Sunday, August 19, 2007

Periodismo 101

There was a story that got a lot of attention this week, about Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu who, on her way to meet with President Calderon, was almost tossed out of a swanky resort in Cancun because they thought she was an Indian beggar. This seemed perfectly plausible because (a) it's perfectly plausible, and (b) it was witnessed by a journalist who was meeting her at the hotel for an interview.

Newsreader David Romero [of Cancun's Enfoque Radio] said he himself was present when the hotel's security personnel tried to get Menchu out of the lobby of the five-star hotel.

Romero - who was there to interview the woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 - added that the expulsion was prevented by people who recognized the activist for the rights of indigenous peoples.

The mayor of Cancun condemned the hotel's action. Much debate ensued about whether this was a case of racism, or just an aggressive enforcement of the resort's "no beggars or peddlers" policy. The usually soul-searching over Mexico's treatment of its Indians began again. Finally, Menchu herself called a press conference to declare: "WTF?"

Menchu and her sister Anita said none of it had happened. "This was purely an invention of the press," Anita told today in an exclusive interview. "Nothing at all happened in the hotel, and we didn't even know about the rumor until we got on the plane to go back to Mexico City."

And the reporter who witnessed the whole thing?

For his part, the reporter to whom the story was originally attributed, David Romero Vara of Cancun's Enfoque Radio, admitted on air today that nothing happened to Menchu, and that the only ones who were removed forcibly from the hotel were his station's reporters.

Translation: "What, that? Oh, I made that shit up. Why do you ask?" There appears to be absolutely no penalty for this, nor even a discussion of what - y'know, if anything - might be wrong with wholesale fabrication of news stories.

In other news news, this is the headline in today's local paper: 2 Lions Escape from Circus (unintentionally hilarious subhed: "Also, a Kangaroo"). Maybe it's because we're terrified of large, hungry carnivores, or because being eaten by a lion here is not unheard of, but we think a better headline would have been, No Need to Panic: Now Back in Captivity, 2 Lions Briefly Were Not. There - isn't that nicer? It's Sunday morning, you know.

So because you're dying to know, it went down like this: as a traveling circus was getting underway last night, someone noticed that not all the man-eating animals were where they were supposed to be. The male lion never made it off the circus grounds, because he wouldn't ask directions, and was re-bagged within minutes. The kangaroo took off down Cimatario Ave. before getting himself cornered on a school campus (where he "suffered grave injuries," probably from boxing above his weight class). The she-lion, though, made it all the way to 57 Ave, where she entered the lobby of the Hotel Las Campanas ("Indian Beggars Welcome!") in all her pouncing, roaring, charging-lion majesty, overturning furniture and shattering glass. We're guessing this was probably the scariest, pants-shittingest moment in the lives of any of the guests, and that no one had their room, their meal, or even a shot of tequila comped as a result.

August. It's a slow news month.


radosh said...

It's like ray-ee-ain on your wedding day...

Burro Hall said...

And the ironies keep piling up, starting with the top of that page:

"This article needs additional references or sources for verification. Please help to improve this article by adding reliable references."

Journalism: Can't anybody here play this game?