The woman at the front desk was adamant — we were liars. We had defamed a man of quality. She said it several times that everything we printed was a lie.
There was one problem with her assessment — it wasn’t based in fact. Not surprising, considering we live in a time of “alternative facts,” but the truth is the truth.
When it comes to Kerrville and Texas barbecue, there’s a prominent character that almost everyone knows — Buzzie Hughes, the likable owner of Buzzie’s Bar-B-Q, over there at 213 Schreiner St. It’s hard to miss, because the smell is all Texas Hill Country goodness.
However, Buzzie faced a problem he never expected, and the collateral damage from it wafted like a stubborn cloud of trouble over to us at 429 Jefferson St., where we encountered the woman who staunchly believed we had wronged Buzzie.
It all started in July with a news aggregator website — these are the guys who essentially scrape free content from news websites across the country and repackage as their own. It’s a shady deal, and television news sites are often the victims of the practice.
The aggregators make their money off of relational advertising to those who are lured into the content via a click-bait driven headline. The reality is that not every advertiser knows they are on those sites because of the way the ads are served — often by Google.
In the case of Buzzie’s, their ad looked like content when placed next to a story the website had scraped about a Fredericksburg-area sex offender who had jumped bail. Since the content is encouraged to be shared across social media, it didn’t take long for people to start asking questions: Is Buzzie Hughes a pedophile?
“I didn’t pay no mind to it,” Buzzie said. “When I read it, I saw my picture down there, and that was no big deal, but a friend of mine said read the top real good. When I read it I said ‘holy smokes.’”
Now, Buzzie is used to smoke, but only the kind that makes turkey extra special — not the kind that could ruin your life. Within days, Buzzie was trying to lay low, because people were asking questions.
And that’s the problem, there were assumptions because of the relational content. We don’t read. We react. If people actually read the story, they would have been taken to a link where the story actually lived — with a picture of the real bail jumping sex offender.
However, the way the content was displayed doesn’t really lead you off of the site, which is part of the game of a lot of these aggregators.
They lure you in — often with lurid headlines — and get you to stay so they get an advertising impression, which leads to an easy payday.
The Hughes’ took immediate legal action against the website — a California-based company called Particle Media. Here’s where we get into the story. As part of a retraction agreement, the website agreed to pay for $1,000 in advertising in this newspaper to say that Buzzie wasn’t a pedophile and that The Kerrville Daily Times wasn’t the outlet that made the mistake.
Only problem with that? The ad wasn’t enough of a clarification, sowing confusing with folks, including with the woman who came in and called us a bunch of liars.
The Hughes’ legal quest against Particle included a confidential settlement, but the damage to the truth is sometimes hard to repair.
However, let’s try to set the record straight:
Buzzie Hughes is not a pedophile, but he’s darn good at barbecue.
Particle Media doesn’t cover Texas.
The Kerrville Daily Times never wrote anything about Hughes, other than his achievements in brisket, ribs and other barbecued meats.
So, the moral of the story? Don’t believe everything online. Take time to read something and don’t jump to conclusions.
And oh, by the way, Buzzie’s smoked turkey is delish.
Louis Amestoy is the managing editor of The Kerrville Daily Times. He can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-257-0317.