Willed Superficiality

November 20th, 2014 · 3 Comments · journalism, NM Legislature

By Arthur Alpert

Not a day passes that the Albuquerque Journal does not offer a lesson or five or six in how not to do journalism. This drives me crazy because I get lost trying to decide what to target first.

Should I point out stories the Journal ignores, presumably because its plutocratic agenda forbids?

OK, here, briefly, are a few of the latest:

  • The DOE expects a five billion dollar profit for the taxpayers from the program that funded Solyndra and other green energy startups, as Bloomberg Business Week (and others) noted Nov. 12. Somehow, the Journal, which ran umpteen stories on Solyndra’s big loss (as I noted here Nov. 16, 2011) hasn’t found space for DOE’s big profit.
  • Speaking of energy, the Journal also missed Donald Blankenship’s indictment. The former Massey Energy Co. CEO is charged with conspiring to violate mine safety standards and to impede mine safety officials, making false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and securities fraud. News organizations reported it Nov. 13.

Of course, they were only miners, the 29 who died in that April 5, 2010 Upper Big Branch explosion, not mine owners.

  • The Journal’s post-election analysis included zero coverage of the decisive role played by dark money.

Of course, the Journal continues to employ a range of tactics to promote its oligarchic agenda, including stories not assigned, stories hidden in the back pages and stories disguised under misleading rubrics.

I have written about all those, however, and, I fear, scanted a common tactic – withholding information. What got me thinking about that was Dan Boyd’s “Politics Notebook” Saturday, Nov. 15, C1, headlined:

Democratic Party chairman won’t seek re-election”.

Boyd did a fine job (as do his colleagues) within the Journal’s rules, which impose the old “objectivity” on reporters, thus constraining them from using their knowledge to put facts in context so as to lend them meaning.

I will call the result willed superficiality. It’s a Journal specialty.

In this case, what Boyd certainly knows and did not use is that Bregman tried and failed to herd and drive in one direction at least three Democratic parties – the urban liberals in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the downstate (oil, ranching, agriculture) conservatives and the northern NM (mostly Hispanic) traditionalists.

Though this isn’t news to any New Mexican who pays attention, the Albuquerque Journal never lets on that it knows. I surmise that keeping the sibling nature of downstate Democrats and Republicans “secret” permits editors (and editorial writers) to use the term bipartisan as a seal of approval. At the Journal, bipartisan means rising happily above basic disagreements, as on state budgets.

Which is simplistic balderdash in New Mexico politics.

I’ve merely touched on what Boyd (and his colleagues) know and what, given the event of Bregman’s resignation, they might have supplied to educate readers. And my “three parties” idea barely scratches the surface of Democratic dysfunction.

It’s also the fact that the Journal’s willed superficiality leaves the state Republican Party even more opaque to readers.

“Complexity?” I can hear Journal political commissars snarling, “You can’t handle complexity.”

If you really want to understand New Mexico’s politics, pick up “Inside the New Mexico Senate”, subtitled “Boots, Suits and Citizens” by former State Senator Dede Feldman. UNM Press published it earlier this year.

Feldman (disclosure, she’s a friend) relates her experiences at the Roundhouse, from initial confusion to learning the ropes, with blow-by-blow accounts of legislative victories and defeats.  Simultaneously, she offers an excellent primer on how laws get made or mangled and casts light on the role of special interests, lack of transparency, personal and family ties, lobbyists and “citizen legislators” in the “best little chorizo lab in New Mexico.”

It’s a book, of course, so the comparison with the Journal’s daily reportage is not exact. Still, reading Dede’s volume casts into bold relief the Journal’s woefully inadequate picture of state politics.

Perhaps that is why our daily never reported as news its publication, never assigned a feature and never reviewed it.

Oops. Sorry I wrote that last sentence. It’s disturbing.

Over the years, I have worked at some bad newspapers and TV stations, but I cannot imagine any of them not finding newsworthy this former journalist’s memoir-cum-analysis of state politics. It’s newsworthy on the face of it, I mean, even before reading.

News judgments are art, not science, but this would be news on another planet in another dimension. That the Journal stonewalled Dede Feldman’s book is a reminder that it is not in the news business so much as it is a political tool.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • mark ropel

    For that paper to ignore our favorite former and beloved Sen. De De Feldman’s book is just loathsome. Mr. Albert, thank you for pointing this out, you see with an additional interesting and free weekly available , all of my local interests are covered quite adequately, thank you, without that paper. What irony, had they reviewed it I would have bought a copy, even for a dollar.

  • F. Chris Garcia

    The Journal “educate”? Perish the thought. Your “willed superficiality” is a good starting phase.
    Kudos to Feldman’s book. As a primer, perhaps a first overall read would be “Governing New Mexico” published by UNM Press.

  • Bill Tiwald

    I bought Senator Feldman’s book and have yet to read it. I am looking forward to it. The ALB Journal is callow. Sometimes I read it in about 5 or 10 minutes. I notice it relies on the AP, a conservative news organization too.

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