Media Sensationalism

Please don’t let the sensationalism in the American media color your picture of the entire country of Mexico.

Here in Puerto Vallarta I have walked the dark streets alone after 11:00 P.M. and before 7:00 A.M. I’ve ridden public transportation into the poor burrows surrounding the town, and got off the bus and walked alone down dusty streets … the only gringo in sight. I’ve stopped many times to ask local folks for directions, and they usually do their best to understand my limited Spanish – and if they cannot understand me, they often call to others for assistance.

I’ve carried money and a digital camera in my pocket, and no one has stuck a gun in my face, or kidnapped me, or beat me up, or tried to rob me. I have not felt fear since I have been here.

There are a thousand acts of kindness for every one act of unkindness in the world, but the media likes to sensationalize the occasional act of unkindness. Sensationalism sells newspapers, brings in magazine subscribers, fills the airwaves, and draws web traffic.

Don’t ignore the news, but read the news with an eye toward empathizing with the harmed or marginalized … such as victims of a tsunami, exploited children, or those hurt or killed by a suicide bomber.

Avoid being tantalized by weird, wacky, wild, and woeful stories … but instead give your attention to the way-out, whimsical, wicked, and wonderful things God is doing in and through people. (“Wicked” in the contemporary vernacular, you old fart).

Could something bad happen to me here? Of course, the world is filled with sinners. But consider that I could leave my house in a nice neighborhood of Salt Lake City, and walk for about 10 minutes and be in neighborhoods that put me at as much risk as the neighborhoods here in Puerto Vallarta. I could also leave my house in Salt Lake City, and drive for 10 minutes and be in neighborhoods that would put me at as much risk as virtually any neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta.

Would I wander through any neighborhood in the border towns of Tijuana, Laredo, or Juarez? Probably not, but the purpose of this article is to undermine some of the hysteria … and maybe color your picture of Mexico in a new light.

P.S. The H1N1 world map at will show you that this flu is not limited to Mexico, and in fact the cases in Mexico make up a tiny percentage of the cases worldwide.