As a frequent writer about the political scene in El Paso I have observed two issues that, in my opinion, are serious ethical lapses in journalistic integrity in El Paso’s news media. The news media is supposed to be the vehicle that informs the voter about the community’s public policy agenda so that the voter can make an informed decision on Election Day. The product produced by news sources is supposed to be an unbiased and an accurate factual report. To be correct, the article must include the source of the information. The two primary issues that El Paso Politics encounters is the selective reporting of what El Paso voters should know about and the decision to choose to not credit a rival publication simply because it reports on the issues that the powers-that-be have decided that El Paso voters should not know about.
Over the last few months, we have been told by several readers, with first-hand knowledge, that multiple El Paso news outlets have told them that if “El Paso Politics breaks the news we will not report it.” I put it in quotes because the language used by several independent sources is almost verbatim.
What we are being told is that if we break news other El Paso news outlets will make the decision to not report it to the voters. Rather than list the multiple examples I can offer you, readers just need to go through breaking news archives and look to see if any other news outlets have reported on the topic. To be clear, these are important news reports, like the fact that one candidate (Art Fierro) filed a lawsuit to keep an opponent off the ballot (Claudia Ordaz-Perez).
For voters it doesn’t matter who they support, either Fierro or Ordaz-Perez, but the fact that a legal process could make the decision as to who will be on the ballot that voters will choose from is important for voters to know. Our reporting about the lawsuit was unbiased and factually correct.
Now look to see what other news media reported the lawsuit.
The El Paso Inc. ran a report in this weekend’s edition and Bob Moore’s El Paso Matters the day after we broke the story.
Which brings us to the next issue about the local news media scene – the lack of ethics.
Our breaking news report was on Thursday, January 6, 2022. Bob Moore’s El Paso Matters reported the lawsuit the following day. Molly Smith reported the lawsuit using the same source documents we did, the court filings found on the Eighth Court of Appeals’ website. Although Smith added quotes from the attorney representing Dora Oaxaca in the court proceedings, her report of the facts is essentially the same as ours.
In her report, Smith linked to another report from her publication reporting the change of address filed by Claudia Ordaz Perez that triggered the lawsuit. Like the current report about the lawsuit, the El Paso Matters report about the change of address was published on October 21, 2021, one day after we broke the news about it.
In both El Paso Matters pieces, the essential facts were reported by us first. In neither report were we given any credit by El Paso Matters for our work.
Should Reporters Credit For Other People’s Work?
Do I deserve credit from other reporters for my work? To answer that question, I consulted Google. What I found is that not only should I be credited for my work, but journalistic ethics requires it.
In an editorial in The Nevada Independent, Elizabeth Thompson addresses this very question. Succinctly she starts out by writing “we have a problem in Nevada journalism: news team not crediting other news teams for their work.” She adds that as “a person who cares about integrity and ethics,” she finds that lack of crediting others for their work “appalling”. 
Thompson adds, “Numerous news teams are seeing their work stolen — or, if you prefer, paraphrased without credit — by competitors. It is wrong, it needs to stop.” 
In 2014, a reporter with The New York Times ran a story about hazardous materials using a database created by Curtis Tate. Tate was not credited in the news report. The New York Times reporter told his editor that they “didn’t realize that what he paraphrased was based on another news organizations’ exclusive reporting.” The Times updated their story and credited Tate. 
Although the Times reporter told his editors he wasn’t aware that he had used another publication’s data for his report, the editors at The New York Times updated the story to provide appropriate credit to the rival publication.
Bob Moore, the founder and editor of El Paso Matters is aware of the two examples I write about here because I emailed him and the reporter about them.
The New York Times quoted Philip B. Corbett, the managing editor for standards, as saying that “there’s no clear or simple rule on when and how to credit” information that is reported by another news outlet, but if the information is “is not widely known” they “normally attribute it or link the source.” 
I suggest that the December 30, 2021 court filing by Art Fierro was not “widely known” on January 6, 2022 when we broke the story about it. The New York Times goes on to state that in “cases where we have done our own reporting…we still want to credit another news organization if they have…unearthed a big story.” 
What Does Journalistic Integrity Require?
The Pulitzer Center maintains a website page about ethics and standards in journalism. In its section about coverage, the Pulitzer Center states that journalists should “never pass off another person’s work as their own.” It adds that journalists must “give credit” when “using material from other sources.” The Pulitzer standards says that journalists “should be forthright in explaining where information came from,” and that journalists “should give credit if it originated with another source.”
The Inasmuch Foundation, an Oklahoma-based organization that “champions journalism” and other endeavors, has published an ethics online page labeled, “Plagiarism and attribution” for journalists. It says that journalists should “never plagiarize” and “always attribute”. The web page delves into whether it is plagiarism, “considered one of the primary sins” of journalism, to not give “appropriate credit to the originator of a piece.” The site goes on to add that journalists should “consider the Golden rule-Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – when assessing whether to credit another news outlet’s work.”
UNLV journalism professor and former managing editor of the Review-Journal Mary Hausch told the Nevada Independent that “news organizations should always credit other news organizations” when they use information from other outlets. Hausch added that “sophisticated news consumers know when/where they previously heard/read information, so you’ll get caught if you pretend you have original information when you don’t.” 
Crediting the source of the information is “what reputable journalists do, and it enhances their credibility,” Hausch added. 
What Does Bob Moore Have To Say?
I wish I could tell you what Bob Moore has to say about how his publication came to know about the Art Fierro lawsuit, but I can’t. Four days ago I sent an email to the reporter, Molly Smith and her editor and founder of El Paso Matters, Bob Moore, asking for clarification. I pointed them to my two articles that they reported on the following day. I asked them three questions:
- Were you aware of one or both articles that I referenced above that is the topic of both of your articles that were published in the El Paso Matters?
- Without revealing confidential sources, what is the source of the facts in both articles, i.e. the reason for the articles? Was it a lead from a source that said take a look at this? Or was it a lead from your editor or someone else?
- If you were aware of my articles when you wrote your pieces, do you believe that journalist ethics suggests that you should credit the other publication that broke the news on the two topics?
I also asked them to let me know if they disagreed that crediting my work was necessary.
I used the published email address for Smith and I used a personal email I have previously used to converse with Bob Moore to ensure my email did not get lost. I also asked both to respond by noon on Sunday, January 9, 2022 so that I can ensure that I included their responses.
I have no reason to believe that neither Moore nor Smith did not receive my email. But because I have not received a response from them, I assume they have elected to ignore my request. I should note that Bob Moore has previously responded to my requests for comment. By not responding, in my opinion, it says a lot about their lack journalistic integrity. Should they choose to respond at a later date I will update this report.
As If Plagiarism Is Not Enough
In completing this article I came across something that is worse than stealing my work. El Paso Matters changes the narrative by altering the title of an article after the fact.
It may not seem like a significant issue but look closely at the two screen captures I took of El Paso Matters on their report about the Art Fierro lawsuit. The first title states the fact that a lawsuit was filed. For most readers the title of an article sets the flavor of the content. The first title was on for at least one day, according to the time stamps on the updates the publication noted on their article.
The title of the article was changed to reframe the flavor of the article. Why, only Bob Moore knows, but to change the title of a published article that fundamentally changes the flavor of the content cannot be acceptable in a news publication.
In addition, the El Paso Matters unwillingness to credit my work, the El Paso Inc. also neglected to credit my breaking news in their article about the Fierro lawsuit.
Readers should also note that the lack of attribution on this important news story is not the only problem with journalism in El Paso. Voters should know if one candidate is trying to force another candidate off the ballot. As such, voters should ask themselves which other El Paso news outlets have reported the facts about the lawsuit? Is this another example of if “El Paso Politics breaks the news we will not report it”?
In the era of “fake news” it imperative that voters understand not only the facts but who is controlling the facts they are allowed to see. We will explain this in our next issue and why Bob Moore and his connection to the El Paso Community Foundation is an important matter for El Paso voters to understand. Deep-pocketed money controlling the public policy agenda that forces taxpayers to foot the bill relies on how they control the city’s narrative by what information the voters are allowed to know.
We will explain how Bob Moore will use $1 million dollars in charitable contributions to erase the Duranguito neighborhood to make way for an arena that El Paso voters do not want. Stay tuned.
- Elizabeth Thompson, “The ethics of crediting,” The Nevada Independent, Editorial, March 26, 2017.
- Margaret Sullivan, “Giving Credit: A Work Progress at The Times,” The New York Times, January 31, 2014.