A crippling crisis has left Venezuela hungry for food, and news. This is no pun. A permanent “Bolivarian Revolution,” one that never managed to come out of the quote marks for nobody takes it seriously, not only has deprived the country of food, but also of independent journalism. The government’s remedy for its own economic incompetence has been to clamp down on independent media. That has only limited effect in an era of vast social networks that are not centrally controlled, like Twitter. Citizen journalists have stepped in to take the vacuum left by professional ones. Locals are reporting on the dozens of lootings and protests taking place in the country. It is in the most desperate times that we most acutely yearn to know the truth.
Satirical newspaper The Onion ran a mock story about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg advising users not to get their news from the social network site. The story is a joke, done in good spirit. “News” admits a broad definition. If your newsworthy horizon does not extend beyond what family and friends decide to advertise about their lives—birthdays, trips, photos, and other developments people are ready to share with their connections—Facebook is a gold mine. But if you have a keener interest about developments in the community, or world affairs, or anything that concerns a group larger than your social circle, then try to get them from newspapers or media organizations that deal in news. For all their faults, they have an editorial system in place for newsgathering. The other, equally important if more intricate problem with Facebook is that it may foster ideological tribalism: it is a well-known fact of human nature that we like to hear what we want to hear. Social networks tend to group like-minded people, who share news or information that conforms to their own particular views. So, next time you see on Facebook that a friend’s friend saw Elvis Presley riding a motorcycle in Mississippi, check first a newspaper or a media site. But seriously, Facebook is not meant to be your news source.
A cat called Cupcake survived eight days in a box as she was mailed across England. Her owner shipped the box with old DVDs without realizing Cupcake had curled up for a nap inside it. She was scared and dehydrated when the surprised recipients of the DVDs found her. Yet she made it back to her tearful owner safe and sound. Speaking of cats, an ingenious policeman in Nebraska used his Taser to guide a cat to safety after a classic: it was stranded on a tree. The cat followed the laser beam and led down to firm ground. Perhaps this non-harmful way of employing the Taser could work on suspects on the run. More extraordinary news have enlivened newspapers these days: Rhode Island launched a promotional video, part of a $5 million campaign, that showed footage from, where else, Iceland! Where else? And if you want to make some bucks, browse the cupboards for old VHS movies. Some, including 1974’s Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks, may fetch close to $2,000. Make sure, however, that these are not unreturned items from your local video club: you may end up in jail, like this North Carolina man. He had forgotten to turn back Freddy Got Fingered at some point in 2002. The store that rented it out has closed a decade ago. And in the Argentine city of La Plata, a disagreement over pay among municipal doctors boiled over and led to a collective fistfight. Yet faithful to their oath, they treated each other’s bruises afterwards. All of these small stories are true. Really. If you want April’s Fools jokes, click here. But don’t overdo it, like this dad on his kids: an empty iPad box with a little note inside making fun of them is not nice. They will have time to grow up and realize it’s a cruel, cruel world.