As readers may have noted, former El Paso Times editor, Robert Moore launched his El Paso Matters news site on Monday. Moore has been raising money for his venture since about April of 2019 through the El Paso Community Foundation. The business model that Moore is using is based on the idea that rather than use advertising to fund investigative reporting, it is funded via non-profit donations, instead.
This is why it matters.
It comes down to bias. Those who donate money to an organization do so for a reason that goes beyond altruism. Animal lovers donate towards organizations protecting animals from harm. People donate to food pantries because they feel compelled to feed the hungry or their religion compels them to do so. People donate to religion to save their souls or because they hope for mercy or attention from the religion. Some even donate because it makes them feel accomplished. Others donate to bring attention to themselves, their businesses or both.
They donate because it matters to them.
Some will argue that rich people donate to lower their taxes. That is true, however the wealthy deal in investments. They invest in projects. They may want a library wing named after themselves or they may want a plaque in some public place. Mostly, however, non-profit investments from the wealthy are directed towards projects they approve of. It may be about lowering their taxes but ultimately the donation is made after a pitch to them convinces them to invest in whatever was pitched to them.
They invest because it matters to them.
If non-profit donations were truly about altruism, then there wouldn’t be the constant advertising of poor starving dogs chained to posts or poor starving children in some community. True altruism would go to a pot of money to be parceled out for needy things. Instead, non-profits are big businesses advertising for funds just like for-profit businesses all jostling for meager handouts. The difference is that non-profits do not pay taxes on the money they get.
In addition, non-profits bank on the façade that it is about altruism for the fellowman, pet or whatever.
It matters that it makes people feel better.
Individuals interested in news donate to read about things that interest them. It is like buying a magazine, people buy it because they want to read about something, be it gossip or an in-depth analysis about an issue.
People do not donate just to make a newspaper honestly report about their community.
They donate because it matters to them.
Bob Moore raised almost $90,000 according to the information he publicly released on his website. The actual amount is unknown but according to the website, he raised $85,975 from donations made to El Paso Matters that were over $1,000 annually.
What other amounts he has raised that were less than $1,000 is unknown.
But $90,000 is a significant amount. In comparison, I’ve spent less than $500 for the El Paso News.
Why does it matter?
In the case of the El Paso News, my bias is clearly there. But the El Paso News is an open platform. We encourage anyone to write about what matters to them, without restriction.
So, how do you counter the inherent bias in all of us?
The El Paso News allows everyone to participate without a gate keeper limiting what can be posted. When the driving force isn’t meeting payroll, but rather delivering news, then allowing anyone to post becomes easy because we don’t worry about offending advertisers or the money people.
However, when large benefactors can become angry when an investigative piece is about them, then the decision to post an article isn’t about the news but rather about the person it might offend.
This is why it matters.
Of the close to $90,000 publicly disclosed by Bob Moore, almost 70% came from three benefactors. The three, Arnold Ventures ($30,000), El Paso Community Foundation ($20,000) and the El Paso Electric Company ($10,000). (link)
Arnold Ventures is an interesting donor. It is run by a former Enron trader and his wife. In 2001, Enron spectacularly collapsed losing over $74 billion in investor money. Several Enron officials went to jail for corruption. Arnold Ventures has funded controversial programs such as Baltimore’s aerial surveillance that warrantlessly surveilled residents. The foundation recently contracted with Kevin Madden as its head of advocacy. Madden was formerly the press secretary for Tom Delay. In 2005, Delay was charged with money laundering and illegal campaign finance violations. In 2010, DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison. An all-Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the cases against Delay.
But Tom Delay continued to be plagued with corruption-related scandals, including being linked to Jack Abramoff.
Among the projects funded by Arnold Ventures includes the Texas Tribune. Arnold Ventures has contributed $2,956,695 to date to the Texas Tribune. Woody and Gale Hunt have contributed $685,000 and Paul Foster $550,000.
Readers will note that the book, Who Rules El Paso? focused on Foster and Hunt who use money to control El Paso.
I have documented how the Texas Tribune is used to manipulate public perception. The key phrase to remember as you read the rest of this post is: “manipulate public perception”. In a post in 2013, I showed how the Texas Tribune attempted to discredit Stephanie Townsend Ayala who, at the time, was locked in a public battle with the City of El Paso over the ballpark fiasco. (link)
In that post I documented how Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune refused to explain how they came about writing that Ayala was running for office, although she was not. Remember who benefited from discrediting Stephanie Townsend Ayala?
Before I get to the next major source of funds for El Paso Matters, the El Paso Community Foundation, let me jump ahead, for a moment to the El Paso Electric company. El Paso Electric gave Bob Moore $10,000. Other than high electric rates, the El Paso Electric is in the midst of trying to convince the community that its sale to a JPMorgan-tied investment fund will benefit ratepayers, instead of hurting them. Clearly, “manipulating public perception” serves the El Paso Electric company.
This gets us back to the El Paso Community Foundation, a non-profit clearing house for non-profit monies in El Paso. In 2017, Woody Hunt made a $1 million grant to the El Paso Community Foundation. Hunt has been involved in several controversies in El Paso, including being named in the book about who controls El Paso.
When 70% of the funding comes from three sources that have an interest in manipulating public perception then it matters.
It is all speculation some readers may be tempted to believe.
Debbie Nathan, a journalist who worked at the Newspaper Tree admitted on a Facebook post that she was fired by the Newspaper Tree after trying to publish a report about the ballpark boondoggle. Nathan clearly laid out the linkages between the Newspaper Tree, Woody Hunt and the El Paso Community Foundation. (link)
As if that is not enough, in another post in 2013, I demonstrated how the City of El Paso purchased an article, not an advertisement, but an article in The Wall Street Journal to create the illusion that the ballpark was perfect for El Paso (link)
Clearly money is used to buy news media influence.
This is why it matters.
When 70% of the money used to fund El Paso Matters comes from three sources who have a vested interest in manipulating public perception about community issues, and at least one benefactor has been proven to influence the financial viability of a news media outlet then it becomes imperative that the publication be scrutinized.
The Newspaper Tree was shut down, ostensibly because it could not achieve its non-profit status in a timely basis. (link) But the Newspaper Tree was being funded through the El Paso Community Foundation, like the El Paso Matters, while waiting for its non-profit status.
It shut down after Debbie Nathan was fired for asking too many inconvenient questions.
Is Bob Moore aware of this? Is he prepared for that eventuality?
This brings us squarely to Bob Moore aka, Robert Moore.
Bob Moore matters.
I have an extensive archive of examples where I question Bob Moore’s journalistic integrity. The full archive can be accessed using this link.
But rather than have the readers take my word on Moore’s journalist ethics, I will let the reader read how other journalists challenged Moore’s ethics publicly. You can read the full exchange at this link.
Bob Moore has promised his readers that news decisions will not be influenced by those who have donated to his El Paso Matters. The Newspaper Tree also promised the same thing only to fire a journalist who dared to write a factual piece and then promptly shut down afterwards.
I and journalists have challenged Bob Moore on his journalist ethics.
Can Bob Moore be trusted to deliver the unvarnished truth, or will he play along and create illusions to protect those that fund him?
The answer matters to El Paso.