Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On The Media Beat: Changes At State's Major Papers, Radio Ratings, TV News Moves, Media Battles With Berry & Susana, And Much More 

Let's make it a media beat Tuesday and start it off with this:

The ABQ Journal officially announced that it will cease printing its Tuesday-through-Sunday northern edition in favor of a weekly publication starting in February. The Journal North said the weekly edition will publish Fridays beginning Feb. 7. 

That decision means less competition for the Santa Fe New Mexican, but one of our Capitol City watchers tell us to watch for beefier coverage from that paper:

They have added reporters Milan Simonich and Patrick Malone from Colorado (both seasoned reporters). Their primary beat will be the Roundhouse to increase what reporter Steve Terrell has been able to cover. 

The legislative session starts January 21.

Simonich comes to the New Mexican after a stint with the Texas-NM Newspapers chain that serves a number of state papers. His Santa Fe position was eliminated.


On your ABQ radio dial, conservative talker KKOB-AM continues to feel ratings pain. There could be more now. The station is losing star national talker Sean Hannity on top of losing veteran local talker Jim Villanucci who said farewell last year.

The latest Nielsen Audio ratings show KKOB with a 6.1% share of the ABQ area listening audience. That's down from a 6.7% in the summer ratings and a precipitous decline from the 9% shares the station at one time routinely scored. The #2 ABQ station in the Nielsen fall ratings was country formatted KRST-FM.


Banks & Berry
Everyone who takes power promises to conduct "the most open administration in history." But it never seems to turn out that way. ABQ Mayor Berry is one of those who made the pledge, but the Berry-friendly ABQ Journal is finding out the hard way that he is more than willing to stiff-arm them. His administration refuses to turn over public records regarding police shootings:

The Albuquerque Police Department hasn’t provided 911 calls, lapel camera videos or other documents relating to a recent spate of officer-involving shootings, often asking for indefinite delays without reason, denying requests by citing “ongoing investigations” and keeping one request “under review” for unspecified reasons. The Journal has made nine requests under the state Inspection of Public Records Act since late October for records relating to the shootings. . .

Only 9 requests? Maybe 13 is the lucky number? The question media watchers have is will the Journal do more than complain if Berry does not come with the records? Will they file a lawsuit?

Lawsuits is what the Associated Press and Santa Fe Reporter have had to resort to in trying to get public records from Governor Martinez.

KOAT-TV is also in a struggle--just to get an interview with the cops. They want to ask about the department's contact with 9 year old Omaree Varela whose own mother is accused of beating him to death. It's a story that has sent shock waves throughout the state. After prodding, APD came with a statement on how it is committed to preventing child abuse, but failed to produce the chief or anyone else to stand for questions.


And then there's this. A cameraman recently filming ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry at a city council meeting wasn't a member of the media, but he got a first-hand taste of the bunker mentality that apparently has taken over City Hall. KRQE-TV came with the story:

Charles Arasim, one of APD's fiercest critics, was videotaping reaction of top city leaders to harsh public comment against Mayor Berry's administration. . . Arasim claims Perry proceeded to try and . . . block his camera tripod. . .But Perry says, "I never touched his tripod. . ." Both men agree Arasim then tapped Perry's arm. "Don't step on my camera please," Arasim tells Perry on a video recording. . . "Keep your hands off me," Perry tells Arasim. . .About 20 minutes later, Arasim was walking to his car in the city's underground parking garage when he spotted Perry and Greg Wheeler, assistant city attorney. . . "Mr. Wheeler. . . called me a very derogatory name," Arasim said. "He. . . held his hand up in my face." "It's an unfortunate emotional response and the city attorney will speak with Mr. Wheeler. . ." Perry said. Arasim said, "These gentlemen are supposed to be professionals. I'm still in shock. . ."

And here's the kicker: The TV station requested surveillance video of the confrontation. But guess what? A city spokesperson said they couldn't get that video to the station in time for the report.

The only record the Berry and Martinez administrations can seem to deliver to the media in a timely matter is the broken record they keep reciting about how transparent they are.


Over at KOB-TV, there will be a change in the scenery on the 6 and 10 p.m. news broadcasts and not a very welcome one. Anchor Nicole Brady, who recently gave birth to her second child, will not return to the evening newscasts following her  leave. She announces that she will go back to her TV roots and co-host the station's early morning news broadcasts. That's where she was when she was called up for evening duties six years ago. No word on who will be paired with longtime evening anchor Tom Joles, but Nicole, who took the anchor baton from the well-liked Carla Aragon, will be missed among the night owl crowd.


It's an open secret that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among state Democrats with the much more conservative tone the state's largest newspaper has adopted in recent years. Here's how that recently played out on Facebook with this broadside from former ABQ Dem City Councilor Michael Cadigan:

I wish to announce that I have finally taken the plunge. . .I finally cancelled my subscription to the Albuquerque Journal. The Journal is nothing more than a house organ for the Martinez administration and the Berry administration an an anti-Obama screed. I can accept a conservative editorial page, but even their news pages have become press releases for the Governor and Mayor. No effort to hold the Governor and Mayor accountable for the dismal economy, no effort to look behind the platitudes. . .  I feel sorry for the reporters that work at the Journal, but I cannot support this sad excuse for journalism with even my meager subscription fee.

And look who is supporting Cadigan's boycott. Longtime Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg wrote back to attorney Cadigan:

 I am glad you took a stand and wish more would follow and further refuse to patronize any business who advertises in the Journal. I canceled my subscription over a year ago after being frustrated for years with the slant and half-truths. My mornings are much more pleasant, now.

But is there a change in the making at the Journal?  Recently they have hit hard on the state CYFD scandal, controversial political adviser Jay McCleskey, APD transparency (as noted above) and with an update on the mysterious death of ABQ attorney Mary Han. 


Reader Michael Corwin who has been highly critical of the Martinez administration and who ran the now defunct Independent Source PAC that scrutinized the Guv, comes with this take on the problems of NJ Governor Christie and similarities they have with NM:

Joe, You seem to be alone among New Mexico's media in drawing a parallel between New Jersey Governor Christie's scandal and Susana Martinez's own email scandal. You were right to do so. 
The similarities are too significant to ignore. 

Just as Martinez's chief of staff directed cabinet officials not to use their government emails and was himself caught on tape saying he did not use emails at all because he didn't want to go to jail (apparently he believed his own actions could put him in jail), so too were members of the Christie administration instructed to avoid using emails when communicating about the bridge lane closures. 

Finally, the Christie scandal also exposed the involvement of campaign officials in the governance by his administration, just as Susana Martinez has done with her political adviser Jay McCleskey, whose role was exposed by the National Journal. . .

Where the parallels end, however, is the free pass that Susana Martinez has received from a compliant New Mexico media and state legislature.

As we're seeing, in some of the media battles for public records that "free pass" Corwin references can quickly turn into a stay in the penalty box.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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