Visit ABQJournalWatch.com!

If you enjoy the commentary on Clearly New Mexico, please visit our brand new media criticism site, ABQJournalWatch.com, for informed critiques of New Mexico’s largest daily newspaper.

The Journal’s Jihad

The Albuquerque Journal’s bizarre jihad against the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is alive and well.  Following Independence Day, the state’s paper of record conveniently breached the firewall between its news section and its editorial section, yet again, as it circled back to “cover” the nonprofit sector in New Mexico.

By now, those familiar with the Journal will recognize its tactics:

  1. Story placement: Publishing a “story” about a new nonprofit in yesterday’s edition – the story was placed on the front page, above the fold.
  2. Juicy headline: You can almost hear Ron Burgundy reading this one –“Conservatives Look to Nonprofits, Move a Response to Liberal Efforts.”  Really.  Is that the title of a guest opinion piece?  No, it’s the title of a “news” story.
  3. The follow-up editorial in today’s edition: “Real Voter Education.”
  4. The inability, or refusal, to acknowledge thirty years of established Supreme Court legal precedent on the First Amendment.

This final tactic (the refusal or inability to actually discuss First Amendment law) is what is most damning to the Journal’s credibility.  In fact, it’s really an affront to Journal readers.  To treat readers like adults and actually analyze well-established law would be diametrically opposed to the Journal’s political agenda.  It’s that simple.

But, it gets even more bizarre.

As I discussed in an earlier post, top brass at the Journal have been heavily involved with a local nonprofit called the Foundation for Open Government.  As you can see here, the first and perhaps most important charge for FOG (as listed on their own site) is to help the public “understand and exercise their First Amendment rights.”  I wonder how the Journal editor squares the FOG mission with his paper’s year long Jihad against the most basic of American rights.

Really.  On the one hand, there’s the “promotion” of the First Amendment through FOG, while at the same time a concerted effort by the state’s paper of record to avoid a thoughtful discussion of First Amendment law.

It’s the kind of cognitive dissonance that leaves one speechless.

The Arc of the Journal

arcEfforts to reform the nation’s ailing health system – or non-system as it were – are dominating news headlines.  Yet, if you rely on the Albuquerque Journal (the state and city’s “paper of record”), you’d probably have a rather skewed notion of the parameters of the health care debate.

Turns out I’m not the only one watching the Journal’s puzzling coverage of health care reform.

New Mexico Independent columnist Arthur Alpert aptly picks up on the Albuquerque Journal’s gaming of national health care news.  In a column published in today’s Independent, Alpert points out the common Journal editorial practices of using skewed headlines and reproducing only select parts of national stories.  Alpert carefully sources his column, providing multiple pieces of evidence to support his opinion.  Go check it out, it’s a good read.

Unfortunately for readers of the Albuquerque Journal, using questionable headlines and splicing stories aren’t the only ways editors game the paper’s health care coverage.  The nonexistent firewall between editorial content and news gathering at the Journal gives editors additional tools for foisting their political agenda on readers.

Let’s start with a recent editorial, and then trace the arc of coverage – both in the news section and on the editorial page.

In an editorial published on June 17, Journal editors expressed dismay over the Veteran’s Administration treatment of sick and wounded veterans.  This is not a new story.  For all the Bush Administration’s rhetoric of troop support, they really didn’t live up to their purported values when it came to funding the VA.

Yet, the Journal used this story to bash away at “government run health care.”  Here’s the closing line…

The rest of us might start worrying about the future under a “reformed” system of health care, if this is the best the federal government can provide to meet its obligation to veterans.

Veterans Deserve Safer Medical Procedures, Albuquerque Journal, June 17, 2009.  (You may need a subscription).

That line set the tone for the following nine days of opinions and “news” on the health care reform debate.

On June 21, two guest opinions appeared on the editorial page, one from Senator Jeff Bingaman, the other from Presbyterian Healthcare Services CEO Jim Hinton.  Each piece identified well-known problems with the current system, but both steered clear of what most Americans want to know more about – namely, the public insurance option.  It’s almost as if editors began to employ the old false equivalence trick by publishing Bingaman and Hinton opinions on the same day.

The shades of false equivalence found in Sunday’s editorial page became clearer in the June 22 “Up Front” opinion by sometime reporter and sometime columnist Winthrop Quigley.

Here are the money segments of the column…

Continue reading

Gary’s Italian Mafia Holiday

Paulie and TonyAttorney General Gary King is cracking down on the seething, Mafioso cesspool in New Mexico by taking a trip to Italy next week.  Granted, King has been working with law enforcement officials from Mexico as of late to combat crime that is trickling over the border, yet is it really necessary to go all the way to Italy to learn about ways to combat organized crime?  I figure he would do just as well going to Jersey and hitting up Tony Soprano and Paulie Walnuts  for that info, so he could come back and spend more time in New Mexico.

I’d also figure the Attorney General would want to experience the entire week-long conference, seeing how much he wants to learn about fighting organized crime, instead of the mere three days he plans on attending (here and here).  For anyone who’s attended long conferences like these, you know the first few days are mostly full of jet lag, intros, and mixers anyways.

And it’s obvious that other border states are just as interested in learning about Italy’s infamous crime fighting ways as the other state AG’s who are attending are from Idaho and North Dakota.  It definitely makes me wonder why AGs from border states California, Arizona, and Texas decided not to attend. Perhaps they figured out that they could get the same information from an upcoming and very similar conference being held by California’s Attorney General. Or shoot, why not even take the two-hour flight to, I don’t know, how about Mexico, to learn about border crime.

Continue reading

No Speech for You!

seinfeld_soupnaziWith each passing day, life inside the confines of the Albuquerque Journal must be getting weirder and weirder.  In addition to having little in the way of a firewall between their political agenda and their news reporting (and in some cases openly flaunting this journalistic taboo), the Albuquerque Journal has now anointed itself the sole arbiter of what a person or organization can say.

Really.

The Albuquerque Journal has transformed itself into the Speech Nazi.  If you’re going to say something publicly, you better not step out of line.

Say something that comports with the Journal’s political agenda and you’re engaging in free speech.  Say something the Journal disagrees with and you might be “straying” into the yet-to-be defined “political arena.”

In today’s lead editorial, the Albuquerque Journal dug up the past and again displayed their unwillingness, or their inability, or both, to comprehend First Amendment law.  It’s truly puzzling, especially from a newspaper that purports to vigorously defend the First Amendment.

The lead…

Continue reading

Three Times The Journal

bowlingOnce is a mishap, twice is a coincidence, but three times makes for a pattern.  And that’s three times in the past three weeks.

I’m of course referring to the Albuquerque Journal and their incessant melding of the paper’s political agenda with its news reporting.

The Journal was at it again this week, publishing a story about the federal stimulus package on the front page of its Tuesday edition.  Large parts of the story appeared to have been borrowed from a previously published Associated Press story.

As I read Tuesday’s story, I couldn’t help but flashback to my favorite old-fashioned bowling alley.  You know, the kind where you can actually see people setting up the pins after a frame and you can actually see the ball come back out to you on a conveyor belt after you hurl it down the lane.  The whole game is laid out before you.

For me, the Tuesday story was analogous to the guys setting up the pins, placing them perfectly in preparation for waiting bowlers to knock them down.  But, I digress.

The big story in the Tuesday edition of the Albuquerque Journal questioned the existence of “shovel-ready” projects from the federal economic stimulus package.

Here’s the lead…

New Mexico’s slice of the $787 billion federal stimulus-money pie might not be as groundbreaking as expected.

The “public face” of the stimulus effort has been a worker in a hard hat, employed on a federally backed infrastructure project, The Associated Press reported nationally. But reviews of spending in New Mexico and around the country show that the phrase “shovel-ready” to describe the focus of stimulus projects probably has been overused.

In fact, in New Mexico and around the country, social spending, not construction, is in line to be the biggest winner in the ambitious federal effort to spark a sluggish economy.

“NM Stimulus Projects: Not So Shovel-Ready,” Albuquerque Journal June 9, 2009.  Click here for the full story (you may need a subscription).

There is nothing wrong with critically examining the stimulus package spending.  In fact, critical examination of the spending is crucial.  But such an examination should also include facts about how much has actually been spent thus far, the timeline of spending (as it applies to the actual onset of the current recession), the most effective way to plug state budget gaps and information about how spending on things like Medicaid, unemployment insurance and education might stem the tide of a recession.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading