Thursday, January 8, 2015

Today's headlines: The last one remaining

La Jornada’s entire front page is given over to the death of Julio Scherer, under the umbrella head “The standard-bearer for unsubmissive journalism has passed on.” Three other Mexico City dailies reefer the death of the former Excelsior editor-in-chief and founder of Proceso. El Universal leaves Scherer off its front page entirely. Excelsior, where Scherer began his journalism career as a teenage cub reporter in the 1940s, doesn’t gloss over his forced exit in 1976 from what was then the premier Mexican daily. And it puts the blame for his ouster directly on then-President Luis Echeverría, a connection the paper denied at the time. Of course, Excelsior has undergone an ownership change since that seminal event; it’s now part of the Vázquez Raña/Grupo Imagen empire.
    Excelsior quotes some of Scherer’s colleagues at the paper, including the prominent writer Elena Poniatowska, who laments, “I’m the last one remaining. Also gone are Carlos Monsiváis, José Emilio Pacheco, Vicente Leñero. Nobody’s left." The writer Cristina Pacheco, José Emilio’s widow, remembers first seeing Scherer when she would deliver her husband’s copy to the paper: “To me he was like some kind of wizard who would appear in the office. His secretary asked me if I would like to meet him, but I was too nervous. Later, over time, we became friends.”
    More on this below at “Breaking: Julio Scherer, 1926-2015.”


El Universal leads with the results of the latest round of qualifying examinations for full-time teaching positions. Just under 60% failed, and only a handful, 280 out of 16,283 candidates, demonstrated solid skills. As El Universal’s headline puts it, “Teachers seeking posts aren’t qualified.”
    What’s disturbing about the poor results is that all the test-takers were either graduates of teaching colleges or freelance/part-time teachers with 10 years of experience — i.e. the ones who are supposed to know what they're doing.  The testing procedure itself is a fairly new innovation, part of recent reforms aimed at pegging hiring to aptitude, rather than connections or bribes. Inadequately addressed, apparently, was the means for training them well enough to pass.

Reforma turns to crime and fear, those old standbys, for its lead: “Insecurity leaves 15,000 without classes.” The head’s misleading; it refers only to the port city of Acapulco on Wednesday, the first day back to school after the winter break. Bigger numbers than that have had classes canceled for significant stretches in a number of Guerrero locations and in other states as well. 
    The bigger security story follows up on the latest sickening violence in Michoacán, Guerrero’s equally troubled neighbor to its north. Alfredo Castillo, the federal security commissioner who essentially runs the state, gave a press conference yesterday that, as covered in the press, managed to make Tuesday’s confrontation between federal forces and an armed mob even more confusing. Castillo said the shooting that left nine people dead was prompted by an ambush by the gang that had taken over the Apatzingán city hall, and had been evicted earlier that morning. He denied reports that the two women killed were executed on their knees, but confirmed that the women had not fired shots. He also insisted that the casualty count was nine, not more, as alleged; four apparent corpses seen in photographs were actually wounded men, he said.
    The press quoted bystanders as saying there was no ambush, and that the victims appeared to be armed only with sticks, which they dropped as they ran.

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