New Mexico Legislature Coverage Holds Promise To Be Really Good This Year

January 11th, 2015 · 1 Comment · journalism, NM Legislature

By Denise Tessier

Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza more than once has written that a serious casualty of the shrinking of mainstream news organizations this past decade is “the disappearance of really good state capitol coverage.”

With that in mind, he praised as “very smart” the Associated Press’ announcement last month that it would create a national team of state government specialists to collaborate with statehouse reporters. The stated goal: creating reportage that better explains how legislative action affects people’s lives.

As the New Mexico Legislature gears up to begin its 2015 session on Jan. 20, New Mexico seems to be standing in good stead as far as having a pool of qualified journalists ready to cover it.

New Mexico has long had a strong AP presence in covering the State Legislature, and the local Associated Press announced Friday (Jan. 9) that it has hired a reporter from California to cover the legislative session, working with veterans Susan Montoya Bryan and Russell Contreras. AP stories, of course, are carried by media outlets throughout the state.

The Albuquerque Journal will be covering the Roundhouse with its political team that includes former AP reporter Deborah Baker, Dan Boyd and James Monteleone, complemented by the efforts of beat and UpFront reporters attempting to follow specific issues through the two houses.

Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Steve Terrell has long been a must-read for political coverage, not just during the session, but year-round, and was the only New Mexico reporter on Cillizza’s Washington Post list of best state-based political reporters in 2013. Terrell recently told an audience of journalists that he practically lives at the Roundhouse during the session.

Back in 2012, journalist Heath Haussamen not only made Cillizza’s list of best political reporters in the country but his now-closed blog, NMPolitics.net, was named as one of Cilliza’s favorites. Now, Haussamen is one of the principals at New Mexico in Depth, which is creating a Legislative Guide slated to be published by news outlets, including The Santa Fe New Mexican and Las Cruces Sun-News, and distributed at the Roundhouse. Haussamen wrote that the guide “will critique some ways those in power keep New Mexicans from knowing the rules of the game or how it’s even played.”

In Depth also recently launched a “money in politics” project “to look more deeply at how money influences our democracy.” The web site’s data reporter, Sandra Fish, has posted, among others, articles with charts showing how money influenced the 2014 elections, including one showing that the top spenders in ad placement were generally the winners and another revealing the biggest players in terms of political donations.

ABQ Free Press, the free print tabloid available weekly at numerous locations in the Albuquerque metro area and Santa Fe, over the past year has become established as a reliable and investigative news source that will also be keeping an eye on the Legislature. In addition to its in-house reporters it lists as a contributor Dede Feldman, whose book, “Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits and Citizens,” is a highly readable guide to how the Legislature works (or doesn’t). New Mexico readers are fortunate that after 16 years as a state senator, Feldman has remained true to her journalistic roots, writing articles with behind-the-scenes insight, which also appear on her blog. One can sign up for her newsletter at dedefeldman.com.

Newest on the scene is the New Mexico Political Report, an online news source that went live this month. The nonprofit is funded by grants, as well as funds from donors who have given to ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive advocacy group. But Managing Editor Matthew Reichbach says the site will feature nonpartisan, objective journalism. As he told ABQ Free Press (Dec. 31 issue):

I will have total editorial control; that is in my contract and signed by both sides. If anybody at ProgressNow tells me to do anything, I will tell them to go away.

Working with Reichbach are Andrew Lyman, a print and broadcast journalist who covered the 2013 session for the New Mexico News Network, and Margaret Wright, formerly with the Weekly Alibi and New Mexico Compass, who has already posted two enterprising dispatches from New Mexico’s southeastern oil patch on the New Mexico Political Report site.

It was Reichbach who broke the news Friday that the New Mexico AP had hired a new reporter to cover the upcoming legislative session. As of Friday night, AP’s facebook page still advertised the job.

Linking to a story that appeared in the Fresno Bee, Reichbach reported that longtime New Mexico AP reporter Susan Montoya Bryan will oversee breaking news and enterprise in the state and that Vik Jolly, who worked at the Orange County Register in California, will cover the legislative session for the AP. As Reichbach noted, Jolly will take over from Barry Massey, who left the AP last year after 35 years, including 21 years of covering the legislative process in New Mexico. Massey is now the legislative liaison and spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts.

For legislative coverage this year, look also to the Santa Fe Reporter, which has consistently been covering New Mexico issues in depth, and to its Morning Word feature, which was started by Reichbach and is now helmed by veteran journalist Peter St. Cyr.

Of course, it’s also informative to read New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan, who covered the political scene long enough to be quoted in the Capitol Hill newspaper “Roll Call,” the Los Angeles Times, Politico and other publications, his long-time presence in the state backed by his training as a journalist.

One may count on supplementing their legislative news, too, with the New Mexico Mercury, which features in-depth interviews by V. B. Price with experts able to explain the various issues being contemplated for action by the Legislature.

Add to that podcasts by KUNM and features from KNME, and others not mentioned here, and 2015 holds promise for really good state capitol coverage. Cillizza would likely approve.

Update: The Journal reported Wednesday (Jan. 7) that it again has been hacked – not once, but two more times. Hacked this time were the Journal’s facebook page and its Twitter account, the latter on Tuesday (Jan. 6) and the former the week before. And this time, the Journal gave the incidents a bit more coverage than the incomplete treatment it gave when its online account ad was hacked last month.

The Journal story, “Hacker hijacks Journal Twitter account,” was long enough to merit a subhead – “Posting claims to be on behalf of Islamic State group” – and a jump from page C1 to C2. Interestingly, it appears that online, Albuquerque Business First posted a story about the hacking three hours before the Journal did (both on Jan. 6)

Tags: ·····························

One Comment so far ↓

  • mark ropel

    Nice and informative, plus props and new introductions too. The more eyes on this session the better, I say.

Leave a Comment