Selective Sunshine

March 23rd, 2014 · 2 Comments · journalism

By Arthur Alpert

It’s Sunshine Week, Leslie Linthicum reminded us Thursday, March 20, “the time each year when special attention is given to the government’s responsibility to provide information to the public.”

Then, in her UpFront column, Linthicum expertly took the Albuquerque Police Department to task for lack of it.

I relished her take on transparency.

“Transparency is all the rage today. It’s the kale of public discourse – so trendy and so good for you. Politicians promise during their campaigns that they’ll be transparent. And when they go from politicking to governing, they like to describe their administrations as transparent, regardless of how open they actually are.

“Transparency is apparently in the eye of the beholder.

“Here’s my definition: Outside of simply following the law on public disclosures, it’s also telling as much as you possibly can, as accurately as you can, as soon as you can. Everything, and in plain English, please. That way we can understand what our government is doing.”

Well said.

This raises a few questions, however, not for Linthicum but for Journal management and readers of this blog.

Since transparency is essential to democracy, why limit it to government? Why not light up powerful institutions like Wall Street, global mega-business and the military-industrial-university complex?

OK, that’s asking a lot of the Journal, where critical reporting on the economic system is verboten, so let’s substitute a modest request. How about transparency at Albuquerque’s sole remaining daily? Can’t the Journal level with us about its business?

Of course, the daily enjoys First Amendment protections, so I’m not demanding to know, say, the identity of the political guru (or guri) the editors consult before deciding what stories to assign, publish or turn a blind eye to.

The newspaper can tell us where to go.

Nothing wrong, however, in asking who’s lurking behind the Op Ed articles, particularly when most preach the same political gospel.

Not when it’s clear the Journal deliberately obscures their provenance.

They did it again one day before Linthicum’s transparency column, hiding useful information from readers of an Op Ed piece headlined “Millennials insulted by Obamacare marketing” by one Evan Feinberg, president of Generation Opportunity.

My antennae tingled, so I Googled and learned what the Journal surely knew and didn’t say. Yes, the Koch brothers finance Generation Opportunity.

(Per SourceWatch.org, Freedom Partners, a Koch brothers funding group, invested $5 million in Generation Opportunity in 2012. See also, “Creepy Obamacare ad hits college campuses and your nightmares” by Chris Moody, Yahoo News, Sept.19, 2013.)

How can I be certain the Journal did this deliberately?

Well, the Journal and the Kochs are in cahoots, so the newspaper downplays – in its “news columns” – the brothers’ energetic political activities in the nation and New Mexico.

Simultaneously, the Journal publishes opinion pieces from organizations like Americans for Progress, the CATO Institute, Heritage Foundation and Rio Grande Foundation – all constituents of the Koch political network- withholding that info from readers.

Alternatively, the editors could just characterize those essays politically, but they never do. Instead, as with Generation Opportunity, they provide perfect anonymity or, sometimes, the organization’s useless self-description.

But when the Journal prints liberal or leftist opinions, infrequently, it applies different rules.

Rule One – where the author is guilty of ties to organized labor – horrors! – make sure readers know that.

Nothing new about that, either; I posted on it way back on Feb. 29, 2012, contrasting how the editors treated an essay by Michael Corwin, an investigator with union backing, and one by Gerges Scott for an oil industry front.

Corwin earned a long, detailed ID. Scott got none. Neat contrast.

Often, though, there’s no need to expound on the leftists’ shameful relationship with organized labor; the editors just append a revealing organizational name.

Thus, the very day Linthicum wrote about transparency, they informed us that Phil Donahue (yes, that Phil Donahue) wrote his column for the Progressive Media Project.

That was easy.

This raises the possibility that Journal editors do believe in transparency, but only for the enemy – including government (except when it grovels before corporate power) and, of course, leftists.

So much for the trite idea that newspapers should confine political advocacy to its editorials!

But back to Linthicum for her conclusion:

“Let’s let the sun shine in.”

She meant government, of course, and amen to that.

And can I hear an “amen” for bringing transparency home so that readers know when the Journal is publishing material from the owners of government?

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Bill Tiwald

    Linthicum is not an independent journalist. She and the newspaper she works for are nothing but an organ for the Martinez administration, the Republicon party and corporate interests such as the Koch brothers. Sunshine doesn’t apply to the Albuquerque Journal and those whom it supports.

  • Arthur Alpert

    Thanks for the comment, Bill, but describing Ms. Linthicum or any other professional news person at the Journal as “not an independent journalist” is worrisome.
    No employee of any business is fully independent, it’s true; they work within a corporate framework which sets boundaries. But that’s not the same as saying they echo management’s views.
    That’s how I see it, anyway.
    Arthur Alpert

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