By Denise Tessier
The heart and soul of the news side of the Alibi – writers Marisa Demarco, Margaret Wright and Carolyn Carlson — are now at New Mexico Compass and no longer in the Alibi. Joining them are columnist Jerry Ortiz y Pino and even the cartoonist who does El Machete, Eric J. Garcia.
Meanwhile, New Mexico in Depth, the Heath Haussamen/Trip Jennings online start-up that secured partnerships with three established print organizations – the Santa Fe New Mexican, Las Cruces Sun-News and Santa Fe Reporter – over the summer, plans to greet the new year with a six-part series looking into the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez, starting this Sunday.
NMID’s partnership with the Sun-News allows those articles also to be published by other newspapers owned by Media News Group, including the Deming Headlight, Silver City Sun News and Alamogordo Daily News, according to New Mexico in Depth.
NMID also has radio partnerships: with New Mexico’s largest public radio station, KUNM, reaching about half the state, and Fronteras, which has seven stations in five states, including KRWG-FM In Las Cruces. Fronteras also produces a weekly TV show for Southern New Mexico’s KRWG-TV.
Fulfilling its goal of starting its series in advance of the legislative session that begins Jan. 15, NMID says its first article profiles the governor halfway through her term.
“Other articles will look at important topics, including Martinez’s decision whether or not to expand Medicaid, her record on economic development and support for Spaceport America, her push to repeal the 2003 law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses, her decision to create a state-based health exchange, and her efforts to find common ground with state lawmakers on the issue of limiting social promotion,” NMID’s Haussamen wrote this week.
Fans of Demarco, et al, whose news and opinion pieces in the Alibi have provided a welcome complement to those in the Albuquerque Journal, should bookmark nmcompass.com to continue reading those types of stories.
Stories they would have likely done for the Alibi continue on the site – like DeMarco’s Albuquerque year in review (parts one and two) and Wright’s U.S./Mexico border stories in review (parts one and two) — along with Carlson’s city council year in review and a “Primer on the Real ID Act” by Robin Brown.
Demarco’s layoff and Wright’s decision to follow her and suggest they continue their work online — along with Carlson’s suggestion they use a dormant non-profit in order to do that — are detailed in stories that recently ran in Albuquerque Business First and the Santa Fe Reporter.
Demarco herself addressed the experience in a New Mexico Compass commentary, “Broke, But Hardly Broken.”
To this reader, the downsizing of the Alibi was a surprise. After reading just a few months ago (over several days) every story in the huge 20th anniversary issue of the Alibi – including its detailed timeline of publication milestones over those two decades – it seemed inconceivable that what has become such an Albuquerque mainstay could shrink to its featherweight size : The current issue is a mere 24 pages, compared to the 64 pages in the Last Minute Gift Guide issue that hit the stands Dec. 13 – the last that listed Demarco and Wright as Alibi editors.
It’s not that the Alibi wants to abandon news. The top story in its current issue is an opinion piece that focuses on the removal of a citizen last month from a Department of Justice oversight hearing on police shootings.
But it’s the only news-type story in the current issue. Similarly, last week’s Alibi was short on news – and other regular features.
For an explanation, I called Carl Petersen, Alibi editor and publisher, who sounded weary when he said, “The Alibi, like all print publications, is undergoing some restraints. We had to make some changes and they came from the top.”
He said the Alibi is “not getting out of the news” business, but readers will see less investigative reporting, which is “often the most expensive and time-consuming to produce.”
Investigative and news stories are also often longer pieces, and “As the economy crunches us, we need the Alibi to produce leaner papers,” he said, adding, “I think it’s a temporary thing. We’re going to keep on putting out papers.”
So, we’ll see “more opinion” and “thinner papers until the economy comes around.”
And while Alibis up until Dec. 19 looked robustly healthy in terms of advertising (to my untrained eye), looks apparently can be deceiving. Petersen said the Alibi’s best year was more than five years ago and has actually been waning since. “June 2007 is when it really hit. We’ve been trying to ride (the economy) out. I’ve been trying to run it business as usual (ever since).
“If I have to adjust our model,” he added, “there’s no shame in it.”
He wasn’t happy with having to cut back. “It’s a small company and everyone here and everyone who was here are like family to me. Nobody is crowing about (the downsizing) and saying it’s a good thing.“
He brightened when saying he was “happy and proud” to run Robert Masterson’s recent dispatch from India. “We can break all the molds and are not beholden to anyone. As an independent paper, the Alibi can do what it wants.”
Meanwhile, features like Rob Brezsny’s horoscope, Ask a Mexican and Shutterbug might not appear in every issue, “but I’ll do the best I can to keep things as we’re going. I’m not burning any bridges,” Petersen said.
By the way: For a briefing in advance of the legislative session, the public is invited to hear political blogger Joe Monahan offer his views at the monthly meeting of Albuquerque Press Women on Jan. 14. Reservations for the lunch-time talk are required.