Old Story: The Journal repackages the “Worst-Run State”

December 10th, 2015 · No Comments · journalism

By Arthur Alpert

“You know what the problem with the Journal is,” said the guy in the other barber’s chair, a lawyer. “There’s nothing in it.”

That isn’t exactly true, of course. Nor is it fair to the newspaper’s rank-and-file; they try hard to inform us accurately and fairly. But we know what he meant. I’d restate it this way – Journal editors work slavishly to make certain the news and opinion pages carry darn little that questions or contradicts the Journal’s political agenda.

Which means, since reality has a liberal bias, they leave out so much that it sure feels as if  “There’s nothing in it.”

This leads many people, in and out of the barbershop, to call the newspaper “partisan.” OK, sometimes, but that’s a trivial fault compared to what I want to discuss today – the sourness of tone, narrow-mindedness, promotion of a political agenda both oligarchic and neo-conservative to the point of refusing to publish ideas of which the richest and most bellicose disapprove.

When Finley Peter Dunne said newspapers “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted,” he was putting down the muckraking newspapers of his day for self-importance.

No matter how you mean it, that description would not fit the Albuquerque Journal, dedicated to the reverse – plumping the pillows of the comfortable and blaming the afflicted for their afflictions.

Consider Dan Boyd’s Political Notebook Thursday, Dec. 10, on the first page of the Metro section under the rubric:

Gov. disputes group’s ranking of New Mexico as worst-run state”.

Did you know that’s an old story? The report, I mean, from 247WallSt, a respectable source of business and financial news. It was published a week ago, Dec. 3. The Santa Fe New Mexican and other state news organs, print and online, printed it in timely fashion. In fact, by Sunday, Dec. 6, the New Mexican’s Milan Simonich was wrapping that sad ranking into an opinion piece headlined. “Last on the lists, NM needs a shakeup”.

So how come the Journal never touched it? I don’t know. Given, however, the Journal’s inability to stop publishing photos of Governor Martinez reading to school kids or (lately) vowing to be tough on crime, I’ll hazard a guess.

We didn’t get it until today because the Journal has cast Governor Martinez in Pete Domenici’s old role. She’s the new sacred cow.

Ergo, with everybody else having reported this story, what was a Journal editor to do? Easy. Turn the negative on its head. First, hold it ‘til it cools. Next, put the Governor’s rebuttal atop a bare-bones summary of the original in a “Notebook”. Neat. She gets the lead and the headline and, not incidentally, the whole thing is relegated to the Metro section.

Poor readers. Poor journalism. Poor Dan Boyd.

And you know what’s really sad? Faced with that ranking, editors at a real newspaper might assign their best reporters to finding out what’s behind it. Instead of playing politics, they could follow Win Quigley’s lead, exploring what’s wrong, isolating the state’s options and reporting them back to the citizenry.

This is naïve, maybe, but not unheard of. In fact, it’s par for the course at journalistic enterprises. Setting a public interest agenda, I mean, and asking questions instead of expounding management’s views in the news.

But today’s post was supposed to be about the Albuquerque Journal’s sourness, narrow-mindedness and ban on ideas the richest do not endorse. And I went on a walkabout.

Sorry. Next time. I promise.

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