It's Getting Hard to Keep Up

May 29th, 2012 · No Comments · Fact Check, journalism, tax policy, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

So dedicated is the Albuquerque Journal to its mission of tailoring news coverage to its editorial agenda that I can’t keep up.

I get to work, for example, on an essay comparing how our Journal treated JP Morgan Chase’s recent loss of billions with the Wall Street Journal’s coverage – and before I can finish it – New Mexico’s Journal commits more pseudo-journalism.

Omitting stories, I mean, that contradict its agenda, as well as regressing to a species of journalistic malpractice discredited eons ago.

So we’ll shelve the JP Morgan piece for now in favor of identifying the new transgressions.

Exhibit one is Wisconsin. You remember how generously the Journal covered Governor Scott Walker‘s successful efforts to limit the bargaining rights of public employees’ unions. And how the Journal’s curiosity waned when organized labor and allies pushed back.

In fact, the Journal ran zero stories on the petition drive to recall Mr. Walker.

But, writing here April 3, I observed the newspaper’s spell of amnesia had passed. Silly me.

In a May 8 primary, the forces trying to oust the governor selected a candidate, former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The Journal never mentioned it.

Also, in the past several weeks, other news mediums have reported the following stories:

• Governor Walker has raised millions nationwide, some courtesy of the ubiquitous Koch brothers.

• The candidates just debated.

The Journal found none newsworthy.

Oh, and should you doubt the story’s importance, consider that the Washington Post led with it Sunday, May, 27. And note that political reporter Dan Balz stressed in his account of the lead-up to the June 5 recall vote that Scott Walker’s fate has major implications for November’s presidential election.

Why would the Journal reprise its blackout of the Wisconsin showdown? My guess – the editorial agenda forbids.

To appreciate Exhibit Two, recall that the Journal sometimes publishes a Bloomberg column. Yet the editors just passed on one with a big local angle – former Senator Pete Domenici plays a big role in it and wins kudos.

Peter Orszag of Citigroup, once President Obama’s OMB chief, is the author. Bloomberg’s headline, “History Shows U.S. Can Stimulate Now, Cut Later” reflects Orszag’s view the nation needs both in that order.

But here’s the grabber:

“To appreciate the potential of the combination approach, look no further than the plan offered by the Domenici-Rivlin debt-reduction task force, which proposed more than $600 billion in stimulus in one year – far more than I have seen from any serious proposals for a naked stimulus (not linked to deficit cutting). What’s most remarkable about the upfront stimulus in Domenici-Rivlin is that it was supported by Republican task- force members, because it was combined with delayed deficit reduction.”

That grabbed me, anyway, if not the Journal’s editors, because it’s a reminder that Domenici’s position does not square with the Journal’s editorial agenda.

This might explain why the Journal didn’t publish the piece.

Exhibit Three is not one but two articles the Journal did publish May 19 and 24. Both reported on an Arizona politician’s efforts to obtain proof of President Obama’s birth in Hawaii. And both were objective, very objective.

Because I’m ancient, they reminded me of a classic example of objective reporting from long ago.

Many journalists dutifully reported Feb. 9, 1950 that Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin said he had a list of 205 people in the State Department who were known members of the American Communist Party.

That was “objectively” true – he did say that, even waved some paper. Objectivity didn’t require – perhaps even precluded – checking the Senator’s bona fides, demanding to see the list and providing context.

You know how the Joe McCarthy story ended.

Now, 62 years later, two Associated Press reporters tell us that Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett demanded that Hawaii send him proof of Obama’s citizenship and, on receiving verification, put the President’s name on the ballot.

Neither reporter thought it his job to include the truth of the matter, that the President is a citizen.

Neither investigated Mr. Bennett’s motives. Neither mentioned he’s a political partisan or that he has political ambitions in Arizona.

Instead, they dealt with the “birther” issue as a “he said, she said.”

Amazing! Not just the stories but the Albuquerque Journal’s decision to align itself with a misleading “objectivity.”

Does this have something to do with the Journal’s editorial agenda? Possibly, but I really don’t know.

I do know there’s a lesson in how the Journal and Wall Street Journal treated the JP Morgan Chase debacle. If only I can get back to it.

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