Christmas Surprises

December 23rd, 2015 · 1 Comment · journalism, Koch brothers

By Arthur Alpert

I cannot be trusted. Last time, Dec. 10, in a post where I suggested the Albuquerque Journal has promoted Gov. Martinez into the “sacred cow” status Pete Domenici once occupied, I promised I would deal next with the daily’s “sourness, narrow-mindedness and ban on ideas the richest do not endorse.”

Ah, but it’s almost Christmas.

This is the time of year believers exult at the birth of an innocent Jewish baby, adoring him (as the carol says) even as feelings of love, peace and hope conquer the negativity we deal with the other 11 months. If you can forget the materialist War on Christmas, that is. And since Christmas has become so intertwined with being American, even unbelievers like me partake of the joy.

It was in that spirit that I read the Journal’s Tuesday, Dec. 22 issue, with a front-page story on how climate change could wipe out our piñon and juniper trees within a generation or two.

What struck me was that the author, Mark Oswald of Journal North, assumed climate change, yet the editors published it. On the front page! I re-read it to make certain I hadn’t missed some climate change denier wisdom inserted by the editors but there was none.

What a pleasant Christmas surprise!

Then, further down the front page was the headline, “Feds subpoena files on governor’s travel, pay as DA”, over investigative reporter Thomas Cole’s account of a federal grand jury’s activities.

It’s true this wasn’t the Journal’s story, it was catching up, but it was nothing the Governor would enjoy and yet the editors ran it on Page One. Also, Cole credited the Santa Fe New Mexican at the bottom of his story, a collegial gesture uncommon at the daily.

Gee. Only few days earlier, I’d seen ghosts change Scrooge’s heart in the Albuquerque Little Theater’s version of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol”. Were incorporeal creatures infiltrating the Journal newsroom, converting the political commissars there into, er, real editors?

And then I recalled a few efforts, recently, to better identify Op Ed essays supplied to the Journal by front organizations, Koch brother fronts or industry fronts. I’ve written about this often. If a newspaper chooses to run, say, nine oligarch-subsidized Op Eds to every one opinion representing the rest of us, the least it can do is tell readers who’s paying for the nine.

I won’t say the editors have solved the problem but somebody seems to recognize it, which – when you add it to those Page One stories on climate change and the Feds probing the Governor – left this skeptic feeling almost hopeful.

And then came Wednesday and three Page One stories on the Governor’s holiday party and the possibility she had a bit too much to drink.

“Inebriated,” said a police officer.

My first thought was that I’ve never heard of a tipsy sacred cow.

Then, settling down, I read the accounts of Gov. Martinez’s party for staff at the Eldorado Hotel and two sidebars, one on its cost and one on its national impact.

Professionally done.

Finally, I read the Journal’s editorial on the Governor’s “conduct unbecoming of the state’s highest elected official.”

In the Christmas spirit, I must extend sympathy to the editorial writer or writers who, after years of protecting her, had to take the Governor to the woodshed.

That said the editorial was a moral statement. Bad Governor. Shame on you for how you acted.

Sorry, but that’s inadequate and worse.

There was no Journal commentary on what this incident revealed about the real Governor, as opposed to the fictional Susana Martinez created by the governor, her political aides and the Albuquerque Journal since she took office.

For that kind of journalism, read Joe Monahan’s Dec. 21 commentary on the Governor’s party. Also check out ABQFree Press and Heath Haussamen at

You don’t have to agree with everything they say, I don’t, but you’ll find the world they describe nothing less than an alternate universe to the Journal’s.

What’s worse about the moral framework the Journal employed – goody for us, we slapped her hand – is that it distracts from the paper’s fundamental failure to report on her administration in the public interest.

Instead, Journal management – making political not journalistic decisions – chose to cosset the Governor, if you will permit the understatement.

And yet, ‘tis the season for hope. And soon the season for resolutions. Could the Albuquerque Journal decide to turn over a new leaf, to reject politics and opt for reporting the news accurately and fairly?

I said I’m partaking of the Christmas spirit, not that I believe in Santa Claus.

Happy New Year, everybody.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Emanuele Corso

    My favorite Susana comment that I thought spoke volumes about her came when the office would not divulge the name of the complainant. Her response was: “Give it to me.” Imperious at minimum arrogant at worst. Spoken like a dominatrix. And good for the officer who said “No”.

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