Washington Post Offer Gives Journal Readers Opportunity for Different World View

June 20th, 2014 · energy policy, environment, journalism

By Denise Tessier

I’d like to dovetail with the most recent post by my colleague, Arthur Alpert, and concur that I, too, was impressed with the Albuquerque Journal’s announcement that its subscribers would get the added bonus of “free access to the Washington Post online.”

First, however, I must sidetrack to note that 10 days after the Journal’s offer I still haven’t been able to access the free subscription, despite talking to three helpful people at the Journal last Friday (June 13) – each of whom said I’d be sent a link – and despite following up with an email to customer service to ensure they had the right address. There’s no way to access the subscription to the Post online –the Journal web site’s box announcing the deal leads only to what looks like a scanned copy of the little blurb that appeared in the paper June 11.

That said, Arthur was spot on in pointing out the chasm – he called it the Taos Gorge – between the ideological tones of the Journal and the Washington Post. This is what makes the offer a great deal for Journal readers, who can now avail themselves of a major news and editorial alternative at no additional expense (once the offer actually materializes). In doing so, they will get a better view of the realities related to national issues such as the Affordable Care Act and climate change.

Ideally, the cooperative venture between the Journal and the Post will make it easy for readers to hop over to the Post site for that other view. (Like many online newspapers, the Washington Post cuts off non-subscriber viewing after a limited number of articles, at which time a pay box pops up with subscription terms.)

Make no mistake, it’s still worthwhile — imperative even — for readers to check out the local alternatives – including the New Mexico Mercury, Santa Fe New Mexican, and what has evolved into a valuable news-tracker type feature at the New Mexico Telegram (sign up for daily emails of the Morning Word and be directed to a wealth of New Mexico-related stories from all over the state).

But what’s significant about the Washington Post offer is that it avails regular Journal readers of the stories and editorial opinions of a full-fledged news operation, with a full editorial board and close access to D.C. politics, one that comes up with observations and editorial opinions in direct contrast to the Journal’s worldview.

An example is the Post’s treatment of the topic of climate change. [Read more →]

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Klein, Kliff, Pincus and Sloan

June 16th, 2014 · economy, journalism, role of government, tax policy, Washington

By Arthur Alpert

It’s a great offer.

The Albuquerque Journal announced Wednesday, June 11 that its subscribers can get the Washington Post online at no additional cost.

I have been reading the WP on my iMac for years now, with particular appreciation for the contrast between it and the daily that hits my Albuquerque driveway daily.

Some differences arise from the Post’s location. It covers government, lobbyists and government employment a lot and often from a local perspective because many Post readers work in those occupations and live in the district or suburban Maryland and Virginia.

Like the Journal, the Post is editorially rightist but unlike the Journal it boasts a wall between editorial policy on one hand and journalism on the other. I have detected no narrow political agenda for news assignments or layout. It’s quite possible Post editors recite the traditional, “OK, let’s beat the opposition on this story.”

And – humongous difference – the Post’s opinion pages and blogs offer a wide gamut of views while the Journal….but you know how that works.

[Read more →]

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Leadership Opportunity Dodged With Climate Change Editorial

June 9th, 2014 · economy, energy policy, environment, journalism, regulation

By Denise Tessier
For decades, climate scientists have been warning of the catastrophic effects of earth-warming pollution on the planet, effects that have accelerated in recent years. That history was laid out quite clearly for a mass audience with the June 2 episode of the Fox network program “Cosmos” (which played again June 3 on the National Geographic channel).

A few days later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a plan intended to rein in some of that potentially devastating pollution. Some say the modest proposal to cut carbon pollution from American power plants (to 30 percent of 2005 levels over the next 16 years) could be too little, too late in terms of the quality of the environment being left to the next generation.

But in the face of the urgent need for some action the Albuquerque Journal editorial board moved with all the haste of a lumbering dinosaur, repeating in its opinion piece some of the same tropes that have been trotted out more than 40 years. In “Don’t expect emission changes to be painless” (June 7), the paper merely pronounced that the EPA proposal is “worth a serious public policy debate.”

In doing so, the Journal cited “conflicting” data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the EPA, complaining that such “diverging claims don’t advance the debate over what measures are both necessary and prudent for the United States to take.” It then claimed: “What is needed is honest, science-backed data.”

What this paragraph reveals, sadly, is a failure to acknowledge that there is science-backed data, and data should trump ideology and rhetoric when talking about the environment, human health and the future of the planet. In essence, the Journal refused to take a stand and repeated the trope that regulation is too costly, the Obama administration appears to be going too far, costs will hurt the public and more talk is needed before action is taken. In short, the Journal eschewed any leadership role.

In failing to take a stand the Journal missed an opportunity to “advance the debate over what measures are both necessary and prudent. . .”

Furthermore, when the editorial asserted that “in the long run (the EPA proposal) may do little to reduce CO2 emissions enough to stop or significantly slow climate change,” it technically was correct, but basically suggested that perhaps nothing should be done, even though the EPA proposal holds great promise in terms of improving human health. The Journal would have been better off, in terms of credibility, if it had remained silent.

(Before the editorial, the Journal actually was ahead of the game compared to some other newspapers when one considers that the New Mexico daily ran an Associated Press advance, “White House to reveal emissions reduction proposal,” on Page 1 the day of the announcement (June 2) and then localized it with a piece by reporter Kevin Robinson-Avila, “Impact of CO2 regulations on PNM unclear” on the Business cover (B1) on June 3. Some papers ran the EPA story strictly as a business, rather than news story, implying in itself that the financial aspects of the rules carry more weight than the health benefits.)

With regard to the “diverging claims” cited, the Journal editorial said:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the rule will cost businesses more than $50 billion a year; the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates it will save money overall; and the EPA’s analysis asserts that the benefits of avoided public health or climate change costs would outweigh the increased cost of energy for consumers.

The editorial cites the Chamber of Commerce position – pollution control will cost money, but it is the Chamber’s function to point out costs. No one has said pollution reduction is cost-free. What’s interesting in this instance is that the Chamber analysis/report cited by the Journal was issued before the EPA proposal had been released. Reportedly, the CofC based its analysis on a Natural Resources Defense Council report, which envisioned what the EPA could do, not necessarily what it would do. Got that? The CofC report was based on an NRDC proposal, both of which were created before the EPA announcement.

But even if the CofC’s pre-packaged cost analysis proved correct, are its results onerous enough to trump the costs in human health in the absence of such controls? Climate Progress provided this context:

First off, as Paul Krugman noted, a $50.2 billion reduction per year is . . . 0.2 percent of the economy. And that loss of 224,000 jobs is out of a country of 140 million workers — America is adding more than 224,000 new jobs every two or three months right now.

Beyond that, there’s a history here. EPA has been issuing regulations on everything from coal furnaces to urban air quality for four decades. Studies sponsored by the fossil fuel industry have regularly predicted major economic hits as a result, and those hits regularly fail to materialize. In fact, when EPA moved to cut sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants in 1990, the Edison Electric Institute predicted electricity rate hikes for the 10 most coal-dependent states. The Center for American Progress found that by 2009 their projection had overshot by 24 percent, and for several of those states the 2009 costs were lower than in 1990.

The way markets usually work is that the profit motive drives industries to find the best savings they can in their business models. But there’s no profit in cutting pollution, so there’s no incentive there to try. As a result, when regulations take effect to force them to cut pollution, industry tends to drastically underestimate the reductions they can get in a cost-effective manner.

And here’s another reason the Journal should not have allowed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to hold such sway: When asked, CofC member business organizations revealed that not all wished to be associated with the CofC climate change report.

Think Progress posted a piece saying it contacted “several dozen of the major corporations that have either contributed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or had executives currently serving on its board of directors” and none endorsed the new report.

From the ThinkProgress dispatch:

A spokeswoman for Intel directly distanced itself from the Chamber’s position. “We support the President’s Climate Action Plan,” she told ThinkProgress in an email, adding, “We can support this new rule if it is designed and implemented in a reasonable and cost effective way. We can’t know if those conditions are met until we see final rule next year and how it is implemented by states.”

While less explicit, other company spokespersons also distanced themselves from the report.

Even the Journal editorial included phrases indicating its objections were close to much ado about nothing, saying:

Public Service Company of New Mexico says it is in good shape to deal with new regulations as it is already planning to shut down two of the four coal-fired generating units at the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington and replace that energy production mostly with natural gas. . . .

Even without the new plan, the U.S. Department of Energy has predicted that energy costs will increase by 13 percent by 2020.

And another point worth considering: The rules might not even go into effect, and even if they do, it could be too little too late in terms of climate change. From New York Times columnist Frank Bruni:

The Obama administration did unveil a bold climate-change measure last week. Or, rather, it signaled its intent to act: We’ll have to wait and see whether Congress figures out a way to foil the president or the courts gum things up. The plan as it stands would cut carbon pollution from American power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

But that may be too little, too late, according to an assessment last year by John Podesta, now a counselor to President Obama, in an interview with Harper’s Magazine before he joined the White House staff in late 2013. . . .

Podesta apparently reviewed what had been proposed and actually done in terms of carbon emissions and the like.

“But 50 years from now, is that going to seem like enough?” he said. “I think the answer to that is going to be no.”

From the Harper’s story:

The Obama Administration’s newly proposed regulations on power plants illustrate how the president continues to fall short of what science demands in the face of rapidly accelerating climate change. From a scientific perspective, there is much less to these regulations than either industry opponents or environmental advocates are claiming.

The reason is rooted in the White House’s habit of moving the goalposts on climate policy. From the earliest days of his presidency, Obama has repeatedly chosen 2005 as the baseline year for any proposed cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. In backing the 2009 Waxman–Markey climate bill, for example, Obama pledged to reduce emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. But the standard baseline year for measuring emissions — employed for decades by governments, scientists, advocates, and journalists around the world, and codified in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — has always been 1990. Given the proper 1990 baseline, Obama’s pledge amounted to a reduction of less than 4 percent.

A story and chart from the Carbon Tax Center show just how little impact on the environment the new rules will have. Meanwhile, the U.S. climate has already changed.

But even if the rules have little effect on future climate, there is another important consideration, pointed out by both the NRDC and the EPA – benefits to human health.

From ClimateProgress:

. . .when the EPA modeled the actual regulations, it found annual costs to the economy of $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion annually, versus benefits of $55 billion to $93 billion by 2030. The benefits are primarily thanks to the health effects, which include avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.

Those benefits will not be far in the future, they will arrive much faster. And because poor and minority Americans are disproportionately harmed by coal pollution, they’ll also enjoy the bulk of those benefits.

Meanwhile, the Journal chooses to back money over health and the environment.

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Playing the Koch Brothers’ Game

June 6th, 2014 · energy policy, journalism, regulation, role of government, tax policy

By Arthur Alpert

Egads, I haven’t posted here for a month. It wasn’t a vacation. I was learning lines for a role in “Jerome Bixby’s Man from Earth” (at the Adobe through Sunday, June 8) when a terrible upper respiratory bug knocked me down. I’ve muddled through but couldn’t find the energy to write.

Now I can and what happened in the Business Outlook of Monday, June 2 demands attention. As you know, the Journal recently picked up Tom Philpott’s Military Update, a syndicated column of news and analysis on what affects Americans in the military or retired from it.

Philpott said he was writing an editorial, just his third in 20 years. But he’d discovered “a well-funded group called Concerned Veterans for America” that, he said, “is confusing veterans and darkening attacks on the Department of Veterans Affairs during the current health-appointments scandal.”

The facts of the scandal will emerge, Philpott wrote, “But in my 37 years of covering veterans’ issues, I have never seen veterans issues used more cynically or politicized more thoroughly than during the past several years. At times the intent seems to be to shake trust in government generally rather than to address veterans’ needs.”

Ah, the naiveté! I like Mr. Philpott. He’s innocent the way real reporters often are but hate to admit.

Of course, shaking trust in government is the goal of oligarchs (and their news mediums), the better to rule the nation.

 

Philpott says Concerned Veterans for America poses as a vet advocacy group, but its press releases “are partisan attacks.” He writes, “The goal seems to be to attack, relentlessly, while a Democrat holds the White House.”

Oh, and he associates CVA with Republicans and the Koch brothers. (According to the Washington Post’s Matea Gold, a Koch sub-group called TC4 supplied all of CVA’s funds in 2012.)

Here Philpott takes an interesting tack. The Kochs create “public interest groups to oppose big government. That’s fine. That’s protected speech.”

Fine? Well, yes and no. It’s true the First Amendment to the Constitution protects free speech for front groups, too. But no, it is not fine for the Kochs or anybody else to try to sway public opinion from the shadows.

It’s dishonest and (like lots of legal, constitutional practices) it corrupts democracy.

Happily, we have journalists like Tom Philpott pulling back the curtain to reveal the plutocrat behind. And happily an Albuquerque Journal editor didn’t spike this Philpott column. Kudos!

But how can the Journal allow Philpott to out the Kochs in this instance while habitually publishing Op Eds by Koch-financed fronts without warning readers of the puppeteers pulling the strings!

Let’s pursue that apparent contradiction. I don’t know if the oligarchy’s essays pop unbidden into the editors’ email boxes or the editors solicit them, but in either case, why publish them at all?

Yes, it would be progress if the Journal followed Philpott and told us who’s behind the organization, as we have requested here many times. But why should the Op Ed page plump for plutocratic positions in the first place? Isn’t it enough that columns on the editorial page predominantly favor the wealthiest?

Meanwhile, even as the Journal devotes most of both opinion pages to the suffering upper class, its editors find nothing worth printing about the Kochs (and fellow oligarchs) in the daily’s so-called news pages.

Thus, the Journal ignored the news that Koch-funded ALEC has a new strategy to fight EPA efforts to tame global warming, one involving friendly states attorneys-general. Emily Atkin filed a story though at thinkprogress.org May 2.

Daniel Schuman’s new book, “Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty” is just out and reporter Matea Gold culled “17 things you didn’t know about the Koch brothers” from Schuman’s volume for a Washington Post story published May 20, including the note that Fred Koch, the family patriarch, was “present at the birth” of the John Birch Society.

Of course, the Journal didn’t care. Nor that an updated version of Robert Greenwald’s documentary entitled, “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition” currently is in the theaters

Nobody expects the Journal to agree with the N.Y. Times editorial board, but why doesn’t our local newspaper find the subject of a Times editorial Jan. 25 newsworthy? It was slimy electoral tactics of the “The Koch Party”.

And why isn’t the subject of the Times editorial April 26 – “The Koch Attack on Solar Energy”, about how the petrochemical siblings who hate taxes have found one they can abide – newsworthy?

You get the point. That the Journal published Tom Philpott’s column outing the Koch-financed pseudo-veterans group deserves our applause.

But it’s hardly Journal policy. Day in and day out, the Journal plays the Kochs’ game, printing essays from their front groups without telling readers who is paying for them while exempting the Kochs (and other oligarchs) from critical reporting. Oh, and cherry on the cake, it published conservative Kathleen Parker’s spirited defense of those gentlemen April 7.

It’s political pamphleteering, not journalism.

 

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A Little Phrase, Inconsistently Applied

May 31st, 2014 · journalism

By Denise Tessier

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation Friday was no surprise, especially after reading in Friday morning’s Albuquerque Journal that all five members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation were – in a rare show of consensus – calling for it.

What was a surprise, however, was a phrase inserted in the Journal’s story about that resignation call.

VA patients in ABQ parked in ‘phantom’ panel” was a straightforward story, reporting the state’s congressional delegation joining the cry for Shinseki’s resignation, and including revelations from VA records obtained by the Journal.

The phrase that jumped out of that story was inside the paper, atop the last column of type, and it had nothing to do with the VA. The phrase was part of a paragraph leading into a statement made by Democratic Sen. Tom Udall.

Here’s the paragraph, with emphasis added on the phrase:

Udall, who is seeking re-election this year, said new leadership at the VA is needed to restore accountability and transparency.

[Read more →]

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Journal Doesn’t Get TTIP Memo

May 27th, 2014 · economy, energy policy, journalism

By Denise Tessier

Apparently, the Albuquerque Journal editorial board hadn’t seen the memo. Or maybe it did and didn’t care.

How else to explain its editorial advocating – pretty much without reservation – adoption of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? The May 20 editorial, “TTIP would strengthen U.S. and EU economies,” talked about the TTIP as the best way to “promote economic growth, add jobs, expand markets, promote common interests and avert traditional wars without costing taxpayers a penny or adding to budget deficits.”

There was no mention of the secret October 2013 TTIP negotiation memo, published by Huffington Post the day before the editorial, which revealed that among the terms being discussed the U.S. would be under EU pressure to expand fracking, offshore oil drilling and natural gas exploration.

Instead, the Journal editorial parroted statements made by EU ambassador to the U.S. João Vale del Almeida, who touted economic benefits without alluding to the potential power TTIP appears to provide carbon extractive industries over the very nations the editorial says will be united as “equals” under TTIP, capitalizing on their already “similar democratic systems, economies and approaches to industrial and workplace standards.”

Basically, the editorial said, “. . .the United States should be first in line to embrace” TTIP, adding:

Senators, are you listening?

Picking up on the Huffington Post story about the memo, Common Dreams noted (also the day before the editorial) that:

Many European leaders have made no secret that they would like increased access to U.S. natural gas reserves. At a US/EU meeting in Brussels in March ministers pressed Obama to provide better access to U.S. fossil fuel reserves as a way to counter dependence on Russian pipelines from the east. As the Guardian reported at the time:

While European access to the US shale gas revolution is currently constrained by American licensing procedures, a successful conclusion of ongoing ambitious trade talks aimed at creating a transatlantic free trade area would also hasten European access to American gas.

EU officials said they wanted the talks finished by next year while Obama pledged that he would ensure a successful pact would not entail any dilution of consumer or environmental standards under pressure from multinational corporations.

In revealing the memo, however, Huffington Post reported that:

Free trade agreements frequently bind all of their participants to a specific regulatory regime, hindering the deployment of future regulations in response to new problems. Trade pacts are enforced by international courts, which can issue economic sanctions against countries that violate the deals. The proposed EU language would run counter to existing environmental standards that limit the development of the fossil fuel industry.

“It expands a trend in trade negotiations of removing policy decisions from national and local governments and enshrining those policy decisions in international trade laws,” said Sarah Burt, an attorney with the environmentalist legal organization Earthjustice, who has seen the document. Those negotiations, said Burt, happen outside of the public eye and are an “opaque process where trade and economics are elevated above any other values.”

In other words, the trade agreement could interfere with U.S. attempts to regulate carbon-based industries (and other industries, including food production giants) if it is deemed to interfere with the trade promoted under the TTIP.

Those against the elevation of such international agreements over local rule point to the fact that oil companies are already threatening or have filed lawsuits against local governments that ban fracking.

In Canada, a Lone Pine Resources Inc. is threatening the city of Quebec with a $250,000 lawsuit if it does not lift its moratorium on fracking for natural gas under the St. Lawrence River.

Closer to home, Mora County faces two federal lawsuits for its ban on fracking, and, according to The Nation, more than 150 townships and municipalities in the U.S. have passed laws similar to the Mora County ban. San Miguel County has had a moratorium on oil and gas drilling for more than three years and Santa Fe County has effectively kept out oil and gas development through a restrictive ordinance.

(While this could not be confirmed at the time this post was being written, attorney Mike Papantonio claimed on his Ring of Fire radio show Saturday that there is talk in legal circles that Quebec is contemplating a suit against the U.S. to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline because of last July’s oil-carrying train tanker explosion that killed 47 people and destroyed the Quebec city of Lac-Megantic. Some believe construction of the pipeline will reduce use of trains and highways for transport of the unstable and dangerous Bakken crude being produced in Canada’s tar sands, while others say such traffic will remain steady because of the boom in fracking overall.)

(And as an interesting, unrelated aside, back in February The Nation reported on this bit of ironic corporate hypocrisy: an Exxon Mobile oil CEO and fracking advocate sued to prevent construction of a water tower near his multi-million-dollar horse ranch because the tower, used to store water for fracking, might devalue his property.)

Without elaborating on details of the talks, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., criticized the secrecy behind trade deal negotiations in general and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in particular, according to a story in The Nation, which reported her saying:

From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is, Why are the trade talks secret? . . . I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.’

The Journal editorial, however, was less scrutinizing in its view of the trade deals, saying of TTIP:

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposal born from the economic crisis, would create the world’s largest free-trade area, aligning the United States with 28 European Union member states.

By aligning, the United States and European Union would not only remove obstacles to trade but would also strengthen participants’ “position in the world,” allowing them to establish high standards for themselves as well as emerging economies. At a base level it could, for example, open up European markets for U.S. meat. At a higher level it could include finding alternatives to Russian gas, enforcing standards to combat climate change, protecting intellectual property rights and using economic strength rather than military might to project power.

“If we get our act together, if we are able to agree on a set of rules and principles, our capacity to influence the rest of the world will be enormous,” Vale de Almeida says. “If we want to promote economic growth, this is a cheap way to do it. It doesn’t cost any public money, it doesn’t add to budget deficits, it doesn’t add to debt. It just opens up opportunities for business and investment.”

The Journal concluded:

America is considered the land of opportunity. In the 21st century, the chance to align with like-minded countries to address myriad economic, environmental and security issues is too good to pass up.

Its only caveat was that:

This foreign policy matter is too important to attempt to “lead from behind.” Strong U.S. leadership is needed to make sure this is a win-win for both sides of the Atlantic.

A win-win for whom – the citizens of those nations, or the corporations that stand to benefit? The editorial makes no distinction.

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Journal’s Business Outlook Revamp Lives Up to its Promotion

May 23rd, 2014 · journalism

By Denise Tessier

The in-house ad in the Albuquerque Journal on May 17 touted the impending arrival of a “new and improved” Business Outlook, and on May 19, that’s actually what was delivered.

The newly designed and much-revamped weekly business section has a cleaner layout thanks to the elimination of whole sections that had bogged the tabloid down, allowing more space and emphasis for regular features that deserve the better play.

The Journal got the ball rolling back at the beginning of the year in asking readers to give the section feedback via a survey.

In the interim between the survey and this week’s new print debut, Business Editor Michael G. Murphy invited readers to check out the online business section that had been revamped last September, noting that the expanded site carries many more stories than the printed version, such as this one, and with continuing updates on daily top stories, plus weekend features.

The changes revealed in the printed Outlook revamp are striking. [Read more →]

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Heritage Foundation’s New ‘Straight-Down-the-Middle Journalism’ Seems Headed Straight Toward the Far Right

May 16th, 2014 · journalism

By Denise Tessier

OK, dear reader, here’s a question: Do you think mainstream news slants too much to the left?

That’s the premise the radically conservative and already influential Heritage Foundation is using to justify creation of a new digital news site, the Daily Signal, which will launch June 3.

Heritage says its site will deliver “straight reporting.”

Joshua Green reported on Heritage’s plans in “The Tea Party Gets Into the News Biz” in Bloomberg Businessweek:

“We came to the realization that the mainstream media had really abdicated the responsibility to do the news and do it well,” says Geoffrey Lysaught, vice president of strategic communications at the Heritage Foundation, who will also serve as publisher. . . . “We plan to do political and policy news, not with a conservative bent, but just true, straight-down-the-middle journalism.”

Having its think tank positions appear regularly in “left-leaning” mainstream publications like the Albuquerque Journal apparently isn’t enough for The Heritage Foundation. [Read more →]

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‘Leading News Source’ Lags, Misleads With Its Column Placement

May 8th, 2014 · journalism

By Denise Tessier
The Albuquerque Journal recently unveiled a new design for its front pages that not only changed its appearance, but changed its long-time tag line — from the “State’s Leading Newspaper” to “New Mexico’s Leading News Source.”

A daily review of headlines from at least one other newspaper, the Santa Fe New Mexican, provides enough evidence for one to argue against that new claim, as the Journal on several occasions has run a story the same day as the New Mexican, or sometime after, if it runs a given story at all.

As evidence, let’s begin with Monday’s UpFront column (May 5), which was problematic on another level as well.

Not only was “Out-of-state money and the gov.’s race ” problematic in terms of its timing, but even more important, it was tricky in terms of its placement, the latter of which appears part of an ongoing trend that exacerbates and further erodes any remaining distinction between news and opinion in the Journal.

[Read more →]

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Cogs in the Koch Astroturf Machine

April 29th, 2014 · energy policy, Fact Check, journalism

By Arthur Alpert

It was a small item, really, a few slim paragraphs, on the Albuquerque Journal’s Business page Friday, April 25. Yet it spoke or rather shouted volumes about the newspaper.

The headline read, “Libertarian author to talk at luncheon”.

“The Rio Grande Foundation”, it read, “is hosting a luncheon talk with Matt Kibbe on Monday, May 12, where he will discuss his new book “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto”.

After specifying where, when and how much, the item returned to the speaker:

“Kibbe is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, a national grassroots organization that serves citizens in their fight for more individual freedom and less government control.”

Well, Kibbe may be the boss, but FreedomWorks is not a “grassroots organization.” It’s not even close.

A grassroots organization arises naturally and spontaneously from the community, unlike groups organized and backed by traditional power structures, right? That’s not FreedomWorks. In fact, pretty much the opposite is true.

Here’s the history, as pulled together after an hour or two surfing the web:

FreedomWorks was founded in 2004. It merged David Koch’s Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) and Empower America. Simultaneously, the CSE Foundation became Americans for Prosperity, also Koch-supported.

Reps. Dick Armey, Jack Kemp and C. Boyden Gray (heir to a Reynolds tobacco fortune) all prominent Republican politicians, were FreedomWorks’ original co-chairs.

So far, not a grass root in sight.

Over the years, Freedom Works’ backers have included Philip Morris, the tobacco company, Richard Stephenson, founder of Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the Armstrong, Bradley, DeVos, Sarah Scaife and Shelby Cullom Davis foundations.

Those grassroots must be somewhere.

Dick Armey resigned as chair of FreedomWorks Nov. 30, 2012, after he and Kibbe squabbled, with Armey receiving $8 million in “consulting fees.”

It is true FreedomWorks bankrolled grassroots Tea Party enthusiasts and still does. In 2006, however, the Washington Post revealed that from 2001 – 2006 the organization struck a secret deal with insurance brokers whereby the brokers would sell high-deductible insurance policies and tax-free medical savings plans to individuals at a group discount, with purchasers automatically becoming FreedomWorks members. Customers were unaware of the deal, for which they were charged extra fees; FreedomWorks gained some 16,000 “members” and profited by $638,040.

Grassroots found. Grassroots fleeced.

FreedomWorks once pretended to be grassroots.

[Read more →]

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