What’s Not in a Story Can Be Relevant, Too

August 16th, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Denise Tessier

Some readers of ABQJournalWatch.com might have seen this, but in case you didn’t, political reporter Heath Haussamen is pointing out on NMPolitics.net that the Albuquerque Journal quoted a semi-public official without making note of the source’s personal connection to the topic at hand.

The story in question was about “out-of-cycle” salary increases gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez had made in her role as Dona Ana County District Attorney, and one of the sources commenting on the increases is the head of the New Mexico District Attorney’s Association, who used to work for Martinez and received some of those increases.

Haussamen’s story and my pointing it out are not meant to comment on that topic, but rather to say that this connection should have been pointed out in the Journal reportage.

Kelly Kuenstler, who is director of the Administrative Office of the District Attorneys in Albuquerque, was among a group of experts asked bya Journal reporter to comment on the payouts, and Kuenstler is quoted explaining how these payouts are usually funded.

Haussamen said he could only find one Journal story mentioning Kuenstler’s experience in the Dona Ana County office, and it ran in July 2009 in an entirely different context.

So he talked to Kuenstler to see if she had informed the Journal of her connection to Martinez, and he reported:

Kuenstler said she assumed that her former employment in Martinez’s office was “well known being that an article revealed this months ago and that the reports clearly had my name on them.”

“Fair enough,” Haussamen wrote:

But, for the record, here are the details relevant to the article about the salary increases:

Kuenstler worked in Martinez’s office for 12 years as the office manager. She received three one-time, out-of-cycle salary increases of approximately 15 percent each in fiscal years 2006, 2007 and 2008. Those three increases added up to $33,164.97.

This is not to say that these salary increases are bad or good, or even to say that there is cronyism here, as one commenter on Haussamen’s story seemed to think would be the impression created by connecting the two.

On the other hand, including her background might also indicate Kuenstler knows well what she’s talking about.

A simple inserted phrase, indicating that Kuenstler once worked for Martinez and received such raises, would have sufficed.

It’s part of the story.

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