For the majority of the past three decades, most recently at the helm of the El Paso Times, newspaperman Bob Moore has shaken things up. And for those who do not believe in government transparency, his bite has proven worse than his roar.
In 2011, Moore led an investigation into a district-wide cheating scheme at El Paso ISD that denied countless kids a proper education. His columns are credited with helping El Paso gain recognition as more than just a border city. Moore’s reporting has earned him and the paper dozens of awards and honors, to say nothing of his mentorship of young journalists.
When Moore was faced with yet another round of substantial cuts to the newspaper’s budget, he made a tough decision: quit to save reporting jobs. Though his upcoming departure may solve the paper’s funding woes for the foreseeable future, his case is just one example of a larger issue impacting local journalism everywhere.
In addition to covering the border community of 800,000 people, the El Paso Times also reports on 1.5 million people in Ciudad Juárez in Mexico and 200,000 people in southern New Mexico. Despite such a large audience, Moore says the Times’ newsroom staff is less than two dozen people. At its peak, he says the newsroom had over 80 people, but after his departure and the departure of one other journalist, laid off this week, that number will go down to 21.
Moore cites a failing business model as the main driver behind funding changes at the local level. He says that at a time when news is increasingly consumed online, print advertisements no longer pay the bills. He says that without local journalism, much-needed coverage of local events like school board meetings or city council meetings will disappear.
“That’s the real threat, [because] in a place like El Paso, where we’ve had a sad history of poor governance and corruption, I think there’s a real worry within the community that we can revert back to that as the local media institutions decline,” Moore said.
Written by Rachel Zein.