By Arthur Alpert
A couple of weeks ago, business reporter Winthrop Quigley used his UpFront column in the Albuquerque Journal to remind us the state is mired in poverty, to suggest many leaders are losing heart and to wonder if we New Mexicans even know who we are.
“Until we understand who we are, until we define ourselves on our own terms, until we are prepared to say what we intend to become, I fear our economy will remain unhealthy, and our children will remain impoverished.”
The editors, ignoring that stuff about poverty, proceeded to ask a dozen prominent leaders the identity question – what does it mean to be a New Mexican? They published the responses Sunday, July 21.
Most of the answers were unenlightening, but the editors’ choices of respondents were fascinating.
Last time I wrote here, I hypothesized the Journal was managed by true believers, not skeptics, which might explain the newspaper’s advocacy of an editorial agenda in its so-called news columns.
Now, having looked at who the editors solicited comment from (and who they didn’t) I’m leaning toward another premise, that the folks who call the shots are so narrow intellectually they don’t understand the world they live in.
The editors printed responses from 12 New Mexicans. Four, one-third, are in business; they include the bosses of the Hispano and Greater Albuquerque Chambers of Commerce, the director of the Homebuilders Association and the president of Presbyterian.
And some of those who aren’t businessmen and women per se have much in common with the business folk.
Thus, while the president of NMSU is in education, it’s relevant that Garrey Carruthers was a banker and created a healthcare firm, Cimarron, in a timely fashion, when Gary Johnson moved Medicaid to managed care.
And that UNM President Robert Frank’s job (any college president’s job) bears a closer resemblance to corporate CEO than professor.
There are two lawyers, Roberta Cooper Ramo, and Martin Esquivel, also president of the Albuquerque school board; a politician, State Treasurer James Lewis, and a policy professional, Heather Balas of New Mexico First.
R. Braiden Trapp is managing editor of the Rio Grande Sun.
Oh, and there’s Rudolfo Anaya, the famed novelist.
Before moving on, let’s consider the kind of New Mexican Journal editors didn’t ask for comment
They sought out no doctor or nurse.
No architect or city, state or regional planner.
No worker who uses his or her hands to make a living.
No police officer or firefighter or active teacher.
No member of a union.
There’s no scientist, fer gosh sakes!
No economist, either.
No visual, musical or other performing artist.
Oh, and the Journal’s dozen leaders included three women.
This is not to dismiss the leaders who answered the question, though most wrote boilerplate. The exceptions were Mr.Trapp, who seems rather impatient with the rest of us, and Mr.Anaya, who advocated boldly for teachers and for educating kids, and against tests.
But I find the episode useful in trying to grasp why our newspaper, despite a talented staff, falls so far short of professionalism daily. It’s possible the managers really don’t know who lives around them.
Now Quigley is back (Tuesday, July 23) with a follow-up column in which (if I read him right) he argues for New Mexicans to come together to serve the common good.
Ooooh. Them’s fightin’ words.
My guess is Journal editors won’t do anything special with that premise, but if so, they’ll rely on favored essayists. Do not be surprised if Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation is called upon to explain, patiently, that there is no common good.