On Losing Tesla: Blame the Unions

September 19th, 2014 · budget policy, economy, journalism, labor, tax policy

By Denise Tessier

In the days since Tesla announced its decision to locate its $2 billion “mega” battery factory in Nevada, a number of stories have pondered New Mexico’s “loss.”

In the ABQ Free Press, reporter Peter St. Cyr talked to politicians, business leaders and “free market advocates” and came up with a list of things that need to be corrected if New Mexico is to attract a Tesla-like enterprise in the future: “underperforming higher and elementary education systems, restrictive government regulations, high taxes, limited infrastructure and transportation shortfalls” (“What Did N.M. Learn from Tesla?”, Sept. 10; no link online).

In “Looking past the Tesla blame game” (Sept. 7), Albuquerque Journal UpFront columnist Winthrop Quigley focused beyond political blame (Gov. Susana Martinez’s weak leadership or anti-business Democrats in the Legislature, “depending on whom you believe”) to point out it was God who “put us more than 800 miles away from the nearest deep-water port (and) put the nation’s lithium in Nevada.” [Read more →]

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More Journalistic Offenses of Commission and Omission

September 17th, 2014 · economy, financial coverage, health care reform, inequality, journalism, polling

By Arthur Alpert

Some days this gig is frustrating. No, that’s incorrect; it’s frustrating most days because I cannot decide if I should alert you to Albuquerque Journal management’s daily journalistic offenses of commission or its offenses of omission.

Should I say the headline on Winthrop Quigley’s Sept. 14 UpFront column on commercial insurance rates managed to miss the most fascinating part of his complex analysis –the impact of one pricey new hepatitis C drug – while succeeding in bad-mouthing Obamacare?

Or, alternatively, that the Journal has totally ignored the issue of refunding the Export-Import Bank, which subsidizes major American enterprises. This failure has nothing to do, I’m sure, with the Journal’s determination to downplay the struggle between Tea Partiers who oppose and conservatives who support the ExIm Bank.

Oh, and speaking of that struggle within the Right, you would not know from the Journal’s coverage of the US response to ISIS that there are rightists warning against intervention. Instead, the usual suspects beat the war drums.


Should I point out the Sept. 14 story on the Journal’s poll showing Governor Martinez widening her lead over Attorney General King dealt only with that? The editors found no room to note that a NY Times/CBS poll found Martinez’s lead shrinking. (See NM Telegram, Sept. 12.) Nor have they found room to cite the NYT/CBS poll elsewhere.

Or that the editors have neglected to inform you that, as the NY Times Upshot noted Sept. 3, per capita Medicare spending is actually falling, even as they have published several more AP Washington reports on Obamacare’s terribleness.

Should I note the Journal’s amazing hire, a mind-reading headline writer? “Winter wants to build bridges, cut drama” was the headline atop Jon Swedien’s interview with interim APS superintendent Brad Winter on page one, Sept. 16.

Poor Swedien. Lacking ESP, he reported only what Winter said. The writer of the rubric, however, saw into the politician’s soul.

In this case, the problem would appear to be basic journalistic ignorance, not bias. I find that cheering.

However, while it’s fine that Swedien failed to identify Winter as of the same political persuasion as the governor and interim education secretary, the editors’ decision to put the story on the front page suggests we should keep an eye on the Journal’s treatment of the APS situation.

Returning to omissions, I must point out the Journal’s failure to report a big Standard and Poor’s story because it’s really odd. The Journal loved and respected S&P when it lowered its long-term credit rating on the U.S. (Barack Obama, president) Aug. 5, 2011. The editors’ appreciation of S&P was so strong they never mentioned it lied about bond values, thereby abetting other banksters in perpetrating the great Wall Street heist of 2008.

Yet despite all that, the Journal ignored the S&P study this past August 4 that argued income and wealth inequality is causing slower economic growth.

Pretty good story! The Wall Street Journal reported it August 5. And Neil Irwin wrote in the NY Times the same day:

“The fact that S&P, an apolitical organization that aims to produce reliable research for bond investors and others, is raising alarms about the risks that emerge from income inequality is a small but important sign of how a debate that has been largely confined to the academic world and left-of-center political circles is becoming more mainstream.”

Mainstream, maybe, but not in Albuquerque’s faux newspaper, where debate is not always welcome and discussion of inequality is – what’s the word?

Oh yes, carping.

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Siding With the Rich and Powerful: The Journal’s Lack of Support for the Voice of the Citizenry

September 13th, 2014 · campaign finance reform, Congress, inequality, tax policy, voting rights

By Denise Tessier

Unlike the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico Telegraph blogger Matt Reichbach saw the importance of one particular news story from Thursday. The first entry on his “Morning Word” list of stories from around the state today was this:

• As expected, a Republican filibuster blocked the passage of a constitutional amendment to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Sen. Tom Udall was the sponsor of the amendment. After the vote he said he was “encouraged” by the growing support for the Citizens United repeal.

In contrast, the Journal treated its version of that story with a resigned, ho-hum attitude exhibiting all the signs its editors were focused on the “as expected” aspect of the story – or worse, were downplaying it on purpose.

First it buried the story on the back page of the A section. Then, the Journal’s headline framed the story as a “failure” by Udall (“Udall effort to counter high court rulings fails”) when it should have put the onus on Republican obstructionism, paid for by the very (rich) persons whose political influence the high court ruling protects.

The fault, dear Brutus, lies not with Journal reporter Michael Coleman’s dispatches from Washington, D.C.  Coleman’s story this morning was straightforward and complete in both reportage and tone. His previous report Tuesday in advance of Thursday’s congressional vote (“Udall, Senate Dems force debate on campaign finance amendment”) was similarly straightforward and complete.

But editors decided Coleman’s first story this week didn’t even merit the A section. It was banished to the middle of the second page of Section C, below police blotter stories and a photo of a child finger-painting.

How should the Journal have treated this story?

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George Will’s Ethical Lapses Bespeak Allegiance to Oligarchy

September 12th, 2014 · campaign finance reform, Congress, inequality, journalism

By Arthur Alpert

The Albuquerque Journal just published still another George Will column (9/11) in which he upends history, common sense and rationality to argue for the interests of the American oligarchy.

That may not be coincidence. Will’s argument may be a quid pro quo for what his benefactors paid him.

Recently, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) “overhauled its Code of Ethics to include new transparency provisions” in response to 60 Minutes’ Benghazi debacle, CNN’s failure to disclose Newt Gingrich’s political ties and “Washington Post columnist George Will’s failure to disclose his ties to conservative group Americans for Prosperity.”

That’s from Joe Strupp’s Media Matters blog dated Sept. 9. Strupp wrote:

“Kevin Smith, outgoing SPJ ethics chair, told Media Matters the revisions were done in part to address the growing problems with transparency, including news outlets failing to disclose clear conflicts of interest.”

Specifically, Smith said, Will attending a private VIP dinner hosted by the Koch-backed conservative group Americans for Prosperity after spending months using his columns to champion the candidates and ideas favored by the Koch brothers and refusing to disclose whether his participation was paid was one of the “most noted examples” of recent transparency failures.”

In a Media Matters blog post Sept. 2, Zachary Pleat and Ellie Sandmeyer cited a number of Koch-supported candidates Will praised in recent columns.

They noted Will also boosted Koch-funded organizations including the Institute for Justice and the Goldwater Institute.

And Will also offered praise for U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa, who halted a criminal investigation into possible illegal coordination between the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and outside groups during a recall election. Walker has benefited from more than $10 million in spending by AFP.

In a Sept. 3 blog post, Strupp quoted Ken Auletta, media writer for “The New Yorker”, who recalled a piece he wrote in 1994 about journalists’ speaking fees in which Will declined to discuss his income from such events.

Auletta said the issue should be viewed the same as a politician who takes money from interested parties.

“One basic way to approach this logically is to say what if you are the editor of a newspaper?” Auletta said. “What if a politician, a member of the House of Representatives, went before the pharmaceutical industry and he or she is chair of or a member of the health care committee and went before the pharmaceutical industry and didn’t disclose he was paid $20,000 for that appearance and didn’t disclose that he was given campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, what would you do? You’d put it on Page One.”

Well, no, not every newspaper would, Ken.

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Gessing, Gisser and the Common Good

September 4th, 2014 · Fact Check, journalism, role of government, tax policy

By Arthur Alpert

I’m involved in a production of Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” opening Sept. 5 at the brand-new Vortex on Carlisle NE. Given its authorship, it’s no big surprise the play is funny, but in rehearsal I realized Martin also excels at making audiences feel intelligent.

My colleague, Denise Tessier, has the same talent. Her posts flatter, get me thinking and anxious to expound on her subject or write variations on her theme.

That’s what I plan to do today, working off her insightful and good humored August 27 essay on a surprising confluence of letters in the Aug. 25 Business Outlook from rightist activists Paul Gessing and Micha Gisser and a knowledgeable Journal reader, one William Jewell of Placitas.

If you missed it, look again because Gessing wrist-slapped Professor Gisser, a former collaborator. Seems the retired UNM prof had allowed “politics to cloud his economic thinking.”

As if politics and economic thinking can be disassociated!

As if Gessing’s own work for the Koch-supported Rio Grande Foundation is non-political!

As Dave Barry likes to say, you can’t make this stuff up.

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Gessing Kills Two Birds With One Stone in Letter Criticizing Gisser

August 27th, 2014 · budget policy, economy, financial coverage, journalism, labor, tax policy

By Denise Tessier

It’s safe to expect that when a column by economist Micha Gisser appears in the Albuquerque Journal, a letter of rebuttal or critique soon will follow. Gisser’s latest, in Business Outlook on Aug. 18, actually prompted two refutations.

What was unexpected was that one of the two critiques Monday (Aug. 25) came from the president of the Rio Grande Foundation, the conservative/libertarian think tank that once listed Gisser among of its stable of experts. Even more surprising was the letter from Paul Gessing led with this:

I respect Micha Gisser as an economist, but I think he allows politics to cloud his economic thinking in his recent column on the U.S. and New Mexico economies.

He allows politics to cloud his economic thinking?

Now, there’s a revelation. [

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‘Real Attacks, Fake News’

August 26th, 2014 · Congress, journalism, Washington

By Denise Tessier

My colleague Arthur Alpert is quite good at pointing out instances in which the Albuquerque Journal fails to carry a column that is at cross-purposes with the conservative newspaper’s ideological bent.

Here’s yet another glaring example: The Journal (so far) has failed to run a Dana Milbank column that warned news consumers about fake news sites created by Republicans.

It’s always dicey writing about something the Journal hasn’t run, because the paper still could run it. But this Milbank column, headlined “Republicans embrace their phoniness” in the Washington Post, has been available nearly two weeks, so it’s likely by now been spiked by the state’s largest daily.

This isn’t just a column criticizing the Republican Party. This is a “buyer beware” / “scam alert” type story about which the Journal missed a chance to inform its readers.

Milbank, a Washington Post columnist who is regularly found on the Journal’s editorial pages, used his column to confirm a National Journal story headlined, “NRCC Launches Fake News Sites to Attack Democratic Candidates,” which said the National Republican Congressional Committee has been setting up faux news sites designed to look like local news sources around the country. From Milbank’s column:

These two dozen sites, with names such as “North County Update” and “Central Valley Update” look like political fact-checking sites; the NRCC’s spokeswoman, Andrea Bozek, called it “a new and effective way to disseminate information.”

An NRCC official told me the sites are legal because, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll find, “Paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee” in small print. “They’re not fake Web sites,” the official said. “These are real attack Web sites.”

As the National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher reported, and Milbank repeated, the NRCC “came under fire earlier this year for a deceptive series of fake Democratic candidate websites that it later changed after public outcry. . .”

“Real attacks, but fake news,” Milbank wrote.

Actually, it’s possible the Journal might have run this Milbank column had it just stuck to warning about the fake news site deception. But the rest of the column finds Milbank debunking a whole series of the Journal’s own favorite subjects for repeated public attack and editorial fodder. [Read more →]

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Linthicum’s Leaving Not Reason Enough for Readers to Follow

August 25th, 2014 · journalism

By Denise Tessier

Recently, when talking about the Albuquerque Journal, an acquaintance said, “The only reason I read the Journal is Leslie Linthicum.”

When pressed, this person acknowledged other excellent writers who work at the Journal – Win Quigley and Joline Gutierrez Krueger came up for mention. My acquaintance couldn’t argue with the journalistic value of John Fleck, courthouse and city hall reportage, or the impressively strong newcomer to the paper’s Las Cruces office, Lauren Villagran. But when Linthicum leaves, this particular reader said she planned to leave the Journal, too.

Really? I find that sad.

You’ll get no argument from me about Linthicum’s talent when it has come to writing, connecting with readers and her choice of topics. It’s not surprising she was named “Best Columnist – Ever” by Johnny Mango on Duke City Fix. She’s had a brilliant career, not only at the Journal, but at the Albuquerque Tribune before that.

In the Sunday Journal, Linthicum published her last column for the paper, “Endings are hard, but vaya con Dios.”

Two weeks ago, however, my acquaintance made clear her reason for dropping the Journal when Linthicum leaves went beyond the columnist’s talent. With Linthicum gone, she said, the Journal would lose a critical counterbalance to its editorials, and that would be the deal-breaker in terms of continuing to read the paper.

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An Inquiry into The Absence of Fact-Checking at The Journal

August 21st, 2014 · energy policy, Fact Check, journalism, tax policy

By Arthur Alpert

In a July 21 post hypothesizing that a True Believer or two in the Albuquerque Journal hierarchy may explain the newspaper’s egregious faults, I noted that the editors do not fact-check the columns they run on the editorial and Op Ed pages.

Today let’s consider why.

It could be ignorance; what management doesn’t know about journalism is impressive. Perhaps, the editing staff is thin. I would like to believe it’s ignorance or penury but sadly, there’s evidence it’s deliberate. The Journal publishes lots of essays to promote its editorial agenda and what’s the point of questioning a partner in advocacy?

Take, for example, the Cal Thomas syndicated column that ran August 6 under the rubric, “UK, Kansas reaping benefits from cutting taxes”.

I choose this piece from among legions because it’s a near-perfect misstatement of reality. Is it a lie? I cannot get into Mr. Thomas head; let’s just say he has a good grasp on an alternative reality that jibes 100 percent with the agenda of the One Percent.

But let’s appreciate his work in detail.

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Headline Spin Reveals Undeniable Favoritism

August 16th, 2014 · Education, Fact Check, journalism, open government, state government, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

Here’s what Rasmussen Reports, the national polling firm, said Thursday, July 24:

“A new statewide telephone survey of Likely New Mexico Voters finds Martinez and King each with 43% support. Seven percent (7%) like some other candidate, and another seven percent (7%) are undecided.”

Big surprise, huh? Many New Mexicans, given Governor Martinez’s overwhelming advantage in campaign dollars, probably figured she was miles ahead. And Rasmussen has a reputation as GOP-friendly.

I know the poll buoyed lots of Democrats because their exuberance was all over the blogosphere. Joe Monahan wrote an insightful column on the Rasmussen poll in Dan Vukelich’s (lively) new “Albuquerque Free Press”.

Me, I’ve no idea if the race is tight or if Rasmussen’s results were an aberration.

But this I do know – the Albuquerque Journal never reported it.

You read that right. Here we are three weeks later, and the Journal has carried lots of poll results. One was its own July 13 “flash poll” that showed folks cool to President Obama’s handling of immigration and landed – big surprise – on the front page!

But not a word on a poll result that’s – on its face – bad news for its candidate.

What? Am I saying the Journal is behind Governor Martinez?

Yes. Obviously.

My conclusion is based on some blatant evidence, like the Journal’s lack of interest in how the Martinez administration started getting rid of 15 behavioral health contractors even before it read a questionable audit. What we know about the Administration’s behind-the-scene operations is almost exclusively courtesy of New Mexico In Depth, the Las Cruces Sun-News, Santa Fe Reporter and KUNM radio.

Also in the blatant category is the daily’s sudden loss of all interest in Secretary of State Duran’s claims that lots of New Mexicans were voting fraudulently when, after reporter Dan Boyd questioned them, her numbers started to shrivel.

If memory serves, the ACLU is pursuing her records, not the Journal.

For at the Journal, not all transparency is created equal.

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