Editorial Board Plays Canard Game; UpFront Columnist Commits Act of Journalism

February 1st, 2015 · No Comments · economy, Fact Check, financial coverage, journalism, labor, NM Legislature, regulation, role of government, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert 

I was poised to launch into another critique of the Albuquerque Journal’s continuing assault on truth and beauty when Winthrop Quigley intervened, committing what looks very much like journalism.

Quigley wasn’t a spoiler, though; he just provided a sharp contrast between the Journal’s insistent political advocacy and what staffers like Quigley strive for, giving readers a fair shake.

But let’s begin at the beginning, with the French word canard, which means a duck (the fowl) and is also French slang for a newspaper. (Eons ago, when I lived in Paris, I remember trying to read the satirical Le Canard Enchainé.)

How it happened I don’t know, but canard came to mean in American English a false or baseless story, report, or rumor. And that sure was a plump political falsehood quaking up a storm atop the Journal’s Jan. 16 editorial on President Obama’s proposal that the nation pay for two years of community college.

“Remember how it worked out,” the editorial began, “when the federal government decided every American – no matter their income or level of financial responsibility – should be able to own a home?

Let’s pause here. Even that brief recollection is not true. No such decision was taken. OK, onward.

The editorialist moved swiftly then to merge the initial untruth with the subprime mortgage crisis, creating a cause-and-effect that adds up to a big, fat canard. Then he or she wondered why the White House hasn’t learned from the devastation.

I hate to dignify so tawdry a fabrication with a refutation. Heck, even the Wall Street executives whose ignorance and/or criminality underlay the crisis don’t blame the government. But I suppose there’s no ducking the job, so here’s what happened:

A housing bubble arose that involved both traditional money sources regulated by anti-regulation regulators, and a shadow banking system, unregulated. The bubble burst, cratering demand for goods and services. Absent demand, the economy fell into the Lesser Depression.

As for Washington’s desire to help inner-city residents buy their own homes as expressed in the Community Re-investment Act (CRA) of 1977, it had zero to do with the bubble.
Economist Dean Baker explained it well in a Sunday, July 3, 2011 essay headlined:

George Will Spreads Some Lies About the Economic Crisis”.

For a deader duck yet, read “Private Wall Street Companies Caused The Financial Crisis, Not Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Or The Community Reinvestment Act” dated October 14, 2011 from politicalcorrection.org, particularly the testimony from canard-rejecting conservatives.

Of course the editors could have clobbered President Obama’s community college plan with no mention of the CRA canard. Which isn’t to say they used it gratuitously; they wanted- to besmirch government, particularly when it bolsters the “general welfare” rather than corporate America’s welfare.

That Journal political stance would be obnoxious but well within modern journalistic tradition if confined to the daily’s editorials, but as you know, that’s not so. Management devotes almost all of its reporting to critical coverage of government(s) while exempting the institution of big business therefrom, even cheering it on.

Meanwhile, happily, Winthrop Quigley and others on staff continue to perpetrate as much journalism as they can.

Case in point: Quigley’s Jan. 22 UpFront column on “right-to-work,” where he set out to find if such legislation would improve the state’s economy, weighed and sifted countervailing bits of evidence and opinion, and concluded:

“The economic answer is: We don’t know.”

Impressive.

The complexity Quigley limns is typical of the best journalism and a sharp contrast to the true believer’s simplicity or the propagandist’s. Even more impressive is his willingness to concede that the truth, even lower “t” truth, is elusive; only the very best will say so.

Note, too, that Quigley’s essay contains not a whisper of the political. I’ve no idea if he dislikes that context or it’s his way to ducking a political confrontation with his editors or both.

It’s clear, though, that they, the editors. are ignoring Quigley’s conclusion. As predicted here this past Dec.31, the Journal is “campaigning for” the Governor’s legislation. Management puts aside its distaste for government when friends hold office.

Of course, as I wrote then, the newspaper’s campaign is relatively subtle thus far, relying on “story placement and headlines to promote management’s political agenda.”

With the legislative session just off-and-running, we have already had two “right-to-work” stories played prominently on the front page, one Jan. 17 and the most recent (as I write), Friday, Jan. 30.
Dan Boyd’s stories have been fine, but he doesn’t devote much space to the politics of “right-to-work,” which is a national project of the oligarchy. I wonder why.

But the story is ongoing and we can watch as the Journal’s treatment evolves. Will Boyd link the “right-to-work” legislation to its sponsors? Will the small divergence between reporter Quigley and management’s advocates – he reports right-to-work is a question mark, they tell readers it’s a big deal – widen or narrow or even matter?

Stay tuned, remembering, of course, that if it walks like a duck…..

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