By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
In recent weeks, I’ve been inundated with phone calls, emails and text messages from loyal readers who were offended by comments certain people made about the local media, yours truly included.
Since a few of these cases involve minors who were subjected to such comments as a captive audience, it’s safe to say that the nature and tone of what was said, while in poor taste, presumably stemmed from intentions to influence impressionable young minds. The only problem is that kids are smarter than what anyone gives them credit for, and they proved it in these particular cases by taking their concerns to the public servants they trust most: reporters.
At their request, however, I will not identify the youth offended or the persons who harbored such animosity.
The first incident began as a simple school assignment focusing on the media. What’s unfortunate is that the teacher’s instructions to the class included a not-so-subtle jab at local newspapers, implying that we lack hard-hitting coverage. Now I know what you’re thinking: This educator must not read the San Benito News.
While I’d venture to say that Rio Grande Valley journalists are not only just as aggressive but far more accurate than our national counterparts, it’s of greater importance to condemn the notion that we’re somehow soft. Making such an assertion implies, albeit unintentionally, I hope, that local news is an irrelevant medium. This is a dangerous idea especially when considering the fact that we are the only institution keeping you informed of what transpires in your neighborhood, and I’m sure our friends over at the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, Brownsville Herald, Valley Morning Star, McAllen Monitor, Action 4 News, Channel 5, News Center 23, Fox 2 News and Univisión would agree.
Our stories have made national headlines and continue to inspire change. Consider further that absolutely no one escapes accountability as our work has often lead to the downfall of corruption; some of us have risked our lives covering cartel violence in Mexico when nobody else dared, and elected officials remain pressured to promote transparency thanks in large part to our aggressiveness.
In short, we’re here to serve you, our readers, and do a damn good job of it. Of course, reporters rarely look for a pat on the back and that’s not what I want now. Simply think of this as education.
Still, there are those who continue to perpetuate the myth that the media cannot be trusted. Take, for instance, another incident that consisted of a person who declared to a handful of youth that the individual had won some sort of dispute with the News regarding a number of issues. Be aware, good citizen, that you have done no such thing. May I also suggest settling these matters with us instead of boasting to children?
Understand that your actions might serve no purpose other than to raise a generation of people programmed to think low of journalism. It’s unfortunate that I have to stress this, but be careful of the futures you’re shaping. You just might be breeding a dark and desolate landscape of minds equipped only with the propensity to exalt themselves at the expense of a respected profession that’s existed since man scribbled on walls. To rephrase (or paraphrase), we don’t need your miseducation or your dark sarcasm in the classroom.
On a much lighter note, I was quite pleased with Mayor Joe H. Hernandez taking the time on Friday to explain the comments he made at a recent San Benito Boys and Girls Club dinner, where he instructed those in attendance not to believe what’s printed in the news. Of course, the mayor was referring to articles about City of San Benito officials debating whether to help fund the club during its time of financial need.
The mayor, by the way, indicated to us that he was not specifically referring to the News but only sought to defend the city. I can respect that; after all, I’m defending my publication by writing this piece. But while it helped that Hernandez acknowledged our coverage was fair and accurate, what was far more appreciated was the fact that he came to us to clarify what was said. Most people wouldn’t go to such lengths, obviously.
Read this story in the March 10 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.