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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

GOP Chair Weh's Push For More Power Pushed Back, Plus: Big Bill And The Bloggers: Can We All Get Along? 

A push for more power by NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh was quietly pushed back at Saturday's state Republican convention. Several resolutions, including one that would have given Weh the power to get rid of any county GOP chair who endorsed a Democrat for public office, were defeated by delegates who elected Weh to a two year term as chair.

"The chairman was not allowed to consolidate more power. The forces that ousted Mickey Barnett as national committeeman last year still have the upper hand in the party," said one delegate close to the action.

No one emerged to challenge Weh, who replaced Ramsay Gorham when she was ousted by the forces of a breakaway wing of the GOP led by lawyer/lobbyist Mickey Barnett. Things have been quiet since Barnett's ouster as committeeman. The next test will come if Barnett decides to run candidates against fellow Republicans next year as he did in the last cycle.

As for Weh, he has his hands full, Not only does he not yet have any major name candidates for senate or governor, but a Federal Election Commission audit into past party spending continues. The delegates were told that over $400,000 in campaign spending several years ago remains under examination. Was that money improperly spent on local, instead of federal races? And if so, what will be financial consequences to the state party?

BIG BILL AND THE BLOGGERS

First it was CBS News blowing up. Now Newsweek. Still, politicos continue to fret over the blogs which, if anything, have uncovered media shortcomings. For example, Big Bill told a Santa Fe open government conference what he earlier told newspaper heavies in San Francisco, that many blogs contain inaccuracies and "maybe there's a way that blogs can adhere to the same standards that many of you journalists do, and I know they're very high standards."

The statement assumes a problem. From this corner there just isn't one. What serious blogs have made errors like the "journalists" at CBS News and Newsweek? None that I follow. As for those "high standards" the governor recommends for blogs, it seems to be code for discouraging anonymous sourcing, a cornerstone of the American press for over two hundred years. It wasn't the anonymous source that burned Newsweek; it was the magazine misreading its source. It is not a case against such sources. It is a case for more aggressive and less lazy reporting when using them.

Or would we prefer a secret government, where no one can be quoted without being named? How many important stories do you think we would hear about then? Not many. How do I know? Because I was there in 1974 when Watergate was uncovered almost entirely with anonymous sources. It's not as if such sourcing is epidemic either. A recent study showed less than 7% of stories in the so-called "mainstream media" contained anonymous sources. It's higher around here and we make no apologizes for it because the record of accuracy speaks for itself.

It is unfortunate that some media corporations, fearing lawsuits or having been burned because of lax oversight, have eliminated anonymous sourcing. The public they serve is poorer for it. Besides, if government officials are so concerned about such sourcing, why don't they pledge to stop being the sources?

WHO NEEDS WATCHING HERE?

For such an infant medium, the blogs that cover politics can be proud of their record, at least those I read. Those that don't cut the mustard will be weeded out, as they should be, by the American people in the free marketplace of ideas. Which leads me to a quote from Big Bill that journalists and bloggers can agree with: "...Any time we expand the universe of information and increase the avenues to get at it, we embolden the public and strengthen our democracy."

Folks, if the politicians ever get to determine standards for anyone picking up a pen, pencil, microphone or keyboard, this whole game won't be worth a bucket of spit. If you don't think so, answer this: When was the last time the media or a blog raised your taxes, or passed a law? And it's the observers who need watching?

Nothing has changed because of the recent spate of big media errors or blog inaccuracies alleged by the governor. The error prone will make good or they will be rejected by readers. In America, the burden of proof is always on those given power by the people, not those reporting and commenting about them. May it ever be so.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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