In Puerto Rico, Walter Mercado is a household name. There’s no way to grow up without hearing about him and Puerto Rican twitter often uses him as a meme. But, I did not expect his death to get the international attention it received.
At first, it shocked me to discover that the New York Times published a full obituary on Mercado. But, it shocked me even more to see his death reported on at TMZ. Since I’ve been writing this blog, this might be the most widely reported story I’ve talked about and it seems to be everywhere — from CNN and NPR to BuzzFeed News and USA Today as well as countless localized news outlets.
Maybe I underestimate how much Americans know about Puerto Rican celebrities, but I genuinely did not expect Mercado’s passing to make a blip in American news. I recognize that Latinos make up a huge swath of demographics in the U.S. and Mercado was popular to Hispanic audiences in general, not just Puerto Ricans — yet there’s something to be said about the breadth of coverage he is getting.
I’m not trying to complain about a Puerto Rican celebrity getting his due — I’m just trying to understand the reasoning behind decisions made about topics regarding Puerto Rico and how they get covered. Mercado’s prominence is definitely a factor pushing for coverage of his death, yet outlets rarely talk about issues coming out of Puerto Rico. Government officials keep resigning because of an FBI probe yet there’s been little to no reporting in the U.S. regarding the topic. Usually, a preliminary article saying “this happened” and no follow through with the processes. It’s disappointing to say the least.
I recognize that obituaries and celebrity news draw a different kind of audience to them than issue or government stories, but it’s hard to know what the decisions behind coverage are.