Lagordiloca Has Been Reporting On Local News For Years But Now She’s Under Fire For #FakeNews
Lagordiloca is a controversial amateur reporter from Laredo, Texas. Lagordiloca, whose name is an alias that’s a play on la gorda loca or “crazy fat lady,” has become a local and internet celebrity. Lagordiloca goes out into the mean streets of Texas with nothing but her wits and phone camera to tell local news stories of car crashes, shootings, and other violent crimes.
In a way, Lagordiloca is providing a service that is much needed in a time when checks and balances on the government seem nonexistent. The United States has a shrinking journalism industry, stripped of resources, talent, and staff. When local news is less prevalent, democracy doesn’t function as well.
“Legislators tend to better represent their districts when the media provides better coverage of those constituents. Weaker news coverage also results in a less engaged citizenry, and one that’s less knowledgeable about politics,” according to Seth Masket of Pacific Standard.
However, operating independently of a news organization has led to criminal charges against her and after misreporting some details, even fans are wondering: is Lagordiloca a fraud?
Lagordiloca: News on the move.
Long before she was Lagordiloca, she was Priscilla Villarreal. Villarreal is 34, a high school drop out with a rap sheet, and has no formal journalism training. Her reports are a mix of local gossip, commentary, Spanglish, and news from the frontlines of local scandals.
It all began one night when she stumbled upon police responding to a hostage situation at a home in the south side. Two girls were trapped inside. Villarreal started filming as officers carried the girls out. Her video clips had almost a million views within hours.
“She’s already something of a folk hero down there,” said Daxton Stewart, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth told the New York Times. “What’s fascinating is that she’s doing it the old-fashioned way, but with new technologies, by breaking news the authorities just don’t want out there.”
Villarreal is known for driving around in her old dodge pickup truck and broadcasting live from the scene of a crime. Her bilingual videos add some much-needed representation to video news, and her status as an ordinary woman makes her feel accessible to anyone. With over 135,000 followers on Facebook, people all over the world want to know her take on crime.
The cops aren’t big fans of Lagordiloca, but should we be?
Laredo, Texas has become a hotbed of corruption. A hero was needed, but just as with any vigilante, Lagordiloca exists in an ethical grey area.
“Suburban moms on the upscale north side discussed her posts at a recent country club luncheon. In a region notorious for corruption and a city where local politicians have been under investigation by the FBI, many see her as someone they can trust,” writes Molly Hennesy-Fiske for the Los Angeles Times.
However, Villareal has done some questionable things. She posted the name of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture supervisory who died by suicide. Information that their loved ones might have wanted private. Nevertheless, the name was leaked to her by a police officer who was later placed on leave for the incident.
Last summer, she told her viewers of police chatter that their might be a gas shortage in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Drivers flooded gas stations causing a ruckus. She told fans a man planned to kill children at a local school, sending parents in a panic to retrieve their children, but the man had already been detained.
In a world with a lot of misinformation, while Villarreal’s intentions might be just, the clumsiness of citizen reporting can be pretty damaging.
Police press charges against Lagordiloca.
In 2017, Villarreal was charged with two counts misuse of official information, which is a third-degree felon, after leaking the Customs and Border supervisor’s name. The charges were later dismissed by a judge. In another incident, Villarreal posted accusations that a daycare center was abusing children. The daycare sued for defamation and received a judgment of $300,000 in damages when Villarreal didn’t show up for court.
“The case made me even more well-known in Laredo, and more sources talk to me now,” Villarreal told the New York Times. “But I remain scared, and who I’m most scared of here aren’t the criminals or smugglers. It’s the Laredo Police Department.”
But Lagordiloca is a woman of the people.
While Villarreal doesn’t always get things right, she has had more successes than wins. In February, she broke the story before official outlets of a former Laredo police investigator who was accused of taking gambling proceeds from police raids at casinos. The investigator resigned.
“I’m still learning how to say things like ‘allegedly’ or ‘it’s being said’ when I’m describing breaking news,” Villarreal said. “It’s a challenge, because I speak the language of the streets, and that’s why people follow me.”