El Paso Matters won two national media honors on Wednesday for entrepreneurism and efforts promoting government transparency.
The Institute for Nonprofit News presented El Paso Matters with its Startup of the Year Award during the INNY Awards presentation Wednesday. The award recognizes an organization operating less than three years for establishing strong journalism and the revenue, reader and community support to sustain it.
“This award is a recognition of the hard work put in by our journalism, audience and revenue teams to provide El Pasoans with the information they need to understand what’s happening in our community, and make decisions that can affect the future,” El Paso Matters founder and CEO Robert Moore said.
Moore founded El Paso Matters in 2019 and began publishing in February 2020. It has grown from one employee to 12 since its founding, and more than doubled its digital audience in the past year. El Paso Matters is funded primarily by donations and philanthropy.
Also on Wednesday, the Society of Professional Journalists announced that El Paso Matters was one of four recipients of its Sunshine Award for important contributions to open government.
Other winners were the Insider, for reporting on congressional conflicts of interest; ProPublica, for reporting that exposed gaps in medical device regulation; and Jonathan Guyer of the American Prospect for reporting on the corporate backgrounds of foreign policy leaders.
SPJ, one of the nation’s largest journalism organizations, cited Moore and El Paso attorneys Lynn Coyle and Chris Benoit for a three-year effort to pry loose records of Trump administration border enforcement policies. Moore sued the federal government, represented by Coyle and Benoit, after government agencies ignored Freedom of Information Act requests.
The federal government in 2021 settled the lawsuit by providing the requested documents and agreed to pay more than $50,000 of Moore’s legal fees.
The documents resulted in two stories by Moore. One revealed how the Border Patrol planned a media stunt involving military-style exercises near an El Paso neighborhood on Election Day 2018. The other showed that the Trump administration was untruthful when it said it began turning back asylum seekers at the border because it lacked space to hold them.
“El Paso Matters’ existence is built on holding government accountable for its actions, and fighting hard for transparency,” Moore said. “This recognition for those efforts comes at an important time, when media freedoms in El Paso are facing an unprecedented assault by the county’s top law-enforcement official.”
District Attorney Yvonne Rosales has accused El Paso Matters of being part of a “conspiracy” to oust her from office, and has said a complaint has been filed to strip the nonprofit news organization of its tax-exempt status, an action that if successful would kill the journalism outlet.
Moore has said Rosales is attempting to silence El Paso Matters because of its reporting on her performance since taking office in 2021.
The Sunshine Award will be presented next month at SPJ’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.