By Arthur Alpert
(January 10) Here we are, 10, 11 days into 2013 and I haven’t written a word about the Albuquerque Journals.
Yes, Journals. Plural.
If all this Journal-watching has clarified anything, it’s that there exist two newspapers in one body, a variation on the old Steve Martin movie.
The local staff does professional journalism, while the editors do their best to publish a daily political pamphlet pushing plutocracy.
That must mean the rank-and-file is uncomfortable, so I imagine (I don’t know for sure) that most reporters shrug, keep their heads down and make the adjustments required to ply one’s trade within the hierarchy.
Avoiding friction at all costs.
I sympathize, too, because I remember that newspapering was a heckuva lot of fun; and the irrelevance, in youth, of excessive hours and insufficient pay.
Again, I could be wrong (it’s happened before) but I think I detect those friction-minimizing maneuvers all the time.
Case in point. This morning, Jan. 10, I was lapping up Leslie Linthicum’s sly, tongue-in-cheek Up Front column (“Tiptoeing Through the Complaint box”) on the heavy flak she’s received for recent pieces on guns, coyotes and Navajo history, until she concluded that she’d better “tread carefully” on those topics.
And it hit me that she already treads carefully vis-à-vis management; it cannot be accidental that she so rarely brings her talents to bear on such consequential matters.
If I am correct, that’s our loss. As her superb Sunday, Dec. 16 essay on gun violence demonstrated, she thinks very well.
Or take Thom Cole; how did he react when he saw the headline an editor put on his Dec. 26 UpFront column about Governor Martinez’s record on guns?
Cole concluded his review this way:
“But best I can tell, Martinez really hasn’t proposed anything new to try to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Newtown shootings. That’s not a surprise, given her record.”
Was that a tiny slap on the wrist? I’m not certain but I think so.
What is certain is that no slap made the headline. Though Journal rubric writers often find inspiration in the middle or at the end of stories, they didn’t this time. Instead, somebody wrote:
“The Governor’s Record on Guns is Long”.
Bulls-eye! That succeeds not only in avoiding adverse criticism of the Governor but makes the rubric the favorite to win the Oscar for “dullest headline on a front-page essay.”
Probably Cole looked, shrugged and moved on.
Again, I’ve little hard information, but I sense that Journal staffers render unto the editors what is the editors’ and unto journalism whatever they can.
This reminds me we’ve an opportunity to test my two-Journal hypothesis in the upcoming legislative session.
Perhaps you have noticed the daily’s promotion of its coverage in an ad featuring photos of reporters Dan Boyd, Deborah Baker, Jim Montelone, Hailey Heinz and Winthrop Quigley, its “Legislative Team.” It ran on B3 Jan. 10.
And a fine team it is.
There’s also a shot of John Robertson, their editor. Last session, he offered some readable, informal musings on the proceedings, but coverage of significant participants in the process, the lobbyists, was scant.
In fact, the Journal has never reported in any depth on, for example, the American Legislative Exchange Council.
So instead of recollecting the Journal’s performance in tranquility, well after the fact, why don’t we – yes, you and I – try to monitor how the Journal handles the big issues in Santa Fe.
I’m thinking about climate change, environment and oil and gas; election practices and campaign finance; the minimum wage; driver’s licenses for the undocumented and – not least – budget, pay and taxes.
Lobbying, too, of course.
Your assignment, if you accept it, is to help rate the relative performances of the two Journals – the staffers’ and the plutocrats’ newspaper