Mark Twain had this famous response when he read about his “death” in the newspaper:
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Now the tables have turned. The death of newspapers is being reported when millions of people worldwide are still reading the daily news. Such irony. Saying newspapers are finished is the ultimate fake news.
A single newspaper report is still one of the most powerful drivers of opinion. More powerful than a trending Twitter posting, a viral Facebook post or a top Instagram hashtag. Just ask the unfortunate vacation property owners in and around Playa Del Carmen, a popular resort town on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, otherwise known at the Mexican Riviera.
In February 2018, just weeks from the peak tourist season, they were preparing to welcome thousands of vacationers eager to escape a long, hard winter. The hordes of sun seekers included my wife and myself. We were booked to spend a week in late March at our favorite winter get-away: the Iberostar Grand Paraiso, about thirty minutes by car from Playa Del Carmen.
Then came the shocking news that a tourist ferry in Playa Del Carmen was “bombed” on Feb 22, 2018. The following story, supported by a video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgO9VPFBNyU ), was even more disturbing. Twenty-five people injured! The U.S. Embassy warns travelers to stay away from the ferries and parts of the Caribbean resort city!
Two weeks later, another “bomb-like” device was found on another ferry. It was removed without going off. On March 21, the day we left for our holiday, the U.S. Embassy removed its warning.
So what do you think happened? Did the sun-seekers ignore the news? Did the hotels do their usual booming business? Based on my findings, drawn from an admittedly small sample size, the answer would be a resounding no.
The bad news, once released, trumped everything. It could not be reversed — no more than you can put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Evidence of the fall-out created by the news report was easy to find, starting from the moment we entered customs at the Cancun Airport and breezed through in record time because there were no lines (Exhibit A).
When we arrived at our resort, virtually nothing was the same as usual: there were fewer guests on the grounds (Exhibit B), several of our favorite specialty restaurants were closed for most of our stay (Exhibit C) and I could get any golf tee time I wanted, and actually had to change my original tee time because there were no other players in that slot (Exhibit D).
Need more? While playing my second round of golf with just one other player (Exhibit E), we adopted a single player (Exhibit F) who was one hole behind us. He turned out to be a friendly fellow from Mexico City who rents an apartment in Playa Del Carmen. “It’s normally fully booked at this time,” he told us. “This year, nothing.” (Exhibit G)
All because of a single news event. Remember that the next time somebody tells you newspapers are yesterday’s news.