Where the story takes place

By Charles Miller

With the exception of those people seen sitting in the Jardín reading their daily newspaper, I imagine that most expatriates in Mexico get the lion’s share of their news as I do, and that is reading a selection of news organization web sites. We users of the internet are indeed fortunate to have ready access to online news outlets from around the world.

To me one of the more annoying things I encounter while reading the news on the web is finding otherwise interesting news article written by some reporter who assumes his or her readership already knows where in the world the story takes place. All too often I read through a long article and still have no idea whatsoever about the location being described.

It was reported in the “Pioneer Press” that a resident of “Little Canada” was arrested by “Ramsey County” authorities. Well, who ever heard of the “Pioneer Press?” I assume that “Little Canada” is probably not south of San Miguel and must be somewhere north of here, and as near as I can tell there are several “Ramsey Counties” to choose from in the United States. In short, I have absolutely no idea where the story takes place.

How is anyone who does not live in New York City supposed to know that UES means Upper East Side? Chicagoans are known to believe their “Loop” is the only one that exists. Obscure regional nicknames such as Nodak and Sodak abound, but thankfully those two are not often heard outside the Dakotas. Does anyone reading this know the location of “The Bottoms?”

A news article mentioned some place called “Kenova” but this one was slightly easier for me to decipher. Having grown up in the “Arklatex area (ARKansas, LouisiAna, TEXas) it was not difficult for me to determine that Kenova was a portmanteau of KENtucky, Ohio and VirginiA. At least I was able to look at the map and note that Four Corners must be out west at the only place four U.S. states meet. I am still working to figure out the location of the “Tri-State Area” because I see a lot of places on the map where three states come together.

Every time I read the news it seems I encounter some article without a dateline, and just as often I read really obscure and unfamiliar ones that give the name of some town but fail to include the name of the state. Why do the newspaper reporters in Hooterville automatically assume everyone in the world knows the location of Bug Tussle and Possum Run? Often the reader on the internet is not even given that much information.

A case in point is that of an interesting video clip recently viewed online. The only clues I had to work with were that the reporter was outside wearing gloves and heavy coat, so I took from that he was somewhere cold, such as Greenland or Patagonia. He signed off saying he was reporting for WPXI so I thought I could go to www.wpxi.com to learn his whereabouts but even that did not help. I found an attractive and well-organized web page, but no clue as to where it was located. The weather radar map did show western Pennsylvania, and it is cold there in the wintertime, so I finally concluded that he must have been somewhere near Pittsburgh.

Of course even when newspapers include a proper dateline the result can appear ambiguous, witness articles I used to see in my hometown newspaper datelined “Uncertain.” To readers via the internet in New York or California that might appear to denote that the reporter did not know where he or she was or what was being reported (sadly a reasonable assumption with some members of the media today). Everyone in East Texas knows that Uncertain, Texas population 95 people and an equal number of alligators, is a community on the western shore of Caddo Lake. Local legend has it that the early 19th century surveyors got lost, and because they were uncertain about where they were that is what they recorded on the survey map.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.



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