It was election night 1996 and I was covering the news for San Juan radio station WOSO. Fighting through the diminished crowd, through the door and up the stairs to the second floor where I could find some good interviews and sound bites. As I reached the top of the stairs I saw a small circle of people lamenting the victory of the New Progressive Party and then Governor Pedro Rossello.
One of the people in the group had tears in her eyes as she said how stupid people were for buying into Rossello’s lies about health care and other issues. It was the tears and the voice that caught my attention. I had heard that voice before, and seen that face. It was then that I realized the circle of people were not just party faithful, half of those standing there were journalists. The other half, staff members for the party.
I’ve long since forgotten the names and most of the faces of those involved, but I’ve never forgotten the moment. That was the moment when may naïve belief that journalists were all ethical and would report on the truth went away. I was in my twenties and had a lot of growing up to do. In the following years there were many examples of media working one side of a story over another, for example during the PR Telephone Company strikes; where many media made sure the plight of union workers was heard over any reason for selling the company.
Later in life I worked as the spokesman for Roosevelt Roads Naval Station and saw even clearer how twisted the Puerto Rico media had become and how hard it was to get a clear message across while being a spokesman for an organization that the media had already deemed unpopular.
During one episode military personnel had video tapped ‘peaceful’ protesters on Vieques attacking a bus being used to transport military personnel to Camp Garcia. One man, video camera in hand to film the bus from atop a small hill overlooking the road, picked up a rock and started to throw it at the bus…until he realized he was being video tapped as well and then he dropped the rock and kept filming. Protesters damaged the bus, while others made threats and pounded on the vehicle.
This was an excellent opportunity to show the media and the people of Puerto Rico just how ‘peaceful’ the protesters were. So I personally made copies of the video and took it to the various TV stations in San Juan. One station didn’t run the video, another buried it; but Channel 4, (before it was bought by Univision) in whose newsroom I sat while reporters watched the video in front of me and reacted to what they saw ran the video, but edited it so much that it appeared to eliminate nearly all the wrong doing by protesters.
To make matters worse, they barely mentioned a word from me and my statement, but ran a voice over from one of the female protest leaders over the video, justifying their actions and blaming the Navy for everything.
Part of the reason why it is so hard to get anything good done in Puerto Rico is that much of the media continues to repeat left leaning, Popular Democratic or Independence Party ideology if not outright socialist ideology. The constant repetition of bad ideas has convinced many in Puerto Rico to recoil at even the hint of an alternative point of view.
During a recent visit to the island, while explaining to a cousin of mine some of my ideas and my opposition to socialism and communism, she replied, ‘but there are many different levels of communism.’
I answered, ‘all communism is evil, and always leads to oppression and poverty.’
To which she bristled. “No, communism can work she said, capitalism is bad.” Somewhere between the indoctrination she received in public schools and university and the constant repetition of propaganda from local media, she had made up her mind about the value of the socialist ideology.
So on this, the ‘National Day of Journalists’ in Puerto Rico, let us pause and reflect on the damage they have inflicted upon the island and its people.