By Arthur Alpert
The Albuquerque Journal’s approach to right-wing ideology and organizations is simple. Do not cover them in the news pages unless you must. Minimize news that contradicts them. Do provide them a platform in the opinion pages.
Make sure they get the most ink.
The editors’ achievement in “killing two birds with one stone” (celebrated here Aug.1) was an example of minimizing contradictory news.
Specifically, the Journal failed to publish longtime climate-change skeptic Richard A. Muller’s “conversion” or his conclusion that, “Humans are almost entirely the cause” of global warming because it violates a right-wing narrative and, simultaneously, contradicts the newspaper’s own promotion of the fossil-fuel industries.
By omitting the Muller story, the Journal also avoided drawing attention to the billionaire Koch brothers, financiers of rightist political organizations including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which lobbies state legislatures including New Mexico’s.
Charles Koch, you see, financed physicist Muller’s research. According to Greenpeace, the Koch brothers have given $61 million to groups that deny climate change.
But the daily’s policy, remember, is to keep reporters’ hands off the brothers’ causes, their financial contributions or the beneficiaries thereof. (It’s OK to mention them, though.)
Journal readers see the other side of the policy coin – that platform for rightist ideology and organizations – almost daily on the editorial and Op Ed pages. For better appreciation, though, let’s zoom in on the Americans for Prosperity essay that ran Sunday, August 5.
Americans for Prosperity is another Koch-funded operation, something the Journal neglected to tell its readers. And – talk about serendipity – AFP’s agenda resembles the Journal’s (or visa-versa).
Nor is it any old outfit. According to Forbes magazine contributor Laurie Bennett’s March 31 post, “Along with its sister organization, the AFP Foundation, it is often cited as the model that David and Charles Koch have in mind in their efforts to reshape the Cato Institute.”
Oooh, there’s another story our statewide daily has never found newsworthy – the Koch takeover of CATO, the “free market think tank” that begot our own Rio Grande Foundation!
But I digress.
Back to the Journal’s August 5 AFP essay, about Medicaid’s frailty, by one Joe Montes, identified as state director of AFP, which the editors described thusly:
“Americans for Prosperity is national conservative political advocacy group that promotes economic freedom.”
What a sad ID!
Not the missing “a”; typos happen.
Nor the claim AFP is conservative – if the word “conservative” has any meaning, AFP doesn’t deserve it.
No, the essential journalistic failure is the absence of skepticism; AFP’s own rhetoric satisfied the Journal editors,
Mind you, I feel for them. It’s tough labeling an organization succinctly. And they haven’t the space to supply a treatise on AFP’s history and agenda.
Still, if the policy is going to be “Trust (the opinion supplier) but don’t verify,” it should apply across-the-board.
That’s not what the Journal does. Editors regularly identify essayists at some length, often when they express non-rightist views.
Earlier this year, for example, editors ran investigator Michael Corwin’s attack on the Governor’s school reforms with his affiliation, “Independent Source PAC” and a long ID telling us (see my Feb. 29 post) that Corwin’s firm works for Democratic candidates and his PAC received $100,000 from the “Communication Workers of America union.”
“Fine with me,” I wrote back then. “I’m happy to know where Mr. Corwin is coming from.”
That’s still fine with me. But if the editors identify Corwin with union money, why not connect AFP to the Koch brothers’ dollars?
And not just AFP; why not do the same for other ideological soul mates like the Heritage Foundation, CATO and the Manhattan Institute?
I don’t know why not. Maybe it seems like squealing.