By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
It’s not uncommon for people to feel a little intimidated, even downright threatened by the media. This apprehension usually leads to miscommunication. Simply put, all too often have relatively harmless questions posed to interviewees by reporters elicited reactions that adversely affected the tone of an article.
Case in point: the San Benito National Bronco League.
When our lead reporter contacted Jerry Hernandez, president of the Harlingen National Bronco League, to inquire about his involvement in San Benito youth baseball and softball activities … well, let’s just say he was not the happiest of campers.
“I heard you guys are taking over the San Benito league, can you tell me more about that,” our reporter asked, to which an annoyed Jerry replied in a raised voice, “Nobody is taking over your league!” After informing the reporter that he was tired of fielding questions from San Benitians apparently concerned about “Harlingen taking over,” Jerry questioned whether the San Benito News had also received any complaints.
Now, I can understand why someone may misinterpret a question involving the words “taking over.” Maybe Jerry thought we implied this takeover was hostile in nature, even though it’s quite the stretch given the fact that the reporter made his inquiries in a casual and polite manner. It’s also worth noting that we’re somewhat aggressive in our style of reporting and would have inquired about any concerns directly. It’s not our style to cowardly ask questions about potentially controversial matters in a roundabout way.
Still, taking into consideration what may have been Jerry’s lack of experience with the media, the reporter gave him the benefit of the doubt and explained that we had not received any concerns and only planned to inform the public about who to call, where to go and what is needed to register children in the SBNBL. We also planned to report the events that led the City of San Benito, which introduced the San Benito Youth Baseball-Softball Organization last year, to allow the HNBL president to operate the league under the SBNBL name.
These explanations did not deter Jerry, however, from continuing to express irritation with the reporter’s questions – a total of about three or four when given the opportunity to speak. What I find ironic is that, in his attempts to distract from the negative, all Jerry ended up doing was inadvertently highlight the concerns and criticisms that we would have otherwise never known existed. It suffices to say that the article that ran, entitled “SB youth league under new direction,” was consequently affected by Jerry’s defensive tone. His comments gave the impression that the league, or perhaps the events that transpired leading to the SBYBSO-to-SBNBL transition, needed defending. This is evident in the reaction the article has received; for instance, one commenter on the website questioned, “I wonder what the real story is really behind this?”
Ladies and gentleman, you’ve just witnessed the birth of a controversy – born from absolutely nothing but fear and trepidation.
Enter Zeke Luna, chairman of the City of San Benito Parks and Recreation Board that was responsible for operating the SBYBSO last year. Zeke submitted a letter to the editor in the Feb. 13 midweek edition to clarify Jerry’s statements, such as the notion that San Benito needed “a favor to fix the league.” It’s not that Zeke held any animosity toward Jerry, but indirectly implying that the city’s league was somehow broken will quite clearly prompt a response.
I’d like to think that all is resolved now that I’ve spoken to Jerry and offered my advice on how to avoid such a mess, but that remains to be seen. It suffices to say that I remain optimistic of future communiqués. The league deserves as much.
In the meantime, consider this a lesson that even the most educated people in the highest positions of power have yet to learn. Speaking to elected officials, administrators of governing agencies and those who provide a public service to the community, it’s imperative that your relationship with the media is not strained. Listen closely, especially you, San Benito CISD Board of Trustees: your comments to us will make or break you, and to ignore the media is to ignore the people.
Read this story in the Feb. 17 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.