We Watched Jorge Ramos Swim Across Río Grande & We Still Don’t Get Why He Did It

Jul 23, 2014
10:05 AM

So this past weekend, the following tweet from Jorge Ramos got our attention:

It also got the attention of many others who admire and respect the veteran news anchor. One journalist even wrote a very clear response in Spanish to Ramos’ tweets, saying that he has succumbed to the “star system” of journalism. The argument is detailed but it is not the only reason why we think Ramos’ segment fell short. We know that Ramos is a star journalist, but unlike others who make a real living off of media publicity stunts (see Sean Hannity), Ramos had always seemed to find the right balance between journalism and digital sensationalism. Just last month, he was being praised for asking John Boehner tough questions that needed to be asked, so much so that he pissed off members of the Washington press corps, which is always a good thing. And when Ramos jumps into the lion’s den, he holds his own with grace.

That is why he didn’t have to do this:

And while we’re at it, we didn’t have to see this headline: “Watch Jorge Ramos Swim Across the Rio Grande.” And we sure didn’t need to read this:

It’s one thing to stand alongside the Rio Grande or talk to others who have made it across. It’s another to dive in yourself. Fusion’s Jorge Ramos did just that in order to better understand what so many Central American migrants face as they flee across the border.

Ramos’ experience wasn’t exactly the same as that of the migrants, who reach the river after weeks of grueling travel. As Border Patrol agents supervised, he swam from the Texas side to the Mexican one and back, taking care not to violate a U.S.-Mexico treaty by touching actual land on the Mexican banks. It was also daytime, and many migrants favor the cover of night. But the water was dangerously real, with undercurrents that pushed Ramos at least 200 yards off of his initial line across.

The U.S. side is littered with clothing, plastic bags that protected money and documents, and other scraps discarded after the swim by migrants whose journey is far from over. Most will have to walk miles across the hellish desert to get to a border town. Border Patrol agents like Jose Monserrate wait for them along the way – while also watching for other threats.

The whole segment felt wrong and unnecessary. It belittled the harrowing experiences migrants —especially young migrants from Central America— face every day.

“My dad crossed the river and the desert. He wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Sad.”

We know that Ramos is influential and that the mainstream media is noticing him a lot these days. We’re just disappointed than this latest idea comes across as a bad Geraldo Rivera episode.

In the quest to share an angle to a story that we will argue has already been told countless times, Ramos crossed a privileged line. It is a topic two of our Rebeldes discussed over the weekend. They both concluded that they would have never expected Ramos to do something like that, even though the intent was to raise awareness (or ratings?). Would Walter Cronkite have done that? Dan Rather? Tom Brokaw? Maybe that’s the problem: in a competitive media world where it is all about getting viewers and clicks, you have to do things that journalistically don’t feel right any more—at least to those who think journalism is about telling real stories and not manufactured ones. Maybe Ramos has to play in that new world. We get that, even though we don’t want to get it.

Nonetheless, we know Ramos can do better, and in fact, he does. More often than not. Just see what else he said during the same segment:

Let’s see more of that, but without the river backdrops and staged river crossings. Viewers are smart enough to know the difference between the two.

And by the way, if you want to see a more detailed report about this whole crisis, just go here. That video might not have the “star power,” but it sure has the journalism.