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ad for res took over as publisher and edi ly 1990s, some of the paper’s st over the Times’ increasing tendency to publish mind-numbing and sometimes mind-boggling fluff at the expense of hard news. In a city where it rains perhaps four times a year and where the sky is almost invariably cloudless, local weather stories grace the front pages when there is no weather to write about. During the Christmas season, hardly a day went by without a major report of the malls getting more crowded as the big holiday drew near. Last year, the paper printed daily passages from the New Testament courtesy of “El Paso for Jesus,” a fundamentalist group that has lobbied City Hall to pass anti-abortion resolutions and boycotted ecumenical prayer services because they are not sufficiently Jesus-oriented, At least the Bible passages were more interesting than the weather stories: for excitement, you can’t beat headlines like “Demons Invade Babylon.” Another passage reminded El Pasoans that the Jews killed Jesus. In an interview with this reporter, El Paso For Jesus head Barnie Field said that Times Publisher/Editor Flores became particularly interested in the Bible verses “after the Republicans took over Congress” in 1994. Fields said he didn’t want to take full credit for the demise of the El Paso Post, but his El Paso for Jesus prayer intercessors had been praying hard for the prosperity of the Times. “The El Paso Times has been very good to us,” Field said, “especially Don Flores.” Meanwhile, what if El Pasoans were interested in major news stories -such as the disappearance of local American citizens just across the river in Mexico? Or the fact that drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, one of the richest capitalists in the world, lived blocks away until he died recently in Mexico City. The only way to catch timely, in-depth stories, has been to buy The New York Times, El Diario de Judrez. The El Paso Times also committed an ethical blooper that re more than one newspaper. The Post could be TUON OUT AT \(Psi’ ONE STORY A goofy: it once DAY, WITH LONG-TERM INVESTIGATIVE gave front-page OR IN-DEPTH ASSIGNMENTS ALMOST coverage to North NON-EXISTENT. Carolina psychics blabbering about a Southern girl who’d disappeared 1,200 miles away, in San Francisco, but who the tarot cards said was in “a colonia” near El Paso Post always seemed scrappier, more interesting, and notably more out for the underdog. For instance, the Times if it does any labor coverage at all usually relegates labor news to the very last page. The Post often put local union stories up front. The Post folded this past October, and now the Times is worse than ever. Since becoming the only game in town, the paper has dropped at least: hree local and regional columnists: progressive San Antonio writer Carlos Guerra, Western historian Marc Simmons, and family-page contributor Becky Powers. All run their own small syndicates and peddle columns to other papers. All were dumped because they refused to sell their work outright to the Times, which would have ruined their syndicates and their livelihoods. Don Flores says Gannett wants its papers to secure exclusive rights to material for use in electronic databases. He says the writers could have stayed on by producing new, original material for the Times’ sole use. He would not say what they would earn for all this work. However, the paper pays some local freelancers $25 per column; some get nothing. Meanwhile, news coverage is suffering, as demoralized reporters run themselves ragged trying to turn out at least one story a day, See “No News,” page 22 -tS 1I TO 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 30, 1998