Carrying Water for the Right. . .and Other Blunders

May 3rd, 2015 · No Comments · campaign finance reform, climate change, environment, foreign policy, inequality, journalism

By Denise Tessier

Ideas for ABQJournalWatch posts have far surpassed my time to write of late, and rather than let them get too moldy to use (as has often been the case in the past), the following are brief riffs on (fairly) recent Albuquerque Journal eyebrow raisers.

It’s OK for Susana but Not the Dems

We weren’t the only ones to notice when the Journal pounced on Attorney General Hector Balderas and Auditor Tim Keller in an April 29 editorial that criticized the two for sending email donation requests to fellow Democrats in advance of next year’s elections. Joe Monahan’s newmexicoblogspot of April 30 noted that the two Democrats had been “singled out for an editorial bashing”.

The editorial said Balderas and Keller “should take the high ground” and refrain from “scrounging for donations”, saying the two men are “supposed to be governed by rule of law and protect the taxpayers’ bottom line” and therefore “should be above partisan politics.”

The editorial questioned whether either man plans “to treat New Mexicans of all political stripes equitably and fairly” in their official duties, considering their letters ask for donations to not only defeat Republicans but help fellow Democrats.

Funny thing is, the Journal didn’t concern itself enough to editorialize when Gov. Susana Martinez sent out email solicitations for donations when announcing her formation of Susana PAC! a few years ago.

Martinez’s email, sent out in June 2011, said:

Special interests . . . they spend millions opposing our agenda and opposing candidates who dare to challenge the status quo.

. . .special interests obstructed, choked and fought other reforms. And they’re ready to spend more – a lot more – to elect liberal legislators who will fight reform and undo the progress we’ve made.

The 12-paragraph letter is no longer available online, but contribution links in the email still work – all seven of them. (UPDATE: Here’s a link to a screen shot of the June 7, 2011 Susana PAC email solicitation.)

Maybe the Journal gave her a pass after reasoning that it’s not partisan to call opponents “liberal legislators” rather than Democrats.

Monahan had an interesting take on the editorial, saying:

Both Balderas and Keller are being earmarked for attacks by the R’s and their newspaper so early in their terms because both are seen as having the potential to go higher on the political ladder.

Speaking of Silence (When It Comes to Martinez) . . .

The Journal’s editors also failed to find worthy of editorial dismay Martinez’s veto of a supplemental legislative appropriation of $1.3 million for the state’s public defenders.

Martinez, a former prosecutor, said in her veto message she was “disappointed by the rapid rate of overspending at the Public Defender Department” and was left to “wonder what the actual size is of the projected shortfall in the current year,” according to a story by Journal staff reporter Scott Sandlin.

The story, pretty much buried inside the metro section April 23, reported the financial situation for the state’s public defenders as “dismal.” The state Public Defender Commission, which had asked for a 116 percent increase, got 8 percent, far less than needed for support staff and attorneys and also to pay contract lawyers hired when there’s a conflict with the defender office, the story said.

From Sandlin’s story:

Twelfth Judicial District Judges James Waylon Counts of Alamogordo and Chief Judge Karen Parsons, of Lincoln County, both have noted in detailed findings that significant problems exist in getting adequate representation for defendants.

Counts said in an order last September that despite the state’s obligation to pay for the costs of indigent representation, it has not.

She quoted Parsons as saying it’s resulted in a “crisis of Constitutional magnitude” in Lincoln County.

Sandlin also noted that:

Gary Mitchell of Ruidoso, who has handled much of the indigent defense for Lincoln County, has said in pleadings that he’s been subsidizing the public defender for three decades.

Mitchell filed a motion last week in a Lincoln County case asking for charges against a client to be dismissed “due to the State of New Mexico’s failure to … appropriate sufficient funds to provide counsel for indigent defendants and (for) deliberate and vindictive interference with the fundamental right to counsel.”

 

“Environmentalists leading Calif. to water woes”

The quote above was an actual headline on a column April 23 on the Journal’s editorial page, which I would have let slide if the New Republic hadn’t written a rebuttal to the claim being bandied about by those view environmental stewardship as something bad. As New Republic writer Rebecca Leber pointed out in her rebuttal piece, the echo-chamber for this “blame the environmentalists” meme includes the usual corporate-backed crew posing as media:

Fox News, National Review, American Thinker, Town Hall, Breitbart, and Reason have all suggested that environmental policies have exacerbated the perilous lack of water in California, and that liberals are trying to hide it by shifting blame to agriculture. Carly Fiorina, a possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, charged that the drought is a “man-made human tragedy” brought on by “overzealous environmentalists.” A recent Wall Street Journal editorial argued, “The liberals who run California have long purported that their green policies are a free (organic) lunch, but the bills are coming due.” The WSJ blames drained reservoirs and aquifers on resource misallocation, not necessarily the low snowpack.

The Journal joined this “media” herd when it ran a Tribune News Service op-ed by columnist Jay Ambrose, which advocated the building of reservoirs and desalinization plants, both of which he says are blocked by rules backed by environmentalists. The Journal headline blamed environmentalists for California’s lack of water, and Ambrose blamed them in advance for blocking so-called solutions, too.

Leber’s article pointed out, however, that California already has more than 1,400 dams, and “Building additional reservoirs does little when there’s no snow or rain to fill them.”

And since Leber mentioned Fiorina: Note that the Journal also ran a Cal Thomas’ column April 13 that tried to make the case that Carly Fiorina would make a good president. He favorably compared Fiorina to Margaret Thatcher, calling her “tough and smart,” and went on to claim that Fiorina’s accomplishments and foreign policy experience are more impressive than those of Hillary Clinton, despite the latter’s experience as first lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Also on the plus side, according to Thomas, Fiorina is “openly Christian,” pro-life and has “a very personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Thomas neglected to mention that Fiorina laid off 18,000 employees before being forced out as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and that she was removed from John McCain’s presidential campaign for missteps, among other not-so-positive background details.

Seeing Double

Long-time readers of the Journal have probably caught on by now that the Journal will run stories that have already run in one of the zoned editions of the paper if they’re also worthy of the Albuquerque metro edition. This means that a reader in the East Mountains, for example, might read a story in the Mountain View Telegraph and then see it again in the main paper. Same for West Side readers and those who read the Santa Fe edition, Journal North.

Usually the stories run within a day or two. But seeing a Mark Oswald column on the front page of the Journal April 19, nine days after reading it online in Journal North, was initially jarring. The delay was no doubt due to lack of space, and the column — “Anti-Semitism in Santa Fe?” – was definitely worthy of the front page in the main edition. So it’s not that big a deal.

What’s aggravating is seeing the Journal waste valuable news space running identical wire service stories twice in the same paper or on consecutive days.

It doesn’t seem to be happening as much since the city desk and business desk editors switched seats – it appeared that the news and business sides were filling page holes without consulting each other — but it’s happened a couple of times in the last two weeks and so is worthy of mention.

On April 22, the same story actually was published in the Journal on facing pages – a full version on the last page of the A section and a trimmed version on the business front (B1), so the duplication was pretty obvious. It was troubling, too, in that the Associated Press story — about the Food and Drug Administration finding “problems” with homeopathic remedies — perpetuated misunderstandings about these non-pharmaceutical alternatives.

It was legitimate to run a story quoting the FDA, but running it twice could be construed as unfairly hammering the alternatives, as long-time readers would expect the Journal to do on its editorial page.

Another example didn’t carry any potential agenda baggage, but running it twice just made it look like editors aren’t paying attention. In this case, space was devoted across the top of C3 on April 25 to Rachel D’Oro’s Associated Press dispatch from Anchorage that four military veterans planned to climb Denali, North America’s tallest mountain, on Memorial Day. Headline: “Veterans plan to summit peak in Memorial day tribute.”

Same exact story ran again the next day in the Journal, this time at the bottom of B7 with a photo. Headline: “Military vets plan to climb Denali in Memorial Day tribute.”

With the newspaper’s print editions so tight, it’s just a waste of valuable space.

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