The Albuquerque Journal: Habitual Wall-Jumper

dog jumping

I am remiss in not posting this sooner – visiting family and the holiday weekend threw me a little out of sorts.

Last Friday, New Mexico Independent commentator Arthur Alpert penned an interesting piece on media bias.

The final half of the commentary focuses on a recent Albuquerque Journal story regarding President Obama’s recent visit to Rio Rancho.  Alpert’s point is that the headline doesn’t really capture the essence of the story.  Instead, it more accurately captures the slant Journal editors are trying the put on the story by carefully crafting a headline that meets their political predilection.

There are many capable and honest reporters at the Albuquerque Journal who take their jobs very seriously.  The problem with the Journal is not with the reporters – it’s with the management and the editors.  Alpert sums this fact up with this pointed statement:

Journal reporters’ virtues make its editors’ inability to play fair very sad.

You said it, Mr. Alpert.

We here at Clearly New Mexico are no strangers to Albuquerque Journal editors and their purposeful manipulation of news stories.  Take the following examples.

Some New Mexico nonprofit organizations that appear to stray into the political arena could face new disclosure requirements as part of the fallout from a direct mail campaign that targeted a group of lawmakers last year.

The proposed legislation appears to be aimed at nonprofit organizations like Brix’s, which last year helped organize the direct mail campaign that carefully skirted the IRS definitions of political activity.

-Jeff Jones and Colleen Heild of the Albuquerque Journal, February 15, 2009.  Click here for the full story (you may need a subscription).


And…

An Albuquerque nonprofit that insists it wasn’t playing politics when it helped send out mailers targeting a handful of state lawmakers last year has engaged in past political work that includes identifying and training potential candidates, according to a report now circulating in New Mexico political circles.

Legislation aimed at requiring financial disclosure from nonprofits that stray into the political arena was introduced in the last session but died in committee.

-Jeff Jones and Colleen Heild of the Albuquerque Journal, April 19, 2009.  Click here for the full story (you may need a subscription).


When writing a factual news story, phrases like “straying into the political arena,” “carefully skirted” and “engaged in past political work” should be phrased as opinions.  And, those opinions should be properly attributed to someone.  Instead, in the stories referenced above, Albuquerque Journal editors pass off opinion – their opinion – as fact.

The Albuquerque Journal has shown itself, time and again, to be incapable of maintaining a proper firewall between the editing of news stories and the production of actual editorial (opinion) content.  The editors at the Albuquerque Journal, as Arthur Alpert correctly points out, have a political agenda.  Readers ought to take note of this when seeking news and information from the largest daily in the state.

The Journal has long touted itself as the state’s “Paper of Record,” a term that implies that it covers everything and covers it fairly.  The Journal also pays great lip service to the idea that its news gatherers and editors are “objective,” hewing to the old-fashioned traditional journalistic principle that a newspaper can produce coverage with no bias.

The Journal makes a great show of playing by those rules, but its coverage shows otherwise.

Simply put, the editors at the Albuquerque Journal habitually ignore the long-standing newspaper industry firewall between news content and editorial content.

Advocates With a Pen

RFK_CesarThere’s been so much talk about the decline of the traditional media and concern about what kind of in-depth journalism might rise up to up to take its place.

But I’m more encouraged now about the future of journalism since I’ve seen the ambitious and righteous project called  “Divided Families,” a series of stories by journalism students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

The series, a melange of photos and text which movingly examined the lives of  families divided by the U.S. – Mexico border, won the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the college print journalism category. It traces the stories of families who are separated as a result of both legal and illegal immigration and explores the social consequences of public immigration policy.  (To view the full series, go to the above link and click on the PDF file on the right side of the page. )

The Divided Families project was the work of 17 students in the Cronkite School’s In-Depth Reporting class. Students took more than 30 trips to the border, deep into Mexico and to various parts of Arizona to report, record and photograph their stories.

You can read about the other winners, which included The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Charlotte Observer and National Public Radio, here.

The prizes will be awarded today in a ceremony at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

The RFK Journalism Awards program honors outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Robert F. Kennedy’s concerns, including human rights, social justice and the power of individual action in the United States and around the world. Winning pieces examine the causes, conditions and remedies of injustice and analyze relevant public policies and attitudes and private endeavors.

Crashing the Gates of the Mainstream Media

Check out this great read from PBS’s excellent Mediashift website about the crucial role the blogosphere plays in media criticism. My favorite line is about bloggers crashing the gates traditionally kept by the so-called “legacy” media:

Here comes the crowd, and in many instances, they’re not very happy and they have cheap global distribution for their thoughts. And you won’t like them when they’re angry.

Give it a read!

Ethics Reform for Dummies: The Journal doesn’t get it, but Sherry Robinson does

The legislative session passed the mid-point of the sixty-day session last week, and the major ethics reform bills are still in the Senate Rules Committee.

Bills still waiting for their day are ones to establish an independent ethics commission, Clean Elections public financing, and contributions limits (N.M. is one of only five states with no limits whatsoever).

Bear in mind that this is the calendar dictated by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. Every year, the major ethics reform bills always seem to get to the Senate floor just hours before the end of the session. And that’s where they die outright or get tagged with last minute amendments that send them back to the house as the clock runs out.

In 2007, it was Senator Sanchez who slipped through a bill (later vetoed by the Governor) that would have overturned the state disclosure law that requires candidates and officeholders to file reports electronically to the secretary of state’s website where they can be accessed by the public.

Sanchez offered this excuse to reporter Steve Terrell of the SF New Mexican: “This isn’t trying to hide campaign-finance reports. It’s for people like me who aren’t very good at computers or access to the Internet.” Sanchez also strongly opposes attempts to open legislative conference committees to the public.

But this year, with the public clamor for ethics reform growing and the new media subjecting his actions to greater scrutiny, Sanchez seems to have altered his obstructionist tactics. Continue reading

NM Independent makes its mark

New Mexico seemed particularly blessed last April when the non-profit Center for Independent Media founded the New Mexico Independent, a comprehensive online newspaper designed to cover local news exclusively.

The CIM had already established similar online papers in four states and Washington D.C as part of its New Journalist Pilot Program. The idea was to train a new corps of journalists and create independent media outlets by melding emerging blog technology with the standards of professional journalism.

The CIM experiment was a timely one, coming as the print newspaper business model was rapidly falling out of favor and online news consumption was rising.

The birth of the New Mexico Independent came just as the Albuquerque Tribune shut down, leaving the city with only one newspaper, one domineering news source and one editorial point of view. Continue reading

Netroots Nation: Bloggers speak for mainstream now

I’ve just returned from this weekend’s inspiring Netroots Nation conference in Austin, TX, where 3,000 of the nation’s most progressive political bloggers met not only to network with each other but to sit down with some of the country’s most exciting established and emerging progressive leaders. Continue reading

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. Continue reading