Fixing the news

Convicted child killer Raul Meza is fired for the second time in as many months.

It’s been 28 years since eight-year-old Kendra Page was raped and murdered in Southeast Austin. The man convicted of the crime, Raul Meza, is currently attempting the transition back into society.

It’s what Page’s big sister, Tracy, has been dreading, “I just don’t know how we can forget. He did a bad thing to my sister.”

Meza served his time in prison. He will spend the next six years here at the Travis County Correctional Complex under mandatory supervision. It allows him to find work in the community.  He must have two guards with him at all times and wear a GPS monitor.

His two most recent attempts to work have failed. In April, Posados Cafe in Pflugerville fired Meza within hours of his first shift after KVUE phoned the business to verify employment. On Friday, the Lost Pines Car Wash in Bastrop fired him. A state prison official said it was because of inquiries from the media.

Can you spot the error here? It’s way down in paragraph five, but it’s glaring. Where it says, “His two most recent attempts to work have failed,” it should read, “His two most recent attempts to work have been sabotaged by KVUE.” The headline – Convicted Child Killer Hunting For Work – should read Television Station Congratulates Self For Getting Man Fired Again. (You’ll have to click through the link to get the video – among KVUE’s less egregious failures here is a broken embed code.)

At some point, they stopped reporting this story over at KVUE, and started being the story. It’s not uncommon for that to happen, but it’s just tacky to be so friggin’ smug about it.

The story here isn’t that this guy can’t keep a job. “Officials at Lost Pines car wash did say Meza was a good worker and he seemed to do a good job while he was working there,” the article reports. The story is that someone at KVUE – probably, but not definitely, Noelle Newton, the reporter on the story- has decided that the job of a journalist is to keep tabs on what menial job he’s managed to find, and then call that place up and say, “This is KVUE news, working on a story – can you confirm that you’ve got a CONVICTED CHILD MURDERER working for you?”

(Note: It’s not like the car wash – or the restaurant he’d worked at previously – were unaware of his background. Guards accompanied him to his shifts. They just don’t want to be on the news as the place to get your car washed BY A CHILD MURDERER.)

It’s crappy, mean-spirited, and short-sighted (note: ensuring that this guy never ever works again is not going to make our society safer), but what’s galling to me, as a journalist who also works in the law office here – is that the TV station has decided that, after making the phone calls that get the guy fired, it’s appropriate to write it up and go on the air with it like they’re just reporting the news. “Thanks for the update,” the anchor says at the end of the report. “Gosh, what a hard time this guy is having getting work… Just wanted to inform the public about it!”

I mean, if whoever’s responsible for these phone calls has a vendetta against this guy – and it’s understandable that there are people who do have a vendetta against a man convicted of killing a child – then it’s one thing to make the phone calls. But it takes a reporter with a severe integrity deficit to then tell the story of how the guy’s been fired repeatedly like it’s objective news reporting.

(Not to mention the other laziness with the facts in the article: “It’s been 28 years since eight-year-old Kendra Page was raped and murdered in Southeast Austin. The man convicted of the crime, Raul Meza, is currently attempting the transition back into society,” reads paragraph two. However, the rape of and the murder of Kendra Page are two crimes. Meza was only convicted of one of them.)

You can’t stop a person with a vigilante streak from trying to get someone they’re mad at fired, I guess. Journalist or no, a person has the right to make a phone call and all of that. (Of course, I presume that the phone call suggests to Meza’s employer that KVUE will be doing a story on the loathsome car wash that dared employee this guy, which is shady.) But the story is just crass gloating after-the-fact. I’m sure after KVUE gets this guy fired from his next few jobs, ensuring that he’s got nowhere to go upon his eventual release, they’ll then report on whatever crime he commits to support himself, and pat themselves on the back for being such good reporters the whole time.

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