‘New’ Media Making Newsworthy In-Roads

May 1st, 2015 · No Comments · environment, journalism

By Denise Tessier

For the second time in as many days, this morning’s Albuquerque Journal carried a front-page story that had been covered first by other New Mexico media.

In “DA Fears for her safety after charging APD officers,” the Journal directly quoted District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s comments that had been published in last week’s ABQ Free Press:

I fear for my safety because other Albuquerque Police Department officers have told me that I should. I don’t think they’re going to kill me, but I have been told to fear for my safety.

The previous day, the Journal reported on plans for construction of a 32-acre “interim” commercial nuclear waste storage site for southeastern New Mexico, five days after the Santa Fe New Mexican advanced the story (the subject of yesterday’s ABQJournalWatch post.)

The district attorney’s comments, made during what ABQ Free Press reporter Dennis Domrzalski had called a “wide-ranging interview,” were important enough to warrant a story and follow-up by other media, including the Journal. And the Journal noted in its story that Brandenburg has declined to talk to anyone else:

Brandenburg, through a spokeswoman, declined to discuss the issue with the Journal and has not done interviews with local television stations on the subject.

This is not to chide the Journal (again) for calling itself “New Mexico’s Leading News Source”. Nor is it to remake the point that “scooping” the competition – so important decades ago, when local TV was a rival rather than a partner and the daily Albuquerque Tribune was robust – is not so important to the Journal these days.

In fact, the Journal story about Brandenburg’s comments contained new information: that the U.S. Attorney’s Office was ready to make a referral to the FBI to investigate any threats, but Brandenburg told them not to pursue the matter, and that Albuquerque Police Department officials first learned about the DA’s fears from the ABQ Free Press interview; it received no request from the DA’s office to investigate.

What is noteworthy here is that ABQ Free Press has “made the news” in this way.

One year after its launch on April 23, 2014, the free weekly newspaper has become a journalistic contender, not only because of its news and analysis content, but because of its readership numbers.

In an editorial note April 22 announcing the paper’s first anniversary, editor and co-publisher Dan Vukelich (who, like Domrzalski, is formerly of the Albuquerque Tribune), wrote that ABQ Free Press is “now the state’s second-largest newspaper” in terms of circulation:

We’re up to 50,000 copies at 550 locations from Belen to Santa Fe, and there’s even one reader pushing us to place a rack in Las Vegas.

For comparison, the Journal’s circulation (daily, rather than weekly) was 84,826 as of the last posting at MondoTimes, whose listings don’t yet include the year-old ABQ Free Press. MondoTimes put the Weekly Alibi’s circulation at less than 40,000 and the New Mexican at about 20,000.

Online, at the top of a survey asking readers for input on what to cover, ABQ Free Press says each issue actually reaches 100,000 people.

“We’ve come a long way since printing our first issue . . . and we’ve tackled some tough issues, including the ongoing story of the Albuquerque Police Department’s relationship with the people it is supposed to protect,” Vukelich wrote of the paper’s first year.

Also worthy of note on the alternative media front: Heath Haussamen is returning to daily journalism.

Haussamen’s online news and opinion site, NMpolitics.net, was highly successful both in terms of readership and influence when he shut it down in September 2012 to help start New Mexico In Depth. At the time, Haussamen’s own personal workload had reached an unsustainable point and he had been unable to find an investor or buyer to help.

Now recharged from his time at NMID (which, by the way, won the general overall excellence award at New Mexico Press Women’s state conference last weekend – meaning its writers took more awards home than any other single organization), Haussamen recently wrote that he would like to mentor young journalists and “focus where my heart is pulling me – on doing journalism that’s relational. . .”

By “relational”, Haussamen explains on his web site:

While reporters are trained to be observers, we also live in and are part of communities. In an era where people are flooded with information but often feel excluded from public discourse, journalism can do so much more than inform. It can engage. . . .

I’m excited to take another stab at running a news organization that treats politics as serious business and people as partners in our democratic experiment instead of bystanders or consumers – a site that engages all people, holds power accountable, cuts through back-and-forth spin to find facts, and seeks common ground to help us move forward together.

For Haussamen, relational journalism is imperative if New Mexico is to “overcome our state’s poverty mentality. . . .We’re best when we work together, and I want to help pull New Mexico in that direction. I’m a native New Mexican. I’m raising my daughter here. I’m committed to helping better this state.”

Haussamen is fundraising and hopes to re-launch the site June 1.

Meanwhile, New Mexico Mercury editor V. B. Price and publisher Benito Aragon recently announced that they would go a little bit lighter on their editorial output over the summer while reorganizing to become a non-profit and pursue grants. Price wrote:

We are transforming our LLC into a non-profit corporation because the recession of 2008 still plays havoc with our local economy and our drive for honorary subscriptions, local advertising, and investors, did not pay off as we had hoped.

. . .We will still offer the Mercury as you have come to know it, but not at the pace we’ve sustained for over two years.

This reader can attest to being unable to keep up with the prolific output of the site since its launch in March 2013 and finds good advice in Price’s suggestion that readers use this time — after checking out its continuing weekly front page — to “go back through the Mercury’s archives and enjoy some of the many hundreds of wonderful pieces from our more than 280 contributors that you might have missed. . .,” and to listen to Insight New Mexico video interviews “on topics that endure beyond the hectic cycle of the news.”


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