Editorial on Griego Resignation Exposes Gap in News Coverage

March 18th, 2015 · No Comments · journalism, NM Legislature, state government, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

What follows probably constitutes a first. I don’t remember ever digging into a single Albuquerque Journal editorial for a post.

But what the editorial board said Tuesday, March 17, under the headline, “Griego resignation fallout sends politics into the mud” deserves attention for its tone, what it gets right and what it reveals about management’s reporting of politics.

First, please note the rubric’s tone, maintained to the end of the editorial. It’s oh-so-moralistic. Of course, the Journal often speaks as if perched high atop the Sangre de Cristos, miles above the vulgar political fray, the better to disguise the reality that it is itself a political player.

Heck, only three days earlier, the daily perpetrated its latest public relations promotion for its fossil fuel friends. It was another Marita Noon Op Ed column, an attack on rooftop solar power. The essay came courtesy of the industry and – par for the course – the Journal hid that from readers.

(I’ve no idea if the editorialists are blind to the contradiction or cynical.)

But back to the editorial, which as a citizen I generally found agreeable and which took both parties to task for the political maneuvers around the resignation of Sen. Phil Griego, a San Jose Democrat, and the need to replace him.

“First, it’s hard to know why the festering scandal …didn’t blow up until the last week of the session,” it said. “Who knows what movidas governed the timing?

Well, the explosion might have come sooner if the Journal had dug into Griego’s dealings. The Santa Fe Reporter uncovered the “stinky real estate deal” last summer. The Journal ran an item but never pursued the story.

Was it because Griego is a Democrat who worked well with the Journal’s friends in Santa Fe?

I don’t know, but the editorial cleverly notes further down, “There often is bipartisan interest in protectionism” and as noted, the Journal also will protect friends.

Moving right along, the editorial hits Republicans for insisting on an instant replacement in spite of the delays required by the Open Meetings Act and Senate leaders from both parties for sealing their lips on why Griego quit.

Later it notes (with reference to a Griego replacement), “these are pure political appointments wired from the start at the county level,” before concluding:

“Griego’s ethical amnesia and all that followed are tawdry at best, but so predictable. The participants in this spate of bipartisan bad behavior should be embarrassed.”

Now here’s what strikes me about this management opinion: It’s full of information and understandings about New Mexico politics that almost never show up in the Journal’s news coverage.

This big gap in newsgathering goes well beyond its failure to pursue the story of Sen. Griego’s “ethical amnesia” when it surfaced.

Inter-party deals involve more than “the bipartisan interest in protectionism” cited in the editorial. Where’s the coverage?

Also, as alternative news sources report, there’s a bipartisan interest in serving money interests. Where’s that coverage?

Further, the Journal’s coverage of this legislative session, as of previous sessions, minimizes the role of lobbyists.

And it minimizes the role of money in legislating, in electioneering and in governance. (See NMinDepth.com. for a bang-up job in that area.)

Then there’s the absence of news on the internal workings of the political parties. I’ve read about tensions between urban Democrats and Sen. Griego, but not in the Journal.

Still, the Journal’s coverage of the Democrats is effusive compared to what it writes about the State GOP. Surely, the governor’s very smart political advisor, Jay McCleskey, deserves more ink.

The editorial’s use of phrases like “political appointments wired from the start at the county level” and the word “movida” strongly suggest somebody in the executive suite knows state politics.

If that’s the case, why keep the knowledge for editorials? Why not unleash the beat reporters to write about our politics in all its color, complexity and cash.

And its movidas, too, so long as we recognize they long ago crossed ethnic lines.

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