There They Go Again

disappointing_newspaperIn a post earlier this week, I was critical of the Albuquerque Journal – particularly their editors – for willfully blurring the line between the reporting of news and the issuance of opinions on their editorial pages.

This is a persistent problem at the Journal, a problem that has been well documented.

As if on cue, the Albuquerque Journal has done it again.

Monday’s Journal editorial page lavished effusive praise on Mayor Martin Chavez.  The praise was directed at the expansion of a summer educational program called “City Academies.”

The lead…

It’s a marriage made in parent/taxpayer heaven: Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez plans to expand the program that gives area teens something educational to do over the summer for free; city departments get some no-cost help during the busy vacation season.

And then this for the closing…

Circa 2009, reports could sound a lot more like this:

Teen version — Saw firsthand how police officers keep us safe. Practiced with city firefighters to control high-pressure fire hoses and rappel to rescue people. Learned what happens to the plastic and cardboard that gets picked up on trash day from our curb and watched solar power in action. Discovered how to maintain a hiking trail so it works with the ecosystem. Fed the animals in our zoo and aquarium.

City employee version — Taught tomorrow’s city leaders what makes a good city great.

“City Academies Make Summer Work Cool,” Albuquerque Journal June 1, 2009. Click here for the full editorial (you may need a subscription).

There are a couple of glaring problems with this editorial.

First, in the vaguest of terms, the editorial describes how students will be able to enroll in internship programs with various City departments (the so-called “academies”).  Like mom and apple pie, this sounds great.  But, there’s really no critical examination of the total number of students served by the program.  There are tens of thousands of APS students in grades 6-12.  If a few dozen enroll in the City Academies program, that’s great, but it’s only a minute percentage of the overall student population.

I’m sure the academies program is wonderful, but it hardly seems like something worthy of a glowing editorial from the state’s largest newspaper.  The Journal would have better served the community by critically examining the curriculum of the program and the number of students served.  Instead, Journal editors decided to reprint a press release from the mayor’s office.

This offense (the complete lack of critical analysis) is bad, but the second offense is perhaps more egregious.

In the past, the Albuquerque Journal – through its editorial page and through editorial commentary in its news stories – has accused the Center for Civic Policy of all of the following completely non-specific offenses:

“walking like a duck and quacking like a duck…”

“straying into the political arena…”

“carefully skirting the law…”

For a newspaper to use that kind of vague and unspecific language when examining the law is irresponsible, at best.  Yet, the Journal editors see no problem with “straying,” “quacking,” or “carefully skirting” when it comes to their own agenda vis-à-vis the mayor of Albuquerque.

The Journal has every right to espouse their political views through their editorial page.  And, they have every right to critically examine nonprofit organizations, just so long as they apply that critical analysis fairly across the board.

Alas, we know this is not the case.  The editors at the Albuquerque Journal selectively and purposefully apply critical analysis only when it fits their political agenda.  They infuse their political agenda into news stories.  And, they see no hypocrisy in what amounts to reprinting a press release from the mayor’s office on their editorial page, while at the same time criticizing others for holding elected leaders accountable.

Once again, readers of the Albuquerque Journal, I say exercise caution when getting your news from New Mexico’s “paper of record.”

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