Why the Tribune will be missed: Remembering Welsome

The tributes from the bloggers are rolling in.

Chantal at Duke City Fix comments with a plea to maintain the Tribune’s invaluable on-line archives. LP at FBIHOP weighs in with an excellent post on the sad statistics about the nationwide decline of afternoon dailies. And Coco takes the loss very personally.

In a moving obituary in this morning’s Journal, columnist Jim Belshaw hones in on the key reason why the Trib’s closing is such a singular loss to our community.

Where I work, The Tribune sometimes made us nervous, made us wonder what note would be passed by a boss inquiring about a Tribune story and did we have it, too? And if not, why not?”

When a newspaper dies, the community is indeed diminished, and so is the newspapers’s competitor, even if that competition may be hard to see from outside the building that housed each of the newspapers.

We (Journal and Tribune) did not share stories or sources. We did not share notes that made us nervous and better.

For the longest time, I have not been able to entirely let go of a fantasy flimsier than the Tribune’s circulation numbers.

As the fantasy would have it, the two of us go head-to-head in the morning, equals, each spurring on the other, each making the other better, and the community reaping the benefit, as it always does.

Ponder those words. The Tribune’s reporters helped to keep the Journal honest. They served as a check on hubris and complacency at the morning daily. In the 1980s and 90s, Ed Asher and Dennis Domrzalski were tough and relentless City Hall beat reporters. They were reportorial bulldogs — nothing like the slavish transcription service for mayoral press releases we had to endure during the recently ended Jim Ludwick era at the Journal. (Ludwick parlayed his cut-and-paste skills into a high-paying job at the City of Albuquerque’s Animal Services Department.)

And, of course, there was Eileen Welsome who made and changed history. As part of its close-out commemoration, the Trib is running a great feature on her story today. Eileen won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for the little bitty Tribune with her investigation of the secret medical testing conducted in Los Alamos on unwitting human guinea pigs who were injected with plutonium.

Here’s the story in today’s Trib.

Read and listen to Eileen’s amazing interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now in 2004 on how she put the story together.

Also see Eric Alterman’s take that appeared in the Nation in 2000.

Not surprisingly, back when the story broke, the Albuquerque Journal hardly even deigned to acknowledge it. Only after the Washington Post and national wire services picked it up, did the morning daily carry anything (grudgingly it would seem) about it at all.

I’ll say it again. And this ain’t about sentimentality. The Tribune will be missed.

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