By Denise Tessier
Because I’ve already called out the Albuquerque Journal for blatantly boostering the oil and gas industry, there’s no need to devote a whole post to that topic.
But a brief mention is warranted because the Nov. 25 Business Outlook cover story and headline were almost a repeat of what prompted my post a year ago. Last month’s Outlook headline read:
Expanding production in Permian Basin offsets natural gas decline in Four Corners region
The gushing headline was in line with the tone of the story, which led with:
The good times just keep getting better in the oil patch in southeastern New Mexico.
The September 2012 story that prompted last December’s post similarly had led with:
The good times may soon return to the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico, thanks to oil deposits buried in shale beds alongside the region´s abundant natural gas fields.
This year, there’s a sidebar story to “NM’s Gusher of Good News” in the Permian, headlined “San Juan production dwindles,” which says production is down, but only because of low prices for dry gas.
Last year, San Juan’s drilling potential was the subject of the “good news” story in September 2012. Plus, the Journal proclaimed “Very Good Times in Oil Patch in N.M., West Texas,” with a story that ran in June 2012.
To repeat only briefly the point of last year’s post, “The Business of Boosting Fracking:”
The Journal acts like a community booster when it comes to certain industries – notably oil and gas – but doesn’t boost all New Mexico industry, and in fact casts a skeptic’s eye when covering alternative energy sources like solar.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 26, the day after the “Gusher” story, when a new comprehensive study found that the United States is releasing 50 percent more heat-trapping methane than previously estimated – much of it coming from just three states, two of which are big oil and gas producers – the Journal ran that story in the back of the paper, among the classifieds. At least it ran it.
The study was based on data collected in 2008 – and scientists had yet to analyze data from 2012 that would capture more of any impact of the natural gas boom from hydraulic fracturing, the Associated Press story said. The study said the increased methane was coming from Texas and Oklahoma – big oil and gas states – and Kansas, “a big cow state.”
Environmental Rallies: A Blackout
Back in June, we at ABQJournalWatch pointed out that the Journal had failed to provide coverage or even a photo when “hundreds” marched against Monsanto in Albuquerque, walking from the University of New Mexico to Civic Plaza. In carrying out the march, Albuquerqueans joined about 2 million people worldwide participating in Marches Against Monsanto.
In contrast, coverage of the New Mexico event – in both story and photographs – was provided by New Mexico Compass.
Another event against Monsanto was held in Albuquerque October 13, again intended to draw attention to corporate resistance to the labeling of genetically modified foods, this one sponsored by a group called Food Freedom Movement. Again, the Journal did not cover the event or send a photographer.
New Mexico Compass didn’t cover it either, likely because it doesn’t have the money to pay someone to cover all these things and it had already covered a similar event in April at the University of New Mexico, sponsored by New Mexico Food and Water Watch, which also escaped Journal notice. According to an ABQJournalWatch reader, about 100 attended the October event on Monsanto.
Considering the breadth of news and issues vying for the attention of the state’s leading newspaper, it’s unrealistic to expect the Journal to cover every press conference and “rally.” But with the Journal, there appears to be an actual blackout against certain topics.
As evidence, I offer another rally that failed to catch the Journal’s attention: the Aug. 3 “Rally at the Rio.”
According to KOB-TV coverage, more than 400 residents marched across the Rio Grande Bridge to draw attention to the dry condition of the river and climate change, carrying signs like the one that said, “There Is No Planet B.”
ABQJournalWatch became aware of the rally and march after organizer Tom Solomon of Albuquerque Climate Coalition sent us a story and links to the three-hour event, which he described as New Mexico’s “largest ever mass-action rally on climate change.” He listed 21 organizations as part of the coalition.
In a story on Oct. 19, science writer John Fleck reported that the Rio Grande had dropped to its lowest level since 1989, and the only reference to the Rally at the Rio in Journal online archives appears to be a comment on that Fleck story, posted by a reader urging rally attendance.
Rally of a Different Sort
The Journal did mention a more recent rally – that is, it used a brief Las Cruces Sun-News story about the minimum wage rally held in that southern New Mexico city earlier this month.
Although both were written by Sun-News staffers, the stories used by the two papers were different. The Sun-News story that appeared in the Las Cruces paper Dec. 5 was headlined:
Protesters rally in Las Cruces for $10 an hour minimum wage
Consumers will suffer, business owners say; issue is moral one, advocates counter
The story that appeared in the Sun-News was an in-depth feature, which quoted at length both those in favor of a minimum wage increase (and their reasons for seeking it) and those against the increase. It was handled in a way appropriate for coverage of a local issue by Las Cruces’ leading daily paper.
What the Journal ran Dec. 6 was a much-shorter story by a different Sun-News reporter, capturing the highlights of the pros and cons, leading with:
A local group has set its sights on raising the minimum wage in Las Cruces by 33 percent – from $7.50 to $10 an hour – and is using a national movement to promote the effort.
Pretty straightforward. What was striking about the Sun-News story in the Journal was the headline the Journal put on it:
Las Cruces minimum wage under attack
Perhaps it was unintentional on the part of the headline writer, but it appeared that the Journal’s official position – opposition to increasing the minimum wage – had made its way into a straight news story headline.
‘Thank you to our competition’
Now, that is not something one sees very often in a newspaper. If “Thank you to our competition” was part of an ad, it would be a snarky lead-in to some claim about the competition’s shortcomings.
But that headline appeared atop an editorial in The (Edgewood) Independent (Nov. 20, page 7). And to this old-school journalist, it appeared refreshingly sincere.
The weekly Independent took the time and space to applaud its weekly competitor, the Mountain View Telegraph, and the Telegraph’s parent publication, the Albuquerque Journal, for filing motions to have district court proceedings against Torrance County Manager Joy Ansley open to the public. (The motions were successful and the case was opened to the press.)
The editorial said the paper would wait and see whether Ansley is judged guilty before deciding whether to call for her resignation. So instead of editorializing about Ansley, it spent its editorial space thanking the Journal and Telegraph (and also mentioned KRQE News 13). The editorial’s walk-off line:
Unlike the Albuquerque Journal, we don’t have a legal department, so we thank them for taking this action to increase transparency in government on the public’s behalf.