Pity for the Commissars

April 29th, 2016 · No Comments · journalism

By Arthur Alpert

The Albuquerque Journal’s trespasses against journalism come so fast and furious there’s no keeping up. It requires that I identify and comment on issues every single day. It’s too much, I get confused trying to figure out what to tackle first, fail to cope and feel guilty.

When will I get around, for example, to writing about the Journal’s failure to write English? To proof-read? Misspellings and grammatical errors are not quite the rule but they’re hardly unusual. And some are awful. This Albuquerque-based newspaper recently referred to the Ernie Pile library. Yes, that branch library in Ernie’s old house on Girard.


And where is my post on ABQ Free Press, Dan Vukelich’s every-other-week publication that’s almost the anti-Journal? There’s no better way to put the Journal in perspective than by looking at this second coming of the old Tribune. (Yes, it’s imperfect but so what? The editor is old-fashioned. He uses news criteria to decide what to cover and print.)

Or that piece I’ve pondered forever in which I list all the Journal political narratives, where’s that? Add them up and the sum is the Journal’s politics, which becomes an issue for a journalism blog because they leak from the editorials to infect 99 percent of the newspaper.

These days, incidentally, they’re mostly Far Right, sometimes conservative and on occasion Establishment.

I’m thinking of the paper’s stand on public school “reform,” which begins with the Establishment’s reflexive scapegoating of the folks at the bottom of the ladder but foreshadows turning schooling into a market commodity, like what’s been done to the old professions of law and medicine, which I should write about because the Journal won’t.

Which reminds me, when will I write about the Journal’s lack of intellect? Its failures cannot always be traced to politics. Often the editors simply choose to make moral judgments. Moral judgments murder thought. And their arguments are so often simplistic I wonder if they read books.

Winthrop Quigley does. I ought to write an appreciation and the same for Joline Gutierrez Krueger, whose transition from her great old formula to some new place is fascinating and several other excellent journalists who survive at Journal Center.

Then there’s the essay on how the newspaper’s political commissars can be quite sophisticated, as in their use of the liberal syndicated columnists to give the opinion pages an aura of fairness, which – to state the obvious – is misleading. When will I get to that?

Oh, and having lunched a couple of weeks ago with a former Journal staffer, I should write about how the daily’s current campaign to limit abortion– in the so-called news pages, natch – is a turning point. Management didn’t usta take up the cudgels for the religious right, my companion said.

Locally, the most important posts I’ve not undertaken would deal with the Journal’s misreporting (disinterest? coverup?) of the behavioral health fiasco and anything else problematic in the Martinez administration. Of course, when federal prosecutors dropped an investigation into the Governor’s political guru, Jay McCleskey, the editors made sure to put it on Page One. (March 4.)

(No, to answer your question, they have no shame. How come? That’s beyond my ken, a matter for a socio-psycho-neuro-therapist.)

And how is it that I’ve not pointed out how the Journal is almost alone in the cosseting of the Governor. True. Newspapers all over the state including dailies in Santa Fe and Las Cruces, radio stations like KUNM-FM, and Internet operations like New Mexico in Depth.com; New Mexico Politics.net and New Mexico Political Report.com have reported the behavioral health story and other news from the Roundhouse without political fear or favor.

Which leads to another post I must write. How excellent journalism abounds these days, but not in one convenient spot. We have to cobble it together to get the picture. Bummer.

You know what’s also a bummer? Getting ancient and tiring easily. What you just read was supposed to be a preface to a piece where I’d express pity for the political commissars who manage the Journal. Because you see, they’ve painted themselves into a corner by trashing Hillary Clinton without mercy and exerting themselves to persuade readers Donald Trump would be a bad GOP nominee.

All this, don’t forget, in the “news” columns. Well, in the opinion columns, too.

So dire is the situation that the Koch brothers, with whom the Journal has long been in cahoots, say they’ll skip the GOP convention. Charles Koch even had a kind word for Hillary! (Of course, the Journal hasn’t reported any of that.) What will the Journal do if and when Mr. Trump claims the GOP nomination?

“Supposed to be a preface,” I said. Yes, we’ll have to wait until next time to consider how the Albuquerque Journal has covered the presidential primary races thus far (hint, incompetently, with bias) and why we should have sympathy for the Devil, er, the editors.

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