The Chron runs Police Reporter photos of drug busts, police raids, and suspect take-downs, regularly citing the Police Reporter as it would any other reputable news source. Hell, we've done it to.
So imagine our surprise when, earlier this week while trying to ask Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth "Rowdy" Hayden's office some questions, we were instead directed to Jamie Nash, the constable's spokesperson and a reporter with MCPR.
MCPR's Facebook page says the website, and the accompanying weekly print-edition paper (a one-year subscription costs $36), was created in 2008 by Jamie Nash and Scott Engle, "veteran law enforcement reporters who met on a law enforcement story and have covered multiple counties." MCPR calls itself a "pro-law enforcement, pro-Second Amendment publication" that was "created after Jamie left a newspaper that conflicted with her ethics."
That "pro-law enforcement" part might be a bit of an understatement. Hyper-local advocacy journalism would be one thing, but Nash's Linked-in profile says she's been "communications coordinator" for Montgomery County Precinct 4 offices since 2010. Her Twitter page (there hasn't been a post there since March 2013) says she handles "the flow of information for Judge James Metts" -- a Montgomery County justice of the peace -- "and Constable Rowdy Hayden."
Nash didn't return any of our phone calls or emails this week. MCPR's other reporter, Scott Engle, called us back yesterday and said that while Nash works for local law enforcement, that hasn't yet been a problem. Engle also didn't really think it was a conflict of interest. "I don't know about us being closely tied to law enforcement," he said. He continued: "But I mean, I've been doing this since 1976 and know just about every cop by name in Harris County and Montgomery County. ... Jamie doesn't write any of our stuff while she's there, she can't do it on their time."
Engle says he gets press releases from the constable's office -- some of which his MCPR co-founder wrote -- that then become news items for the paper (and, truth be told, it appears much of MCPR's content is cut-and-paste press-release material, anyway).
But how would MCPR handle any story that might shed a negative light Nash's law-enforcement employers? Like, say, a lawsuit against Precinct 4 Constable "Rowdy" Hayden and his deputies for breaking into a trailer during a drug raid without a warrant, or the reality TV footage and court documents that show those deputies were less-than-truthful about key details of raid in an affidavit and in court testimony?
"I see what you're saying, I see what you're saying," Engle told us. "I gotta report it just the way it is, the good with the bad."
If he decides to report on that story, maybe Engle will have better luck than us getting comment from Nash and the Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable's office.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.