Daily Politicization of the News

September 18th, 2015 · 2 Comments · climate change, economy, financial coverage, health care reform, journalism, Koch brothers, role of government

By Arthur Alpert

The Albuquerque Journal’s daily politicization of news isn’t always dramatic. The editors don’t slip political material into Associated Press stories every day. Nor do they edit those AP accounts to remove “objectionable” content every day. Sometimes Journal commissars are content to employ relatively pedestrian tools.

Today, for example, Friday, Sept. 18, there’s another front pager on the EPA-caused mine spill. For obvious reasons, Journal editors cannot get enough of that story and relish putting it on Page One. This time, government was to blame; what better confirmation of the Journal’s prime narrative – government is the enemy. (Except, of course, when it cossets, underwrites and protects corporate America.)

It’s a stark contrast to the daily’s treatment of private enterprise-caused spills, fires and other disasters; they are relegated to the inside pages or ignored. (For tracking environmental insults, I recommend Climateprogress.org.)

Also on the front page was Rosalie Rayburn’s account for what Census figures show, fewer New Mexicans are going without health insurance although a big number, 14 percent, still lack protection.

You can read the entire story and not find a mention of Obamacare, the reason for the decline, but don’t blame Rayburn. Journal editors frown on kind words for Obamacare anywhere in the newspaper and in particular on Page One.

D’Val Westphal’s UpFront column offers a positive note, though.  For her solid “pro and con” on the ABQ bus rapid transit plan, she found a “con’ who isn’t Paul Gessing.

This was downright humanitarian. Gessing, poor guy, seems to be the only right-winger Journal reporters are allowed to call for opinion. I’ve met him. Nice fellow. It’s my impression that he’s energetic and hardworking and believes what he’s saying.

Still, you would think the Journal would give him a rest. Only yesterday he was called upon to dis the BioPark tax plan. Why not call a conservative once in awhile? Gessing isn’t that. He’s a paid advocate for the Rio Grande Foundation, part of the Koch brothers’ national political network, which pushes radical, laissez-faire political economy.

Incidentally, Ms. Westphal’s critic was one Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the CATO Institute, a Koch brothers’ invention and the sire of the Rio Grande Foundation.

Which reminds me that only two days ago, Wednesday the 16th, the Journal ran not one but two Op Ed columns from …yeah, you guessed it…the Koch brothers.

The first, from the Kochs’ Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, prescribed austerity for the national economy, based no doubt on its success in, say, Spain and Britain. Below that, an executive from the Kochs’ “State Budget Solutions” argued New Mexico should reduce reliance on federal dollars.

My point is not the omnipresence of Koch opinion in the Journal, although it is the case that today’s Journal publishes more wisdom from the Far Right than conservative sources. No, it’s that Journal editors didn’t tell readers the Kochs paid for both pieces of advocacy.


If the Journal’s editorial and Op Ed pages offered a range of opinion, we might not require that its essayists be properly identified. But then, if wishes were fishes…..

This is too bad because my feeble hope that the Journal would discover the word “fairness” stirred on its deathbed a couple of weeks ago. The editors ran an Op Ed from Richard “Rick” Berman. He’s made a fortune creating front groups to lobby for industries anxious to keep killing people without nasty government interference but squeamish about being seen buying influence. Known in some precincts as Dr. Evil, Berman has represented Big Tobacco and liquor companies; for the latter, he targeted those awful people at Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Anyway, Saturday, Sept. 5, when the Journal published his “Activists unfairly smear agriculture” for the “Center for Consumer Freedom”, somebody – I presume an editor – appended this:

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit that lobbies on behalf of the fast food, meat, alcohol and tobacco industries.

Wow! This may not be ideal (Google CCF and you will understand my concern) but it’s big step forward, nevertheless.

Or it would be if it became a template.

And then there was today’s story on the Fed’s decision to leave interest rates where they are in part because the inflation rate is too low and shows no sign of reviving. For how many years have the Journal’s favorite politicians, economists and pseudo-economists warned us Fed stimulus would result in raging Weimar-grade inflation? How many such warnings has the Journal published?

To be honest, I don’t know. I do know how many times the Journal has called those prognosticators – including Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico – to account. The number is zero.

Which brings us back to where we started. The Journal’s politicization of the news is not always dramatic. But it’s always.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Diane J. Schmidt

    Nice column, Arthur. It assures me the paper will stay in print knowing they’re on the ‘right’ side, since they are printing Koch-financed columns verbatim. Only thing is, for once, the EPA deserved the drubbing it’s been getting on the Animas Mine Spill, mostly because it can barely still function having been so emasculated by industry interests on the Republican side for so long, with judges still sitting in the 10th Circuit Court that were put there by Reagan and who can be counted on to still give a pass to rivers running with chicken poop and uranium drilling in freshwater aquifers. Enfeebled EPA Region 6 out of Denver operates in the heart of mining country. So the blame squarely belongs to the Republicans even if they can’t see their sticky fingerprints all over that tragedy.

  • Arthur Alpert

    Thanks, Diane, for reading and for the information – new to me – on “enfeebled EPA Region 6.”
    This raises the issue of “regulatory capture.” Despite its dedication to the One Percent, the Wall Street Journal often notes and bemoans the phenomenon – when industry captures, neutralizes and hides behind its regulators. Not so the Albuquerque Journal.
    Incidentally, on rereading my post, I came across a sentence including this awful construction:
    “Rosalie Rayburn’s account for what Census figures show” and so on.
    Mea culpa. In the future, I will try to write English.
    Arthur Alpert

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