News

The Community Problem Of Media Censorship

El Paso is the second most expensive large city in the nation for property taxes, according to Roofstock, an Oakland-based online rental property marketplace. According to Roofstock, El Pasoans pay an effective property tax rate of 2.13%, second only to Milwaukee. Roofstock used Census Bureau data to reach its conclusions. [1] Historical preservationist Max Grossman, who sued the City to protect historical properties from demolition and often produces research about the city’s finances, says that since the appointment of Tommy Gonzalez on June 23, 2014, “the City portion of our property tax has increased by 38%.” Grossman argues, “how can our City government possibly justify increasing our property tax rate by 38% over seven years” when the city’s population “barely increased during the same period?” [4]

The book, Who Rules El Paso? (2019) by the Community First Coalition argues that the city’s “oligarchy” benefits from the high property taxes. Among the oligarchy named by the authors of the book is businessman Woody Hunt.

Hunt along with other El Paso businessmen has invested heavily in political races in the city. In 2004, the FBI began investigating public corruption in El Paso. Poisoned Pawns, as the FBI operation became to be known, resulted in over 40 El Paso businessmen and politicians convicted of public corruption related crimes.

Poisoned Pawns had a central feature – bribes disguised as campaign contributions.

Bribery is allowed to exist in El Paso by the lack of prosecution of it and more importantly by who controls the narrative. Keeping certain voices silent keeps uncomfortable dialogs from entering the community’s narrative.

Information Manipulation

During the events leading up to the controversial ballpark, officials at the city spent taxpayer funds on at least two national newspaper articles designed to manipulate the public about the ballpark.

The first, Baseball Stadium Bolsters El Paso’s Resurgence by Matt Hudgins published on May 28, 2013, in the New York Times and the second one, El Paso Steps Up to Plate was published on the Wall Street Journal on April 16, 2013.

Both national media articles were used by local officials to create the illusion that the El Paso taxpayers were solidly behind the Chihuahua’s controversial ballpark. Both articles were influenced by $326,000 paid for by the taxpayers.

On April 28, 2013, the El Paso, Inc. [2] exposed how the taxpayer funds were used by Andy Levine for “pitching positive stories to national outlets” on national publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Caballero Buys Airtime

In July 1999, then KROD radio host Paul Strelzin accepted a $15,000 “loan” from Ray Caballero. It was a “loan” both Caballero and Strelzin knew was not going to be paid back. Strelzin said in a court deposition that the loan was not going to be paid back because he felt he “was helping him (Caballero) in his campaign” for Mayor. Strelzin goes on to state in the deposition that he “probably” gave Caballero more airtime than the other candidates and that Caballero would call into the radio show “two to three times a week” during the election. [3]

As we noted earlier, Ray Caballero benefited from Debbie Nathan’s reporting during his reelection campaign and his “loan” to Paul Strelzin allowed him to leverage radio airtime during his first run for office.

Is The Censorship A Bias From One Or More Of The Moderators Or Is It About Uncomfortable News?

As outlined in our series, we believe that our articles are being censored by Chucopedia. To what end we can only speculate. However, as we have outlined in this series there may be more at play. Chucopedia’s three administrators are former employees of the El Paso Times. Bob Moore, the owner and operator of the online publication El Paso Matters, also worked at the El Paso Times at the same time.

El Paso Matters is largely funded by Woody Hunt through the El Paso Community Foundation. As we have demonstrated through the series, the oligarchy, as identified by the book Who Rules El Paso? has benefited by news manipulation for years.

Thus, the question is, is El Paso Matters benefiting from Chucopedia posting their content while censoring our content? Before addressing that we should address a bias by Debbie Nathan against the author.

Is It Simply A Bias?

On November 19, 2020, the author began a public debate on Chucopedia with Debbie Nathan discussing the place for citizen journalists. Nathan, as reported earlier, was openly supporting the Ray Caballero public policy agenda when he was trying to get reelected.

During the public debate, Nathan wrote, “further, I recall almost 20 years ago that you ran a site on the then-new web that was dedicated to attacking certain local politicians e.g. Veronica Escobar, to the benefit of other politicians. You managed a grotesquely sexist, woman-hating site that allowed posts denigrating Escobar’s body and making sexual accusations against her purely as defamation. I recall that you later produced caricatures of other public figures in El Paso that made fun of their bodies, including women’s bodies. Your work then was revolting. It would be helpful if you would apologize for it. You might get a few more sources to interview with you. You have a bad reputation as a good citizen.”

Nathan was referring to the El Paso Forum, an online open forum operated by the author. Nathan was also referring to the first incarnation of this publication. Both were critical of the Caballero administration. Ray Caballero told supporters that it was the internet that ended his political career, referring to our news platforms.

Clearly Nathan is biased against our publication. Is that the reason or is there more?

The Children’s Hospital Debacle

On August 10, 2020, we started reporting on the malpractice lawsuit filed by David Saucedo against the El Paso Children’s Hospital for the death of his daughter. We then started reporting extensively on other malpractice lawsuits and issues faced by the children’s hospital.

As we started doing more extensive reporting on the children’s hospital, we noted a sharp drop in the number of our articles approved by Chucopedia, until none were being approved. Except for one or two articles by El Diario, KVIA and the El Paso Inc., the substantial reporting on El Paso Children’s Hospital has only being reported by us.

El Paso Matters has yet to report on the lawsuits and the controversies at the El Paso Children’s Hospital.

More important is the fact that El Paso Politics is the only news outlet in the city trying to force a determination on whether the El Paso Children’s Hospital is subject to open records requests.

As a publicly funded hospital who filed for bankruptcy in 2015 forcing the taxpayers to absorb its debt, the hospital is arguing that it is not subject to the Texas Public Information Act. It has recently ignored a request from the Texas Attorney General’s Office to explain its stance on open records.

Our publication is the only one challenging the children’s hospital into complying with the open records laws.

The question readers should be asking themselves is, is the lack of interest by the other news media to seek an answer to the question on whether the children’s hospital should be accountable to the taxpayers have to do with protecting the political powerbase of the city?

If the answer is yes, then it becomes apparent that it seems that the Fourth Estate of El Paso seeks only to keep the political status quo in the community. Understanding this it then becomes apparent why voting is lackluster at best and why the taxes are the second highest in the nation.

But how does it help Bob Moore to censor us on Chucopedia?

Readers now rely on Facebook for news and information. The social media channels expose the information that drives the community’s narrative. Using the El Paso Children’s Hospital as the example, members of the community are less likely to be aware of the issues faced by the children’s hospital when the information is not reported by other outlets and our reporting is censored.

Like us, El Paso Matters is using Chucopedia to reach a larger audience.

When the moderators of a social media channel like Chucopedia seem to collude with a rival publication like El Paso Matters by censoring us it leads us to believe that the censorship is more than a simple bias against us.

Chucopedia does not determine our success as a publication but our experiences of being censored demonstrates how censorship is used to stifle public dialog. Take Chucopedia and expand it to the lack of reporting by others on El Paso Children’s Hospital and how our reporting is stifled and it becomes apparent that certain news is unacceptable to the oligarchy of the community. Even Debbie Nathan was censored by Woody Hunt when her reporting threaten the oligarchy.

Footnotes:

  1. “U.S. Cities With the Highest Property Taxes,” March 30, 2021, accessed on June 12, 2021 (https://learn.roofstock.com/blog/cities-with-highest-property-taxes).
  2. Robert Gray, “more than billboards: $326K to sell El Paso,” El Paso, Inc., April 28, 2013.
  3. Theresa Caballero v. Regent Broadcasting of El Paso et al., (327th District Court, 2003-1018) Deposition of Paul J. Strelzin, February 10, 2004.
  4. Max Grossman, email blast to news media, June 15, 2021.

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