Freedom Communications, the owner of a string of Rio Grande Valley papers, will file for bankruptcy as early as this week, according to a New York Times story today.Freedom Communications, based in Orange County, California, owns the Monitor in McAllen, the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen and the Brownsville Herald. The newspaper chain like many other chains has been limping along financially for some time. As a former reporter for the Monitor, it was depressing to see the cutbacks made over the years at the newspaper. For instance, it made no sense that the paper ran editorials from Orange County, California, that had nothing to do with the communities along the border. The newspaper chose not to hire a local editorial writer in a cost cutting move. We are indeed in the middle of interesting times when it comes to the media. I will be curious to see what comes out on the other side of the bankruptcy. The border needs better and more diverse representation in the media. I believe the Freedom chain hasn’t been providing that for some years. In both coverage and analysis the online newspaper the Rio Grande Guardian has been eating Freedom’s lunch for years. As a journalist, I am trying to take a positive stance when it comes to the future of journalism. Hopefully, in the face of declining newspaper journalism, we’ll have a surge of online journalism where will have more voices coming from the border rather then less. I’m going to leave this post as a “glass half full” post on the declining newspaper industry.
The Juarez daily paper reported today that an investigator from Mexico’s attorney general was gunned down Wednesday. Pablos Pasillas Fong, 33, of Chihuahua City was in Juarez investigating the death of El Diario journalist Armando Rodríguez Carreón who was killed last November as he was walking his 8-year old daughter to school.
According to El Diario de Juarez, Pasillas had not completed his investigation into the murder. This is not the first assasination in Juarez of an investigator from the federal attorney general’s office, according to the article. Now Rodriguez’s case is in limbo.
The Observer has written about the plight of Juarez’s journalists in the past. Mexico has become one of the most deadly places in the world for journalists. A few months ago I had the privilege of speaking with El Diario’s editor Rocio Gallegos, at a journalism conference in El Paso. Gallegos said that since Rodriguez’s death the reporters have had to significantly change the way they work. Gallegos said reporters often go to crime scenes with reporters from other media outlets if the story is related to narco trafficking. They also run many stories without bylines as well. And they do many of their stories by telephone rather than visit the scene of the crime.
What was especially astonishing to me was how determined Gallegos was to keep working and not let her reporter’s death impact the newsroom. Gallegos also has children. I have a young son, and know how hard it is to be a journalist and a mom — I can only imagine what it must be like to be working in a war zone.
The death counts continue to rise at a sad and sickening pace in Juarez. I hope that the city finds peace someday and that Armando Rodriguez and his family find justice.
Bush’s boys in Homeland Security have been busy since their boss left Washington. Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has formed the Chertoff Group to cash in on the billions to be made in defense industry contracts. Who knows better where those juicy contracts are than the man who used to dole them out?
The Center for International Policy has an excellent post that tracks Chertoff and a few other Bush appointees including Tom Ridge who oversaw the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and former Attorney General John “Let the Eagle Soar” Ashcroft. The competition must be getting fierce out there for risk management and security services. Former New York City Mayor Rudolf Guiliani who has been in the security and risk advising business for a while will have to make room for this new raft of Homeland Security heavies.
Chertoff’s consulting group has an odd logo remniscent of a devil’s picthfork or a gate on a medieval drawbridge. Check out the introductory pitch on his Web site (down below). The real kicker is when it says they have responded to unprecedented natural disasters, with not a single life lost…wha!? I seem to remember a devastating Hurricane called…um, Katrina where a lot of people died. And I’m pretty sure he was the Secretary of Homeland Security at the time. In fact here’s a clip where he tells CNN that they just couldn’t imagine something like Katrina happening, so they just didn’t have a plan. Incredible.
I also like the bit about the modern-day pirates. Lots of big companies these days willing to pay top dollar to wipe out some Somali pirates. Here’s his pitch below.
We’ve been there, on the front lines, dealing with the United States’ most critical security challenges: stopping terrorists before they have a chance to act. Responding to unprecedented natural disasters, with not a single life lost. Detecting and interdicting hackers trying to break into the myriad networks that are the lifeblood of both government and the private sector. Even dealing with modern-day pirates and other threats to trade and travel.
Apparently, the Observer story “Holes in the Wall” which made allegations last year that the border wall skipped the land of wealthy land owners, created some tension in Bush’s Homeland Security agency, according to some documents that were released to a government watchdog group.Scott Nicol at the Web site No Border Wall made me aware of an amazingly powerful nonprofit Web site called GovernmentDocs.org that is loaded with thousands of pages of FOIA documents that can be browsed by anyone. The Web site offers a ray of light into the murky world of Homeland Security.Documents released as the result of a FOIA filed by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington show how Homeland Security monitors the media, especially stories criticizing the building of the border wall. Scott sent me a few documents that related to the Observer story then I did some more searching on my own. They also monitor activists apparently. Homeland Security had emails that had been circulated by Brownsville landowner Eloisa Tamez’s daughter Margo.
There is also an email exchange between Jeffrey Self, chief of the Southwest Border Division for the Border Patrol and Randy Hill, Chief Border Patrol agent for the Del Rio sector about Chad Foster, mayor of Eagle Pass. They discuss how to build fence through Eagle Pass before Mayor Foster has a chance to fight it. They also talk about trying to get the State of Texas to pay for it. Brownsville landowner Eloisa Tamez, her daughter Margo and Mayor Foster have all been vocal critics of DHS building the border wall. The story “Holes in the Wall” prompted U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi who is chair of the Committee on Homeland Security to send a letter to Chertoff asking him to explain why the fence was skipping wealthy landowners. It’s interesting to see how they put together their memo to explain it to the Congressman. What Chertoff does is basically say it was a local decision made by the Border Patrol sector but he never offers any data or specifics as to why a country club doesn’t get an 18-foot wall, but a working class family gets one right through their backyard. What’s also notable is how heavily redacted everything is. This has been my experience as well. After waiting a year for FOIA documents from Homeland Security most of what I received was blacked out. I’m really glad that the folks over at No Border Wall showed me this Web site. It’s a powerful tool for Democracy. Being the document and data nerd that I am, I’m looking forward to spend countless hours searching through these documents.
You know you are under a new administration when the Department of Homeland Security creates its own blog and calls it “Our Border: A Southwest Border Civic Network.” Civic and “border” were never used in the same sentence under George W’s reign. DHS’ new blog has a forum. Apparently, if you comment on their “Introduce Yourself” forum, and if they are suitably impressed you’ll receive a phone call from DHS Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs Alan Bersin. Oooh!! So far, they’ve received a whopping four comments. Two of them sound like border-militia types. Why is it that the anti-immigration and English only types can’t spell “immigration.” One guy even wrote “boarder” instead of “border.” Apparently, they are trying to save the English language by strangling it one word at a time.Maybe I should write in so that I might get a chance to speak with Bersin. I might be doing him a favor and then he can pay me back by dismantling the border wall.