Sunday, July 14, 2013

Newspaper in cahoots on private prison deal, concealed it more than a year

This is pretty damned outrageous: Grits earlier mentioned that the city of McAllen put out a request for proposals to construct a 1,000 bed private prison facility they hope to lease to federal clients. As it turns out, though, the local newspaper knew about the deal for more than a year and agreed to cover it up until the RFP was issued. According to the McAllen Monitor ("McAllen mulls 1,000 bed private prison," July2), "Last spring, The Monitor learned about McAllen’s discussions with GEO Group, the private prison company based in Boca Raton, Fla. At the city’s request, The Monitor didn’t report the news to avoid tipping off potential competitors and skunking the deal."

Is that really a newspaper's role, to cover up news to avoid "skunking the deal"? If simply reporting publicly on a deal involving taxpayer dollars would "skunk" it, maybe it's a crappy deal in the first place!

What other news is the Monitor withholding from its readers so private investors can profit from government projects? What criteria does the paper employ in deciding whether their readers deserve such information or need to be kept in the dark?

Seriously, that's f'ed up.

Via the Grassroots Leadership blog.


Diana Claitor said...

So the McAllen Monitor doesn't investigate and report the news, it investigates and hides the news. Maybe somebody needs to start a NEWSPAPER in McAllen.

Anonymous said...

Who's your source on the alleged cover up?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:26, the newspaper itself admitted it when they finally reported the story: "At the city’s request, The Monitor didn’t report the news ..."

Anonymous said...

When they talk about "potential competitos" were they talking about other "private investors" as you surmise, or other municipalities who might compete for the same facility. One paints them as "in bed" with people looking to profit, while the other looks at them as a community partner, looking to help their own community bring a facility here than can bring quite a few jobs to a local economy that could use them. It makes a difference "why," in this case. Besides, if you look at our national news, journalism doesn't exist anymore.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sorry, 10:43, both hypotheticals you raise "paint them as 'in bed' with people looking to profit." The project is a public-private partnership. They chose to hide the deal from the public but also from GEO's competitors, knowingly giving the company a leg up.

It's absurd to call them a "community partner" when the paper clearly doesn't trust the "community." That's borderline Orwellian considering they conspired to conceal important public policy information from the community. That's not a "partnership" in any meaningful sense of the word, just quiet deference to local elites.

Anonymous said...

Grits, the media is oftentimes complicit with government for one reason or another. We have seen a noticeable increase this year where the media doesn't mention when police officers are charged with child sex crimes. At least not in the headline of the story. We see a lot of "County Workers" in the headlines instead of "Sheriff's Deputy". Here's one of the latest which was ran on a site which gets less than 150 hits per month instead of their main site which attracts several thousand readers:

Now I inquired why they did this and was told it was because they rely on their relationship with law enforcement to gather information on crime and that the editor didn't want to damage their relationship so he hid it per the request of law enforcement. Lucky it was reported at all, I guess.

But if you take a look at our page you will see a definite increase just over the past few months of other news sites doing the same with the headlines.

Honestly, though, this type of concealment or otherwise "editor discretion" has plagued us for at least a hundred-years. Read a good book about Hearst. Afterwards, you may agree he was solely responsible for our Drug War, which he helped start by deceiving the public.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Huph: I'm not happy, Bob. Not. Happy. Ask me why.
Bob Parr: Okay. Why?
Mr. Huph: Why what? Be specific, Bob.
Bob Parr: Why are you unhappy?
Mr. Huph: Your customers make me unhappy.
Bob Parr: What, you've gotten complaints?
Mr. Huph: Complaints I can handle. What I can't handle is your customers' inexplicable knowledge of lnsuricare's inner workings! These people are experts! Experts, Bob! Exploiting every loophole, dodging every obstacle! They're penetrating the bureaucracy!
Bob Parr: Did I do something illegal?
Mr. Huph: [reluctantly] No.
Bob Parr: Are you saying we shouldn't help our customers?
Mr. Huph: The law requires that I answer no.

From Pixar's The Incrediblen

‘The Fishing Physicist’

Anonymous said...

Private prisons are great at covering up information. The Geo Group is known for threatening legal action against those who report or say anything bad about their company. I would not be surprised if the Monitor didn't get threatened with legal action.

Robert Langham said...

Every one of our institutions is corrupt or sclerotic or (usually), both. Public schooling is a farce. Police and judges corrupt and aggressive. Public workers inept and hostile. News organizations hopelessly inaccurate and biased. Churches fluffed. Health care systems random and priced like gambling debts. Our constitution and laws are ignored while regulations grow like kudzu.
The vote is a farce. Our representatives don't.

What is an honest citizen to do?

Anonymous said...

Considering the sterling reputation that GEO has, it makes sense that McAllen wouldn't want any other companies to have a shot at building the facility....Yes I am being sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

A lot of these smaller market papers see themselves as "community newspapers" whose role it is to help foster economic growth and become town boosters. City managers and other officials play on this and convince young reporters that they need to play along. I remember once learning that our local grocery store had been popped by the Department of Agriculture for inaccurate produce scales. I was going to write about it until our publisher reminded me of the ad revenue we got from that store. It isn't right; it stinks. I am just pointing one potential rationale.

diana claitor said...

Have also seen reporters from community newspapers write with clarity and honesty about the failings of their local jail and county government despite reported pressure from those entities. Saw that in Gregg County (Longview) not long ago and in Cameron County (Brownsville) and Liberty County (Cleveland) and others as well. So small newspapers do sometimes report that which isn't helpful to business or government. May be rare but it indicates that not all of them should be condemned or disregarded.

Unknown said...

How was the "discussion" with GEO masked for so long that only the Monitor knew about it? Did the City Manager embark on this by his/her self? Was there something from the City Council that did NOT make it into Open Records/Open Meetings purview?