Author’s note: I had intended to analyze the 8-Day Financial Disclosure Reports this weekend but because of the incompetence of the City of El Paso I was not able to do so. In light of the recent public corruption scandal tied to campaign contributions “tied to bribes” it would seem that analyzing campaign contributions would be a prudent thing to do. However, the scam of the four-day city employee work week and the incompetence of the city’s information technology staff I was not able to have access to the campaign reports. Instead, today I am going to focus on another incompetent group in El Paso, the news media.
As some of you are aware, Miguel Juárez broke the story that artist Margarita Cabrera had contracted an attorney and filed a claim with the city demanding half a million dollars for “damages.” Juárez reported the filing on Newsies – April 26, 2015, the same date Cabrera’s letter to the city was dated.
Why is this issue important to the voters and the community at large?
The first and obvious reason is that the taxpayers of El Paso have been put on notice that they may be liable for $500,000. That is in addition to the approximate $60,000 the artist has already been paid, according to her demand letter, and the unknown costs the city has incurred in placing and removing the sculpture.
The second issue has to do with the lack of information and the resulting rumors of a city conspiracy on how and why the sculpture was removed. The taxpayers of the city know very little and yet they have been notified that they may have to pay half-a-million dollars.
Both the city and the artist have so far refused to release information, especially the contract between the city and the artist and neither has addressed the controversy in public. City council is scheduled to discuss Cabrera’s claim tomorrow. (May 5, 2015 City Council Agenda executive session item EX2; Claim of Margarita Cabrera, our file 15-1051-217)
Because it is in executive session it is unlikely that the city will issue a public statement about the issue and thus it will remain a discussion item behind closed doors.
This is where the incompetence of the local news media comes into play.
I have shown you how this issue is newsworthy. A threat of litigation has been documented, Miguel Juárez published the letter to city council, it involves taxpayer monies that have already been paid out and the potential that there could be more money; and finally it involves allegations of a conspiracy.
It is a fact that there is very little information in the public realm and that is precisely what the Fourth-Estate’s function is supposed to be; to probe and report on the government. The news media is supposed to keep you informed about the government through investigation and analysis. They should be asking probing questions of the government.
Except for the token report by KVIA’s Pilar Arias on April 30, 2015, the rest of the local news media has completely ignored this issue. Arias’ reported that the city is storing the sculpture “for safekeeping” but will not tell KVIA where. KVIA alluded to the social media commentary about “gun fragments” in the piece.
There is much rumor mongering about the issue because of the dearth of information.
What I have found interesting about this issue, besides that it shows how the city continually hides behind bureaucracy to keep the public in the dark, is the ongoing discussion on social media about whether this is news or not. The lack of news reporting on the issue indicates that the local news incompetently has ignored the problem to the detriment of the taxpayers.
Debbie Nathan, on her Facebook Chucopedia public group has written that the lawyer’s letter is only “one side” of the dispute. I agree but the fact the city has bureaucratically not released a copy of the contract between it and the city and the artist has so far refused to comment or release copies of her documents does not diminish the fact that the threat of legal action (the letter) against the city is not newsworthy.
As a matter of fact, numerous individuals on the Chucopedia group, including Debbie Nathan, have written that they have filed numerous open records requests with the city asking for information about the art piece.
This interest in the controversy is a direct result of Miguel Juárez’ reporting on the letter on Newsies.
Let’s assume, for a moment, that Juárez had not reported on the lawyer’s letter to the city. Would anyone have had any context to the city’s agenda executive session item for tomorrow’s meeting?
Yet, the local news media, except for KVIA, has completely ignored this issue. Worse, there are those that have argued on social media that Miguel Juárez’ report was not newsworthy or that it is one-sided forgetting that the open records requests that many have recently filed is a direct result of Juárez’ report on Newsies.
This is what the Fourth Estate has traditionally being envisioned to be doing and yet most of the local news media just regurgitates press releases issued by government entities. A recent movie about Wikileaks used the term the Fifth Estate, also the title of the movie, to describe journalists who operate outside the normal constraints of the mainstream media.
This is the future of news media; journalists unconstrained by artificial limitations imposed by outdated concepts of how the news should be filtered for public consumption. The future of news media is evolving into dissemination of information unfiltered and unaltered by others leaving the consumers to decide for themselves what is important to them and how much validity to give each report they consume.
I once heard that Democracy can be messy and although some are afraid of unfiltered and undigested news because it can be messy are just afraid of a world where the power rests on the people instead of the government.
There is an Easter Egg buried in the ASCII code in this post’s graphic. I will send the first person to decipher it in the comments section either a $20USD Paypal payment or a $20USD Starbucks gift certificate via USPS. Deadline is May 4, 2015 at midnight EST. You must submit your answer via the comments section below.