Bob’s aunt calls and tells him, “Don’t worry about us! We’re safe! The police said to just stay inside, lock the doors, and stay away from the windows.”
“Safe? Safe from what? What’s going on?” a stunned Bob asks.
“You don’t know?You haven’t heard?” the aunt answers.
“Know what? Heard what?” a bewildered Bob asks.
“Two Mexican cartels are fighting it out real near us. At least 15 people are dead,” the aunt answers. “Hasn’t it been in the news?”
“Nothing has been in the news here about that,” Bob tells his aunt.
“That’s unbelievable!” the aunt says. “Why not?”
The aunt lives in Bisbee, Arizona, a few miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Bob lives in the Midwest, and news of the border shootout hadn’t been carried in his local media.
The violence began June 10 as shootings occurred in Agua Prieta and Naco, Sonora. The number of dead rose to 15 by June 14, The Arizona Republic reported. A woman and a 12-year-old child were injured in the shootings and taken to University Medical Center in Tucson.
Police said the violence was a shootout between two rival Mexican cartels trying to control the drug and protection racketeering at the border crossing.
My friend Bob asked me what his aunt asked him: Why such a major story wasn’t reported nationally.
I think it’s — at least in part — because of a continuing breakdown of the news infrastructure in the United States.
Local newspapers — specifically the Sierra Vista Herald, the Douglas Dispatch and the weekly Bisbee Observer and Phoenix’s Arizona Republic’s AZ Central — carried good stories about the shootings. Southern Arizona TV stations also carried stories.
Fox News online report carried a story, but I could find no other national reporting of the shootout. TripAdvisor carried a traveler’s alert.
Why was so little national attention paid to the shootout?
A couple of answers leap to mind:
1. Americans have become somewhat immune to violence along
2. News about the U.S.-Mexican border has become overly politicized during the administration of President Trump.
Those points being made, I think there’s a bigger issue.
Local news coverage is breaking down with the downsizing of most newsrooms. Most newspapers have smaller news holes, fewer editors and fewer readers.
The wire services have changed dramatically. UPI exists in name only. More importantly, The Associated Press has fewer members, reporters, photographers and stringers.
In the past, national newspapers such as the NewYork Times, LA Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal might have sent reporters and photographers to such a shootout — but they don’t do so, probably because of smaller budgets. The larger Arizona papers in Phoenix and Tucson also have had major cuts in their newsrooms.
Too often, national cable news networks seem more interested in promoting political agendas than covering the news.
Major national stories still are covered well, but potentially second-tier national stories (such as the shootouts near Bisbee) are under reported.
It scares me that news is going unreported — and that the trend toward less news coverage is accelerating.
It frightens me that the country now has more public relations employees than professional journalists.
All over the country, newsroom staffs are being reduced (even eliminated) and stories are simply missed.
Too many communities are seeing their newspaper close.
The little weekly newspaper I once owned is no more, and I wonder what happens to a town that loses its news and sports coverage.
News coverage isn’t getting better.
What happens when your aunt has to lock herself in her house and no one knows about it?
Marc Wilson is founder and chairman emeritus of TownNews. He has published two
books, "Hero Street U.S.A." and "Kidnapped by Columbus."