Headline Spin Reveals Undeniable Favoritism

August 16th, 2014 · 4 Comments · Education, Fact Check, journalism, open government, state government, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

Here’s what Rasmussen Reports, the national polling firm, said Thursday, July 24:

“A new statewide telephone survey of Likely New Mexico Voters finds Martinez and King each with 43% support. Seven percent (7%) like some other candidate, and another seven percent (7%) are undecided.”

Big surprise, huh? Many New Mexicans, given Governor Martinez’s overwhelming advantage in campaign dollars, probably figured she was miles ahead. And Rasmussen has a reputation as GOP-friendly.

I know the poll buoyed lots of Democrats because their exuberance was all over the blogosphere. Joe Monahan wrote an insightful column on the Rasmussen poll in Dan Vukelich’s (lively) new “Albuquerque Free Press”.

Me, I’ve no idea if the race is tight or if Rasmussen’s results were an aberration.

But this I do know – the Albuquerque Journal never reported it.

You read that right. Here we are three weeks later, and the Journal has carried lots of poll results. One was its own July 13 “flash poll” that showed folks cool to President Obama’s handling of immigration and landed – big surprise – on the front page!

But not a word on a poll result that’s – on its face – bad news for its candidate.

What? Am I saying the Journal is behind Governor Martinez?

Yes. Obviously.

My conclusion is based on some blatant evidence, like the Journal’s lack of interest in how the Martinez administration started getting rid of 15 behavioral health contractors even before it read a questionable audit. What we know about the Administration’s behind-the-scene operations is almost exclusively courtesy of New Mexico In Depth, the Las Cruces Sun-News, Santa Fe Reporter and KUNM radio.

Also in the blatant category is the daily’s sudden loss of all interest in Secretary of State Duran’s claims that lots of New Mexicans were voting fraudulently when, after reporter Dan Boyd questioned them, her numbers started to shrivel.

If memory serves, the ACLU is pursuing her records, not the Journal.

For at the Journal, not all transparency is created equal.

The Journal also favors the Governor by more subtle means, like not publishing or relegating to dark corners, the state’s economic record under her leadership.

But the boosts it gives the Governor may be best illustrated in the area of education. Keep in mind, please, the Journal’s oft-expressed editorial stance pro-Martinez’s school “reforms” as we scrutinize a case in point – a Metro section story published Thursday, August 14, C1, under James Montelone’s byline.

The headline was “Education Battle”. The second deck or sub-head was “Martinez, King launch attacks as kids go back to school”. (The online edition headline evokes the same theme: “Candidates for governor clash over schools“.)

This is a lovely exhibit of Journal spin, but it’s nuanced stuff so please follow me closely.

First, the rubrics and the first two paragraphs set up a debate, establish parity, signaling the contenders for the state’s top executive position will lay out their contrasting educational agendas.

But that is not what the story delivered.

Having read it twice to be sure, here’s what I gleaned. King laid out a fairly comprehensive schools agenda. The governor, after announcing an expanded free breakfast plan for low-income students, defended her education initiatives, mostly in response to reporters’ questions.

Hardly dueling agendas.

Puzzled, I looked around the Web to see if other news editors agreed with the Journal’s decision – couching this as a debate – or shared my doubts.

Then Nott wrote, “and an analysis of the data indicates he is right.”

Oooh. Somebody perpetrating journalism! It’s worth reading, whatever your views.

But back to my argument – only the Journal made the decision to play King’s proposals and the Governor’s retorts as equivalent. Everybody else figured King’s proposals (or comments) were the story.

Did Montelone make that choice or did an editor intervene? I wasn’t there, darn it, so I cannot know.

Returning however, to the headline’s second deck– “Martinez, King launch attacks as kids go back to school” –note that the Governor’s name came first. Not a big deal, but it’s backwards, since the story makes clear that the Attorney General was on the offense.

Of course, an editor – not Monteleone – wrote the headlines, the two already cited and the words that ran over the C2 jump – “Gov. Candidates fight over schools”.

Presumably, though, he wrote the lead and paragraph two, which cast the entire story in its “she said, he said” form. Or did he?

I’m inclined to think an editor intervened.

Admittedly, that’s guesswork, but not a huge leap given all the circumstantial evidence and the Journal’s long track record of bending the news to fit its editorial agenda.

Like forgetting to report a poll that suggests its candidate for governor isn’t way ahead.

PS Joe Monahan says the Journal will have a gubernatorial poll this Sunday, Aug. 17. I’ll be looking for a mention of the Rasmussen survey as background, somewhere in the small print in section Z, page 189. Or not.

Tags: ·················

4 Comments so far ↓

  • John Ingram

    As to the poll by Research & Polling, Inc., there is no disclaimer to be found anywhere in Sunday’s ABQ Journal which documents for the record that Research & Polling, Inc. is a “subsidiary” of Tommy Lang’s media empire.

    We bet you a bag of green chile that when R&P, Inc. called the 606 registered voters for Lang’s poll they didn’t say, “Hi, this is a subsidiary of the ABQ Journal and we’re calling to ask you if you will vote for our candidate in November governor’s race.”

  • Diane .denish

    Ask the Journal if they print other people’s polls and they will say no. That’s true unless it fits their bias. Check the archives…in 2010 they published Rasmussen. Just sayin…….

  • MattR

    I don’t think that there is anything nefarious about the Albuquerque Journal not reporting on the Rasmussen poll (or the Public Policy Polling poll earlier this year or any of the internal polls). A lot of newspapers have policies that stop them from reporting on auto-dial polls; I assume the Journal does.

    I write about all the polls because they are out there in the public and they all have some value (well, maybe not Zogby’s internet polling). But I also run a very different news source than the Journal or any other newspaper.

  • Arthur Alpert

    Thank you all for your ideas.
    Matt, you should know that the Journal has quoted Rasmussen more than once before. So I question your assumption that the newspaper has policies against “reporting on auto-dial polls.”
    It’s also worth noting the Journal routinely refers to a host of polls and surveys from AP-GfK, Washington Post/ABC and NY Times/CBS and Pew Research, among others.
    Nothing “nefarious” there? Maybe not, but given the circumstantial evidence I cited – which was minimal compared to what I might have cited – the editors’ failure to cite the Rasmussen Reports poll is suspiciously selective.
    Arthur Alpert

Leave a Comment