The 23 year old gal who writes that column recently inherited the job from her grandma who got too old and sick to continue. (The grandma is dying of smoking induced emphysema, the daughter, also a smoker and who also works for us, is already shuffling around the office hacking up smoking crap, and now the 23 year old grand daughter is claiming she can’t quit smoking, but I digress.)

The current writer of the column is studying in a four year university. She gathered her six “random” interview subjects on her campus and she came up with, first a teacher who thinks the biggest drug lord capture in all of Mexican history was faked by the government in collusion with the media. Then, lo and behold all the students, (and one bus driver who took her to school), also believe their government faked the arrest and detention of El Chapo.

This is like the people who think the U.S. never put a man on the moon, that the pictures were faked. Some people believe the Holocaust never happened, that that was faked by some giant conspiracy. Heck, some people still believe the Earth is flat.

But to see that this kind of off the track thinking is thriving in a university environment is very, very scary.

I blame Facebook. Well, Facebook the company is harmless enough. But Facebook is often a tool of the idiots. I call them Facebookers. People who get all their news online and most of that is chat on their friends’ Facebook page. People! Anybody can put any kind of crap on Facebook. Or anywhere else on the internet. If it has not been verified like the legitimate print media does, it’s only rumors. And worse than that, it’s rumors that go farther afield from the truth as it leaps like wild fire from page to page. It bounces from Facebooker to Facebooker, and as some nugget of truth pings off uninformed people who were not on the scene of what they are talking about, it careens further from the truth with each posting. This is what’s passing for news with these university students and way too many of us, too.

I have never liked Facebook. Not because it’s an incubator for worthless rumors so much as because I’m not interested in what my friends had for breakfast, nor do I want them knowing what I had for breakfast. And I’m certainly not interested in their hair brained opinions they often post.

But I’m a news junkie and I have to get my news online when I’m in Mexico. So I downloaded the apps for USA Today, BBC World, and Aljazeera, my three go-to news outlets. I tried BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and a few others, but those have degenerated into celebrity gossip and an obsession for following “what’s trending”. Those so called news outlets have quit chasing the news and have started chasing what the public believes to be news. Who cares what’s trending? I want to know what’s actually happening in the news, not what some people are, for whatever reason,  interested in. Trending stats don’t interest me because they are not an indicator of what is of consequence in the real world.

Of course in following these trends we can’t help but see all the “click bait” on the edge of our screen. It’s always something like “urgent” or “you need to know these three things about this or that,” or “5 plastic surgeries that went horribly wrong”. This is called click bait, as they bait the hook on their couple of square inches of real estate on your screen in hopes that we click on it. If we do click, the click baiter gets money. They will say anything, no matter how misleading, sordid, or silly to get you to click. We click, they hear ca-chink. They make their living by getting us to click, not by bringing us the news.

Who’s to blame for losing site of the news? We are. We are not clicking on legitimate news sources, we are clicking on the titillating stuff. It’s human nature. I do the click thing too, they are very good at tempting me, loading my pages with items of interest to me. If I lingered on information on a new tech gadget, viola! Next day that gadget shows up on my screen as click bate: “See how close we are to releasing the new virtual reality equipment for retail sale”. And I can’t resist anything like, “Lower your golf score with this gadget”. Then I’m off to the races, far afield from any news, and onto a page selling me golf equipment.

I know we are not demanding news, because if we were, it would be presented to us. These marketers are smart and getting smarter all the time, due to what computers are good at: Analytics. People who present these websites to us get statistical reports that are refined right down to Nat’s ass. They can see what click bait worked and what didn’t. They know how to lead us off the path of news to how to shave a stroke off our golf game. We fall for it.

Maybe in the old days of paper news, when the presenters could not track our eyeballs on a page, they were kidding themselves that we were interested in the news at all. Now that our level of interest is trackable online, presenters have changed course and they are following what’s trending. They want to give us, not what we need to be informed citizens, but what to give us that will keep us on their page the longest. And sadly, it’s often not the news.

Instead of getting out in front and leading, the news industry is now following behind. You want to join the conversation that El Chapo wasn’t really captured? Many sources will fuel that interest with conjecture and speculation for you..

Maybe I’m kidding myself that you all are a cut above that, but I really do believe our precious readers want to hear about Baja. Don’t you? Huh? Are you still there? Or have you put the paper down and you’re now checking your Facebook page? Sigh.