Last year El Paso Politics published several articles about the rise of El Paso Hispanic’s political engagement in the 1990’s and the creation of a leadership group designed to empower Latinos more politically. As readers may have observed, El Paso Hispanics, although most of the population, wield little political power in the community because various factions within the Latino community have led to infighting allowing the minority Anglo community to set the political agenda for the city. The case of Fermin Dorado, demonstrates that when Hispanics threaten the business interests of the Anglo business owners, narratives of criminality and the legal system is used to discourage further erosion of taxpayer-funded projects moving away from the Anglo business interests. Dorado was subjected to a criminal narrative that had no basis as demonstrated by multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, finding no criminal activity. The Abraham Chavez issue demonstrated that when Hispanics gather behind one of their own, they can force the Anglo majority to temporarily wield power because they fear “an explosion in the community”. Faced with an organized Latino community, the bankers, who controlled El Paso politics at the time, yielded to the demands of the Latinos with a simple telephone call.
But a unified Hispanic community in El Paso has been historically very difficult to achieve because newly empowered Hispanics are “jumping on the backs of the others” to achieve their own quest for political power. The quest for individual empowerment allows individuals like Ramiro Guzman to be the face of El Paso’s Hispanics further eroding a unified Hispanic powerbase because of corruption.
The current political climate for El Paso Latinos is about downtown revitalization through the destruction of Hispanic communities like Duranguito and Segundo Barrio to make way for an economic engine around a multipurpose arena funded by the 2012 Quality of Life bonds. At stake is the cost to the taxpayers and the further erosion of El Paso’s Hispanic identity.
A downtown sports arena for El Paso has been the goal for decades. Several attempts have been made and often times Woody Hunt can be found in the background working on the arena project. As readers have observed in our reporting, philanthropy has become the vehicle of choice to achieve public policy agendas where the taxpayer pays the bills. El Paso’s philanthropy is mostly centralized and managed through the El Paso Community Foundation. As we observed, the El Paso Community Foundation used its access to charitable monies to have the taxpayers pay for the Plaza Theater. The non-profit has become the vehicle of choice for the city’s public policy agenda.
The El Paso Community Foundation’s largest supporter is likely Woody Hunt.
The El Paso Community Foundation uses “affiliates” to manage their goals. Their newest one is El Paso Matters, an online publication created by Bob Moore.
Who Speaks for El Paso
To achieve the goal of completing the downtown arena two important things need to happen. The first is a slate of elected officials that will support moving forward on the project regardless of the opposition to it. The second is managing the community narrative to minimize opposition and raise the voices of the proponents for the project. The first will be addressed by the 2022 elections. The second will be addressed by creating a news outlet that will discourage opposition and encourage support for the multipurpose downtown arena.
This is where the El Paso Community Foundation and El Paso Matters come into play.
El Paso voters need to be influenced for both the elections and to keep opposition as minimal as possible, especially when there is public discussion about the use of taxpayer dollars. News reports focused on glowing economic prospects for an arena, a growing tax base because of the arena, access to federal funds for building up the city and other benefits of downtown redevelopment can be used to bury discussions about overwhelming taxes on the homeowners and opposition to gentrification.
In other words, the community narrative needs to be controlled to showcase the benefits and bury the negative.
An example of how voters are influenced can be seen by the secretive mailout that was sent out in support of Dee Margo during the 2020 city elections. As El Paso Politics exposed, the mailout was sent by The FORMA Group which often works for Woody Hunt and the political candidates he supports. Although the FORMA Group has not admitted to being behind the secretive mailout, there is substantial evidence to suggest their involvement. The mailout was designed to keep Dee Margo and other candidates who are supportive of the arena in office.
The Model For Controlling The Narrative
The El Paso Community Foundation and Woody Hunt have already worked together to control the community’s narrative.
Emanuel Anthony Martinez, who worked for Ray Caballero launched the Newspaper Tree as an online publication soon after Caballero lost his reelection campaign to Joe Wardy in 2003. Keith Mahar took control of the Newspaper Tree soon after and invested in a small news staff. By 2009, Mahar began to look for buyers for the publication. One of the potential buyers was the author. (see disclosure note below) The following year, in 2010, the El Paso Community Foundation purchased the content and the domain name.  
When the Community Foundation took over the Newspaper Tree it said that it was going to bring it back as a nonprofit organization focused on investigative reporting. It was one of its affiliates.  The foundation hired Debbie Nathan as its “investigative reporter,”  Louie Gilot as the managing editor and Reyes Mata III as the publisher. 
On June 6, 2012 in the El Chuqueño blog, Debbie Nathan made a public comment about her experiences with Woody Hunt and the foundation. In her comment, which she also shared on Facebook, Nathan wrote that when she tried to report on how the taxpayers were denied a vote on the Chihuahua’s ballpark, the El Paso Community Foundation was unwilling to let Newspaper Tree publish her exposé because Woody Hunt had “funded” the Newspaper Tree through the foundation. Nathan added that she was fired from the Newspaper Tree for pushing her article.
Citing an El Paso Inc. article, the Nonprofit Quarterly wrote in 2012 that the Newspaper Tree was funded with a five-year pledge of $500,000 “by two businessmen” and a $203,000 start-up grant from the Knight Foundation.  Readers should note that foundations usually require matching funds to make grants. Although the businessmen were not identified, in her public statements, Nathan who worked at the Newspaper Tree, suggested that the publication “was funded by Woody Hunt primarily.”
In its 2010 foundation annual report, Woody Hunt reported that his foundation allocated about $19 million dollars in donations over time that year. Newspaper Tree was listed among the 18 entities identified as recipients of his foundation’s donations. 
In May 2012, the El Paso Community Foundation fired Louie Gilot and Reyes Mata III, leaving Debbie Nathan as the only employee of the publication.  The firing of Gilot and Mata was the “result of internal disputes.” The disputes have not been disclosed publicly.
Debbie Nathan says that she was fired later for trying to publish a report critical of how the city handled the Chihuahua’s ballpark. Nathan says that Louie Gilot told her that a “major” foundation donor “suggested” that Debbie Nathan be fired. She was fired.
The Newspaper Tree is an example of how the El Paso Community Foundation uses philanthropy dollars to manage the El Paso narrative. When the author attempted to purchase the content of the publication, the foundation bought it and shut it down. It fired its three employees, two as part of “internal disputes,” and one for trying to publish a critical report. Woody Hunt funded the purchase of the Newspaper Tree.
One Million Dollars To Control Community Narrative
Bob Moore launched the El Paso Matters on February 17, 2020 with about $90,000. The El Paso Community Foundation committed $20,000 of the $90,000 in startup funds. Like the Newspaper Tree, the non-profit foundation is getting into the news business at a critical juncture in El Paso politics. With Bob Moore no longer able to influence the news coverage at the El Paso Times, a new news platform is needed for building the arena.
In August 2021, the American Journalism Project awarded Bob Moore $1 million. The American Journalism Project is a Washington based non-profit.  The El Paso Inc. quoted Bob Moore as saying that the $1 million grant will not be for news reporting. Instead, the money will be used for “business and revenue infrastructure.”  In other words, the money will be used to make El Paso Matters sustainable over the long term. According to Moore, his publication will use the money “to tap into larger donations out there.” 
In addition to the $1 million grant, Bob Moore has received another $1 million over the last two years. Its biggest local contributor is the El Paso Community Foundation with $120,000, according to Moore. However, interestingly, Moore adds that “the Hunt Family Foundation has also committed $100,000 over five years,”  making them the largest local supporter at half-a-million dollars.
How much of the $120,000 from the community foundation is derived from Hunt donations is unknown but Hunt is one of the largest supporters of the foundation making his contribution to El Paso Matters a significant part of Moore’s funding.
As Debbie Nathan has detailed about her experiences at the Newspaper Tree, Woody Hunt will intervene to kill a story that does not fit his public policy agenda. To do so, he uses the El Paso Community Foundation. Readers should ask themselves; how much editorial autonomy does Bob Moore retain when Woody Hunt is a significant source of his funding?
The Journalistic Ethics of Bob Moore
In 2013, Bob Moore was challenged by other journalists for injecting himself into a public policy issue involving one the school districts. Moore was challenged for unethically arguing about an executive meeting, instead of remaining as an observer instead of becoming part of the controversy.
What the other journalists were saying is that as a journalist, Bob Moore should not become part of the story, which he did by arguing about the meeting with the school officials. The controversy was that as a journalist, Bob Moore was advising the school board to keep the executive session more private by keeping other individuals out. Moore was arguing the opposite of what a journalist would want – an open meeting.
In response to our sister’s publication reporting on the social media exchange, Bob Moore sent the author an email demanding that we correct the record. Moore complained that we had not included all the posts in the social media thread. According to Moore we left out some other journalists that were supportive of Moore’s actions that day. We explained to Moore that we published only the individuals that we identified as journalists because their names were recognizable to us. Since some of the commentors were not known to us as journalists by their names alone, we asked Bob Moore to clarify his position by giving us comments to add to the article. Bob Moore responded that “I am not interested in commenting” on our publication. 
Bob Moore provided other comments that he wanted us to include in the publication but refused to allow us to name him as the source of the comments. As a result, we did not include them.
On November 4, 2015, we broke the story of why Steve Norwood, the first county administrator, was terminated by the county. KFOX TV and KVIA credited our reporting when they reported the news of the termination. The El Paso Times waited until November 19, 2015 to report it, citing the same open records requests we had published in our reporting. We asked Bob Moore, the editor at the time, to explain why we were not credited in their news reporting especially because their report was substantially based on the information we had gathered in our open records requests. 
In response, Moore sent us what he purported to be a copy of an open records request email sent by his publication on October 30, 2015.  We had submitted our open records request on October 9. Although Bob Moore did not offer any comments, the fact remained that we had broken the news about the firing and while other news outlets credited us, Bob Moore did not.
On April 14, 2016, long-time radio personality Abel Rodriguez posted an online comment on our sister publication saying that Bob Moore had kicked him off his Facebook page after Rodriguez asked Moore to explain why the El Paso Times was not “as aggressive” in reporting on Joyce Wilson as the newspaper had been on reporting on the issues faced by former city representative Larry Romero.
In our last article, we shared how we asked Bob Moore to explain why El Paso Matters had published two recent reports about Claudia Ordaz Perez the day after we broke the story without crediting us for breaking it. Bob Moore did not respond to our request for comment, although Bob Moore had offered us an on-the-record comment on November 2, 2020 regarding how his publication chose to profile Carlos Gallinar during the 2020 elections. As we pointed out in that article, Gallinar had donated funds to El Paso Matters while he was seeking office, and Bob Moore profiled him on his publication.
The evidence suggests that Bob Moore chooses when to respond to our requests.
As we have outlined, Bob Moore has journalistic ethical problems. From injecting himself into the news, instead of reporting on it, to demanding a correction in our article without willing to be on the record, to selectively choosing when to respond to our requests for comments, especially when we challenge his journalistic ethics, Bob Moore has a record for journalistic dishonesty.
In addition to the dishonesty is his working relationship with the El Paso Community Foundation and the requirements to control the narrative that Woody Hunt demands, suggests that Bob Moore has been put in the position to control the political narrative for El Paso’s elections in 2022.
However, it is not just the El Paso Matters that readers should be concerned about. Other news media outlets in El Paso are now working closely with the El Paso Community Foundation and the charity largely paid for by Woody Hunt.
The Puente News Collaborative
On August 25, 2021, the El Paso Community Foundation announced that it had formed the Puente News Collaborative with the help of Microsoft. The members of the collaborative includes UTEP’s Borderzine, El Paso Inc., The El Paso Times, KTEP radio station, KINT TV and La Verdad Noticias, a Juárez online publication. El Paso Matters is also a member of the collaborative. The member news organizations plan to collaborate on gathering and reporting the news from both sides of the US-México border according to their announcements.
Bob Moore told the El Paso Inc. that he doesn’t “have a dollar figure, but it’s safe to say that the partnership helps assure continuation of funding that they’ve given to the Puente News Collaborative.”  Moore was referring to the $1 million dollar grant he received late last year.
Charitable donations are funding both the collaborative and El Paso Matters. The charitable donations flow through the El Paso Community Foundation which has significant support from Woody Hunt. El Paso voters, and members of the larger regional community, should be concerned about the collaborative nature of the arrangement in that the El Paso Community Foundation controls the funding and has shown itself to have editorial control over the news coverage of its members.
Instead of acting independently to report the news, the members of the collaborative are now collaborating on news reporting. They are being paid to do so through charitable donations.
To better understand this dynamic, readers should simply look to see which of the member organizations above have reported on the numerous malpractice lawsuits involving the El Paso Children’s Hospital over the last year. The children’s hospital is a non-profit.
Because of the El Paso Community Foundation and its access to Woody Hunt’s funds, the El Paso Matters and the news collaborative are now reliant on Hunt’s goodwill to meet some or all of their expenses.
In an upcoming article we will blueprint to the readers how a non-profit can influence an election without violating IRS rules.
Disclosure note: On November 3, 2009, the author signed a non-disclosure agreement with Keith Mahar, E.P. Media Group and Cincinnati Project, Inc., the owners of Newspaper Tree to begin discussing the possible purchase of the Newspaper Tree content and domain name. Keith Mahar ended communications without explanation and sold the Newspaper Tree to the El Paso Community Foundation a few weeks later.
- Anna Whitney, “El Paso News Site Restarts as Nonprofit,” The Texas Tribune, March 21, 2012.
- David Crowder, “Newspaper Tree publisher, editor fired,” El Paso, Inc. June 3, 2012.
- Rick Cohen, “Firings of Editor, Publisher Point to the Turbulence in Nonprofit Journalism,” Nonprofit Quarterly, June 6, 2012.
- Adriana Chavez, “Newspaper Tree announces its new staff,” El Paso Times, March 21, 2012.
- Hunt Family Foundation Annual Report for 2010.
- Bob Moore, editor of the El Paso Times, email to Martin Paredes, August 17, 2013.
- Bob Moore, editor of the El Paso Times, email to Martin Paredes, November 20, 2015.
- Sara Sanchez, “El Paso News nonprofit lands $1 million grant to grow,” El Paso, Inc. August 8, 2021.
Categories: El Paso