Mini-profile: Jose Carrasco — a Personal Story of Evolving Media

Dr. Jose Carrasco in his Vancouver, Washington home.

Jose Carrasco, an emeritus who taught literature and humanities at San Jose State and now lives in Vancouver, saddled comfortably in an old creaking wooden chair, with an equally antiquated table in front of him.

On the table, a smartphone lay beside him, recording every word he said. While the device itself is not unfamiliar to Carrasco, the social media services it so eagerly provides lie beyond his interest. Carrasco, 78, said he prefers his media either on television or in the newspaper.

Dr. Carrasco was born in 1939 at Fort Morgan, Colorado to an immigrant Mexican family. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Santa Clara, California, where he would spend the rest of his childhood. His family lived in a small shack on the outskirts of town, a “Chicken Shack” as he would call it, with a tin roof and a dirt floor.

With no electricity and scarcely little income, any form of news media was hard to come by. When he wasn’t helping his family at home, Carrasco worked in the fields. It wasn’t until 1955, when Carrasco was 13, that his father miraculously got a job with Santa Clara County and the family moved out of its dilapidated accommodations and into a real home with running water, electricity, and an actual address. Around this time, the first newspaper entered the Carrasco household.

But Carrasco wasn’t yet interested in the news. Though the radio dominated life in his new home, it was less a news source and more a source of entertainment. Carrasco and his brothers and sisters would crowd around the radio late at night listening to programs such as “The Whistler” or “The Shadow”; these mystery programs were favorites of his.

Carrasco didn’t give the news much heed until his late teens, when he recalled noticing his father reading the newspaper one day in his junior year of high school. But still, other things caught his interest, including the television his younger sister, Grace, had bought and brought home using earnings from her job at a cannery. Grace was in seventh grade at the time.

Current events only began to appear on Carrasco’s radar when he was in the Army, serving in the 101st Airborne. “I only paid attention because Eisenhower sent the 101st into Little Rock. Of course I listened then,” Carrasco said, recalling news of Eisenhower’s decision to send the National Guard and units from his own division into Little Rock.

Carrasco received this news by word of mouth, however, not by radio or television. This was to be his dominant form of media consumption for most of his early adult years, including during the JFK assassination, which occurred while he was a freshman attending community college, just after he had left the Army.

Today, Carrasco relies mostly on TV news channels to bring him the latest — namely, CNN, though he is aware of its pitfalls. Carrasco believes that this medium hasn’t “figured out” news broadcasting yet, and fails to live up to its primary function of reporting what’s happening.

“TV news can be manipulated,” Carrasco said, citing its coverage of the 2016 general election as the most recent and obvious example. Carrasco went on to explain that its susceptibility to sensationalist rhetoric showcases the failure of modern news media, a primary one being the lack of an editorial point-of-view.

While jaded by televised media, Carrasco said he often checks Internet news sites such as AOL. And while he understands the complex nature of social media, he said he is mostly aware of its negative aspects (as gleaned from news channels and conventional wisdom).

Despite his misgivings of CNN, Carrasco still generally trusts television to be a reliable source of news (as long as healthy skepticism is included) and, unlike his younger self, now reads the local newspaper.