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This is What Passes for Journalism at New York's Gatehouse Media-owned AGN

AmarilloExposedApr 15, 2018, 8:17:11 PM

After the April 3rd Amarillo City Council meeting at which a resident was arrested for refusing Mayor Ginger Nelson's order to stand, the City Council went on a media blitz to defend their tyrannical actions.  City Councilmember Eddie Sauer appeared on Sinclair owned KVII that very evening.  Mayor Nelson went on TV and radio to defend her actions.

The Amarillo Globe News obligingly featured a series of editorials in support of the Council's actions.  The Amarillo Pioneer called out the AGN for one of those editorials.

Then, on April 10th, long-time AGN columnist Jon Mark Beilue wrote a column on the subject.  In typical AGN fashion when it comes to any issue dealing with the political elite (the entire current slate of Mayor and Council members were supported by the mysterious and well-funded Amarillo Matters PAC), the column was filled with biased, untruthful, and unsupported claims 

Let's begin with the headline:  "Let’s dispel a couple of notions: (1) that First Amendment rights were violated at last week’s city council meeting, and (2) Amarillo criminalizes the homeless."

From this headline, one would expect quotes from the lawyer who announced at the meeting that he was suing the City Council members for violating the First Amendment and/or the attorney representing the resident that was arrested.  One would be wrong.  One might expect JMB to speak to a homeless expert about the no-camping ban.  One would be wrong.

Here's the second paragraph, "In the ongoing look-at-me advocacy for the homeless -- or more specific, advocacy for the homeless who don’t want to follow rules of shelters and want to pitch a tent on vacant lots within the city -- Kip Billups was arrested at the April 3 city council meeting. I don’t think he’s stopped patting himself on the back since."

WOW!  This paragraph is dripping with disdain for Kip Billups.  What evidence does JMB present readers to prove the Billups in only interested in himself or that Billups is patting himself on the back?  NONE!  That's right, these libelous statements are made without support of any evidence and passed right through the editorial process of the AGN.

Third paragraph:  "The headline: MAN ARRESTED FOR CLAPPING AT CITY HALL. Oh, the horrors. What do we have here, Kim Jong-un in North Korea? But then dig just a bit and add some perspective."

Now Mr. JMB is implying that being arrested under orders from the Mayor for refusing to stand is something to be scoffed at.  Yes, JMB, that IS what could happen in a country like North Korea, now that you bring it up.

Fourth and fifth paragraphs, "Agree or not, Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson asked the audience to refrain from applause during public comments that now open council meetings. Her reason is that public reaction -- in this case, clapping -- can intimidate other speakers who may speak opposite of what another speaker just said.

“I really believe in that passionately,” she said. “It’s really hard to speak if everyone in the room disagrees with them. I want to have an atmosphere of respect that’s free of intimidation.”"

JMB begins by stating, "agree or not", then only quotes a person on one side of the issue.  So much for unbiased and telling all sides to a story.  If there was any doubt, JMB has now made it clear that the entire purpose to his column is to tell one side of the story.

Paragraph eight, "Now this landed in his lap on a silver tray. Nelson asked Billups if he were clapping. He didn’t answer. She said that by his silence, she assumed he chose to disobey what the chairperson of the meeting asked the audience to do."

The video of the meeting puts the lie to JMB's statement.  Either JMB is intentionally lying, or he was so intent on slanting his article, that he didn't even bother to check the video.  Either way, JMB is so biased, he can't even rely on his own memory of the incident.  Mayor Nelson DID NOT ask if Billups were clapping.  She asked him to stand.  When he did not (he is off-camera so, unfortunately, one has to take the word of the Mayor), he was removed and arrested.  That's right, the person JMB libeled as self-promoting was arrested for refusing to stand when so ordered by the Mayor.  North Korea much?

Paragraph nine, "She then asked a police officer to escort Billups from the meeting as camera phones from supporters eagerly recorded the moment. Something occurred in the hallway that got him arrested by Amarillo police. Only thing missing was singing “We Shall Overcome.”

Now JMB is showing complete disdain for all supporters of the homeless and those standing up for civil rights and the rights of citizens under the Texas Open Meetings Act.  And for that, JMB mocks them because he has already decided he considers only the Mayor's position to be valid.

For the next three paragraphs, JMB goes on some rant about the First Amendment as if he is some sort of expert.  He cites no authorities on the subject but does provide some examples that are totally irrelevant.  JMB's argument proves his ignorance when it comes to the subject.  But that is all readers are left with, his ignorance on the topic.  He provides no expert opinion, not even an opinion from  the attorney representing Billups, the attorney suing the City or the resident who has filed the Federal lawsuit on behalf of the homeless.

But JMB is not through sharing his complete ignorance and incompetence with his readers.  He now proceeds to share his ignorance on homelessness.

Paragraph 13, "There’s this myth percolating as well that Amarillo criminalizes the homeless. That a city that has more agencies and more donor dollars per capita to help the homeless than virtually any in the country, turns its back on Billups and his Christ Church Camp of New Beginnings, better known as Tent City."

Why are these two sentences in the same paragraph.  Even if the second paragraph is true, it has nothing to do with the first.  But the first isn't remotely factual.  The City passed a no-camping ordinance directed at the homeless.  That is the very definition of criminalizing homelessness.  Not satisfied with criminalizing the homeless, the City has made numerous attempts to criminalize those that offer services to the homeless. such as those that feed at Ellwood Park, the lawsuit against the citizen who hosted the tent camp, the banning (which was sheepishly rescinded) of the homeless supporters who tried to record public meetings, and now the banning of clapping.

Second sentence:  1.  This sentence is incoherent.  It's difficult to intuit what point JMB is trying to make by connecting two different things on either side of a comma.  2.  JMB offers no proof that Amarillo has more agencies and more donor dollars per capita than any in the country?  WOW!  That's  a huge claim JMB.  How about some facts to back it up?  No, readers are just supposed to take JMB's word for it.  3.  JMB offers a statement regarding how much the CITY offers to help the homeless.  In fact, a committee established by the City to offer recommendations recommended a low-barrier shelter for the homeless.  The City has never acted on that recommendation.  JMB does not address this issue.

The rest of the column is mostly filled with more slanted statements from truly self-interested parties and unsupported claims by JMB.  The most outlandish comes in paragraph 16, "Let’s clear up one thing: those at Tent City aren’t some Dust Bowl Woody Guthries riding the rails and longing to be free. They are primarily two kinds -- the mentally ill who need some available help, and those addicted to drugs and alcohol and don’t care to follow the rules of the homeless shelters. Tent City wasn’t help -- it was enabling."

Not only are we to believe JMB is an expert on the First Amendment, that he is the sole arbiter of the motives behind those who are standing up for the homeless, that his slanted memory outweighs the actual video of the incident, that he is a TOMA expert, but now he is an expert on homelessness.  If only we were all as smart as JMB.

He states as fact that homelessness is caused by mental illness or addiction.  He doesn't need facts, he just knows it's so.  What about the economy?  Abuse?  Low pay rates? Medical issues?  Traumas?  High rates of eviction?  Nope.  JMB says none of those play a factor.  Now he's an expert on diagnosing the condition of the homeless.  What about the recent report on the high rate of evictions across the country?  No need to read it, JMB has given us the answer.

So, given this totally biased, untruthful and wholly unsupported column, one is left to ask why JMB is so biased?  Is he smitten with Mayor Nelson?  Did she wink at him?  Is it just her aura?

Maybe JMB feels he needs to cater to the powers that be so that his own mental illness does not lead HIM to homelessness.

Or maybe there is something more sinister behind his column, and the editorials by the AGN, and the AGN's historic slanted support in favor of downtown development and their animus towards anyone, be they homeless supporters or politicians, that stand up to the politicians/individuals behind downtown development.  

The author of this post was responsible for making the connection that brought Heywood Sanders to town.  He was the only independent expert to weigh in on downtown development.  Mr. Sanders was pilloried and derided by politicians who supported downtown development.  His expertise on the topic was dismissed before he even made his presentation.

Rumors have been floating that Les Simpson, former publisher of the Globe News, is possibly an investor in downtown development and that he brought in investors from Geargia, the home of Morris Communications, the former owners of the AGN before it was purchased by Gatehouse Media.  Rumors have also floated that Mayor Nelson and her husband are possible investors, rumors which Mayor Nelson refuses to address when directly questioned.

Council member Eddie Sauer has admitted to conflicts of interest in regard to downtown development.  Council member Eddie Sauer, without explanation, also recused himself from the vote on recent changes to a City ordinance.  Mr. Sauer was the first out of the gate to defend the arrest of Billups.

But the most damning evidence comes from JMB, himself.  He wrote a column praising his outgoing boss, Publisher Les Simpson.  In that column, JMB ticks off a list of Simpson's conflicts of interest/unethical behavior.  Obviously, Simpson and JMB are unabashed about their conflicts, so much so that they readily and openly brag about them.

Here's the thing.  Morris Communications was a privately held company answerable only to themselves.  Gatehouse Media, is owned by New Media Investment Group, a publicly traded company.  This means that they are answerable to shareholders and potentially come under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission.  

As such, questions have been posed to both Gatehouse and the SEC about possible unethical and/or corrupt activities by the AGN and whether or not Gatehouse did proper due diligence prior to purchase of the AGN.  Given that JMB and Simpson have so publicly bragged about their unethical behavior (and the unconfirmed rumor that a Morris Communications Executive went to work for Gatehouse prior to the sale) it would be difficult for Gatehouse to claim ignorance to it's shareholders if any corruption were ever exposed and the company experienced a loss as a result.

(This post will be updated should either the SEC or Gatehouse respond to questions from Amarillo Exposed.)

JMB ends his column with this beauty:  "A violation of First Amendment rights and the needs of the homeless? Not hardly."  

1.  JMB provided absolutely no evidence that would draw anyone except JMB to come to those conclusions.  To the contrary.  2.  NOT HARDLY?  How many years of experience to you have JMB?  Taken literally, your use of a double negative means that you agree that the City HAS violated both the First Amendment and the rights of the homeless.

AGN:  New owners, new publisher, new executive editor, same AGN.

Update #1  I'm sure it's just coincidence that Les Simpson chose the April 10th to resurface after a long absence at a City Council meeting.  Not hardly.  (Reader can decide whether I mean that literally.)

Update #2  I'm not the only one that disagrees with  JMB's masterful conclusions.  TINDERHOLT PENS LETTER TO AMARILLO MAYOR OVER ABUSE OF POWER

Update #3  Dave Henry of the AGN felt the need to lecture someone on journalism?  LMAO.  Check out the above, Dave.  Meanwhile, this is the editorial from the 19 year old Eagle Scout (and I don't mean that in a demeaning way, only as a comparison to the vaunted editorial staff at the AGN) that drew Dave's ire.  This fight goes to the Eagle Scout in a first round knockout.  Do tell, Dave.  Who is on your editorial board so we know who to blame?

Update #4  I have been informed that JMB didn't even attend the City Council meeting that he wrote about.  That begs the question, Where did he git his information about the details of the incident?  If he got it from the video, then he intentionally misstated the events in the video.  If he got his information from another source,  who was that source and why didn't he verify with the video?  Lots of questions for JMB.