Good News on the Journal Front

February 22nd, 2015 · 1 Comment · Education, environment, journalism, Uncategorized

By Denise Tessier
Those who lamented the departure of Leslie Linthicum as UpFront columnist for the Albuquerque Journal can take heart with the newspaper’s hiring of former Albuquerque Tribune writer Ollie Reed Jr.

The development also is heartening when one considers that this month marked the departure of Journal science writer John Fleck, another UpFront columnist, whose farewell column appeared in the Journal Feb. 2.

Though it might be a tad over the top to say that Reed’s hiring as a Journal staff writer makes up for the loss of both Linthicum and Fleck, I’d wager it’s as close as it can get to accomplishing just that.

Fleck, the newspaper’s resident expert on water issues, said goodbye with the appropriately headlined “A toast to newspaper readers – with H2O,” explaining he was leaving the paper to write a book:

My friends at the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program, who care about these issues as much as I do, have kindly offered me a home to work on a book about the future of water and the communities in southwestern North America that depend on it. The folks at Island Press have agreed to publish it once I finish.

A few days earlier, he had given readers of his water blog a heads up about the departure, posting:

This morning, the day after I finished up the last stories of a 30-plus year career in daily journalism, feels oddly normal – checking the drought monitor, reservoir levels at Elephant Butte, the latest storm forecast.

In response to a commenter on that posting, Fleck explained that he couldn’t do the book while remaining in the “real time” world of daily journalism:

It forces a certain style of thinking – not just “what is this thing I’m trying to understand,”, but “what is the story I can tell about this thing I’m trying to understand”. They overlap, but they’re different.

Fleck added, however, that he will continue blogging about his Colorado River research and possibly about New Mexico water issues as well. Those interested in staying abreast of his insights can sign up for his email newsletter at jfleck at inkstain.

Meanwhile, a look at the half dozen stories from Reed’s first two weeks at the Journal indicates coverage of water – and New Mexico topics in general – has been placed in good hands.

Four days after Fleck’s farewell, Reed had a story quoting the director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, talking about dire water conditions. A few days later, he profiled Mike Hamman, the new CEO and chief engineer for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.

In between those two stories, he covered an education news conference about graduation rates, hosted by the governor, the education secretary and Albuquerque Public Schools’ superintendent and school board president.

He hit the front page Feb. 11 telling the story of the trash and vandalism at Petroglyph National Monument, as seen through the “disappointed” eyes of the park’s new superintendent during a walking tour.

A few days later he was on the front page again, this time with his first UpFront column, “Taking wing with New Mexico’s bird man.” In the story, Reed said that when Hart Schwarz talks about birds, he “can transport you anywhere – a marshy patch of ground in the Zuni Mountains, a stand of firecracker-red maples at Fourth of July Canyon near Tajique, or – as is the case on this day last week – a cave behind waterfall in the Jemez Mountains.”

Reed related that Schwarz was able to do this “transporting” while the two were sitting in a Northeast Heights coffeehouse, but Reed, the storyteller, in turn was taking Journal readers along for the ride to the bird man’s little-known spots of natural beauty.

Take this paragraph from the story:

That Jemez Mountain cave he’s talking about is one of three places in New Mexico discovered to be a nesting place of the mysterious black swift, a bird difficult to study because it spends most of its time in the sky, eating on the wing and coming to ground only to roost at night or to feed the single youngster it produces. From the late 1990s into the mid-2000s, Schwarz went to that cave every year, settling in for five or six hours at a time, from afternoon until early dusk, listening to the persistent hum of the waterfall, gazing into the pool of water on the cave floor.

(Ten years ago, while at the Tribune, he profiled another bird man, photographer Jess Alford, whom Reed described as a man “sparked by the adventure that comes with feeling the pulse of the planet beneath his feet and by the satisfaction that comes with taking photographs. . .” )

Especially heartening for those who love history was Reed’s front-page news story Friday (Feb. 20) about the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History’s new $4.4 million “Only in Albuquerque” exhibit, scheduled to open next month. Laid out with multiple photographs and filled with palpable exhibit descriptions over much of pages A1 and A2, it was an informative as well as positive story about Albuquerque, deserving of the prominent page layout it received.

Its publication offers the hope there’s a good chance we’ll see more history-related stories from the writer known for his Tribune “Trail Tales” – stories like “The Legend of Capt. Stanton” or the one about Lincoln, New Mexico, told through the eyes of those who’ve settled there (including a monument manager who described the town’s most famous resident – Billy the Kid – as “a bad guy who gave me a great job”).

Reed’s hiring was a great move for the Journal. He joins the ranks of a group of gifted writers who previously left their mark at the Albuquerque Tribune, a list that includes Linthicum, who switched over to the Journal before the Trib’s demise, and current UpFront columnist Joline Gutierrez Krueger who, like Reed, stayed at the Trib until it went dark.

Reed’s byline in the Journal comes seven years to the month after the closing of the Albuquerque Tribune. Recently, he’s worked as event emcee at Bookworks on Rio Grande Boulevard and he co-edited a book of reminiscences about fellow New Mexico writer Max Evans.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Roland Penttila

    I’m glad that you have had an opportunity to write a good-news, favorable article about the Journal. John Fleck’s decision to leave full-time journalism is certainly a loss to New Mexico and the critical issue of water and water rights in the state. However, I’m glad to learn that his blog will continue and that we will eventually have a book from him on the subject. It also sounds that Mr. Reed will be an asset to an organization mostly devoid of assets. Good news for those who are still subscribers and readers.

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