By Denise Tessier
To piggyback on Tracy’s latest post just before this one:
This morning’s Mountain View Telegraph (sister paper to the Journal) carries yet another Marita Noon column, this one entitled “Climate Change Is Obama’s Iraq.”
The Telegraph is running her column with eyes wide open. In other words, it is well aware of the problems with her columns: On August 27, it ran a Noon column (“Energy Wrongfully Blamed[”) after that same column was pulled from Heath Hausseman’s nmpolitics.net and the Farmington Daily Times .
Reacting to criticism about running that already-discredited column, the Telegraph ran on Sept. 17 “Many Errors Found in Column,” a response piece by New Mexico Wildlife Federation Director Jeremy Vesbach. At the end of his piece, Vesbach wrote, and – to its credit — the Telegraph printed:
I appreciate the opportunity provided by Telegraph Editor (Rory) McClannahan to present the facts on where NMWF stands on the San Juan River.
However, I also feel obligated to warn Telegraph readers that McClannahan said flatly that he is not interested in fact-checking opinion pieces and does not always print corrections or retractions for verifiably false information that appears on the Telegraph opinion page. This isn’t the way most news organizations work, and I believe this lackadaisical approach is a disservice to readers. But until something changes, Telegraph readers should realize that it is apparently up to us to fact-check opinion pieces we read in the Telegraph.
Having once been in the situation of finding columns and sorting through letters to fill the space on the editorial pages of the Mountain View Telegraph and the zoned editions of the Journal (the Rio Rancho and West Side), I have to say I understand McClannahan’s point that there is little time to fact-check the items that come in. And, believe it or not, it’s often difficult to get columns to put on those pages. When I had time, I would call presidents of neighborhood associations and other involved citizens asking them to write about what was going on in their part of the community so I wouldn’t be caught short on deadline day. And sometimes that was like pulling teeth and I’d still be scrambling to fill the space.
That said, I would be hard-pressed to use a column by someone who has been problematic.
On deadline, lacking anything else to run, one might consider running such a columnist only in conjunction with some clear disclaimers about the writer’s background.
Which brings me to my point: If the Telegraph is going to continue running Noon’s columns (as it obviously has decided to do), it should write its own end-note describing the columnist’s background.
The end-graph as it now routinely is run (or not) describes the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE), of which Noon is executive director, as an advocate for “citizens rights to energy freedom.” What the heck is a citizen’s right to energy freedom?
At the least, those words should be put in quotes. Better still, instead of this squishy description crafted for general audiences, the Telegraph should lift from CARE’s Web site the words it uses when addressing its member audience, which are that:
. . . Marita has moved CARE toward specifically advocating for oil, gas, nuclear and coal. . .