District 2 Representative Susie Byrd wrote a letter to the paper that appeared in today's edition of the EP Times (http://www.elpasotimes.com/opinion/ci_7030329).
Byrd indicates that she was "surprised, dismayed, angry " to see that the EP Times only gave the Faces Against ASARCO event an inch of newsprint. I must say I can understand her feelings, but I think their lack of coverage actually was the better option - here's why.
Even in Susie's letter to the editor they can't get the number of attendees straight. She first says approximately 1,000 and then writes 1,500. This has been their problem from the beginning - everybody has a different count. The reality is that it was less than 500. That's also the problem.
The EP Times is not at all shy about their stance on ASARCO. They're against it. If they were to have written the truth about the event it would have done a lot of damage to the image of the anti-ASARCO crowd. The paper operates in an ethical manner in order to keep the trust of its readers therefore sometimes they simply don't cover something rather than make up facts in order to make their side look good.
If they had covered the event with a front page story they would have had to report several things that would have put a black eye on the event.
1. They would have had to taken an accurate count. You can't just have some guy in crowd say he thinks 5,000 people were there and print it. You'll see David Crowder counting crowds when he's at events - it's something they must do. If they had counted they would have found that the crowd was 500 or less. Reporting that would have made the effort look bad. The last thing the paper wants to do is make the anti-ASARCO efforts look weak especially since they have a vested interest in the anti-ASARCO effort.
2. The paper would have had to describe the manner in which the attendees were standing when the picture was taken. Explaining that the crowd was instructed to stand 10 feet away from each other in order to make the crowd seem 10 times as large would have made it sound like the anti-ASARCO folks were using trickery, which they were. The paper does not want to be responsible for the public thinking that the organizers are a bunch of tricksters manipulating photos to try and prove their point.
3. Rarely does a newspaper run a photo given to them by an outside source unless it's an extraordinary picture of say a sasquatch. If the paper would have run the photo that the anti-ASARCO provided they would have been blasted for running a photo that was intentionally taken at an angle to make the crowd look larger than it was. Again, the readers trust the paper to print accurate stories and photos. The paper already had to eat crow for doctoring a picture that appeared on their sports page. Can you imagine the fall out from a scandal involving an ASARCO picture?
The only picture they could have put in the paper would have been one that wouldn't have been that flattering. If they had let the EP Times reporter up on the lift to take a picture he or she would not have been able to crop the picture in any manner in order to make the crowd look bigger. It would have further shown that the turn out was not as expected. Like I said, the paper doesn't want the anti-ASARCO movement look bad. (uncropped photos here http://www.absurdityinthepass2.supersized.org/)
4. Any reporter worth his pencil would have had to report the disproportionate amount of "light eyes" at the rally. Anytime you go somewhere in public in a town that is 77% Hispanic and there are much more Anglos than Hispanics it's note worthy.
They would have also had to point out that the crowd was a veritable "who's who" of the rich and liberal crowd here in El Paso. The image I painted of the crowd this week on my radio show and on this blog would have had to come out if any journalist wanted to tell the story accurately. The EP Times along with every other news outlet doesn't want that story told because they want the anti-ASARCO group to appear all encompassing when it is clearly not.
5. Let's not forget that ASARCO had their own little rally as well and any article would have had to include them. The less you have to cover the compelling "other side," the better. I've seen the pro-ASARCO crowd speak their mind and it's a good story. These people just want good jobs to provide for their families and I think many El Pasoans are right there with them and empathize with them. Remember, the paper is openly anti-ASARCO and the last thing they want to do is open the door to a public outcry over these poor people who just want jobs. A news story on them and the EP times would become it's own worst enemy in the ASARCO fight.
The paper actually did the anti-ASARCO crowd a favor by not printing the facts about the event. In order to have covered the event fully and made the anti-ASARCO crowd look good they would have had to lie their asses off or leave out lots of details - both things known to kill a newspaper.
What Susie Byrd needs to understand is that the paper did them a favor by barely mentioning it. The truth isn't very sexy. As I stated above there were lot of things done at that rally to trick the public into thinking there was something going on that wasn't.
Was it a feel good moment for the people against ASARCO? Yes. I'm glad they did it. I'm glad that they got together, but they had no reason to try and trick the public into thinking it was bigger than it was. The paper protected them by choosing not to cover it.
Look what happened when I watched the KFOX coverage. Their reporting was very telling and I'm sure that any person at KFOX that is anti-ASARCO wished they had canned the story. I used their coverage to spur a debate on the make up of the crowd there vs. the constituency here in El Paso. Norma Chavez took that cue and stood with the people who elected her to represent them. Norma is picking jobs and financial security over the environmentalist who do not provide job opportunities, but in fact take them away.
I hate this issue. I hate how divided we are on this. I hope that my opinion on this issue doesn't hurt my relationships with those elected officials that I see as heros. I like Beto, Steve, Susie and Ann. I want to work with them and for them to carry out a lot of things they want to do for El Paso. This issue and my stance on it may have ruined my chances to work with them and that just plain sucks.
That's politics, though.