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Monday, February 12, 2018

Trouble At The Journal And What Its Troubles Stem From, Plus: How Low can She Go? Susana Polling Slump Bad But Not Worst, And Webber Mo; Can He Keep It as Santa Fe Election Nears?  

The good news for the ABQ Journal is that the cartoon that caused such an uproar, well, caused such an uproar. It spoke to the relevancy (if still waning) of the only paper in town. The bad news? The cartoon again revealed the identity crisis the Journal now struggles with. Here are the key points:

--The state's population is now over 60 percent majority-minority, with Hispanics making up nearly 50 percent of that total. In BernCo 65 percent of the population fits the majority-minority definition. If the media can't stay in touch with that dramatic demographic change, it's in trouble

--The Journal has an aging, Anglo leadership which represents the demographic that is shrinking here. The publisher, the senior editor and the editor are all well into their 60's. All joined the paper when the city was a drastically different place economically and socially.

--That's not "ageist." It's just a matter of fact that keeping up with and truly understanding marked cultural change is more difficult when your point of reference is a world and decades away.

--The trouble the Journal is having adjusting was laid bare in the October mayoral election when for the first time they endorsed two candidates as they tried to navigate the new electorate that apparently so baffles them.

--The paper needs to attract more younger minority journalists who are tapped into the city's new zeitgeist and who can bring the paper more fully into the community.

All of that is a tall order for the 125 year old Journal which was founded by and for the town's new Anglo business interests who began to build the city in 1880 when the railroad arrived.

The Journal has adhered to those roots, catering to the local business community and quite often to the Republican Party. But corporate America has driven prominent local businesses from the picture and we now have the aforementioned demographic shift to a majority minority population. On top of that, the Republicans have been sent into hibernation in Bernalillo County, possibly for many years.

In other words the constituency the Journal is so accustomed to serving has shrunk and continues to shrink while the new constituency and its agenda is being ignored and waits restlessly for its majority voice to be recognized.

Whether the paper is even profitable at this point or being carried by the Lang family's real estate interests is unknown, but just about all newspapers today face financial challenges. The current publisher--William P. Lang--is known for his business acumen, but according to one source who spoke with him directly, he does not have a deep interest in day to day news operations.

Rather than fight for survival amid even more sea changes that are coming to the state's population and economy, this would seem a good time for the Journal's publishing family of nearly 90 years to sell the operation. But are there any buyers? Papers in DC, LA and Las Vegas have all gone to billionaires who are willing to assume some risk in exchange for the power of the publisher. But there are no billionaires here.

The often brilliant and now retired public relations executive Lanny Tonning once said: "The ABQ Journal: The only newspaper that resents the town it covers."

That may or may not be true but unless there is a reshaped agenda and leadership at the state's largest paper what it says in the future--no matter how controversial--may be greeted by the silence that accompanies irrelevancy rather than citizen demonstrations and condemnations from politicians.

HOW LOW?

Gov. Anaya 
How low can she go? Gov. Martinez's approval rating has plunged to 33 percent in the latest Morning Consult survey. That ties the low registered by Dem Gov. Richardson in his last year in office in 2010.

Martinez would appear to have hit bottom but if she hasn't she could still drop a long way before she became the state's most unpopular governor in polling history.

When Democratic Governor Toney Anaya ('83-87) was about to leave office in November 1986, an ABQ Journal survey had his "favorability" rating at an astounding low of 12.2 percent.

Toney's authoritarian instincts put off the electorate and his four year term was chaotic. But 12 percent? We dare say that's a record like DiMaggio's hitting streak--a record that will never be broken.

The irony for Martinez, of course, is that she rode Big Bill's unpopularity into the Fourth Floor in the 2010 election. Now the Dems appear about to do the same with her own unpopularity.

In practical terms Martinez's bad polls makes vetoing bills a more difficult prospect as even Republicans might be prone to override her. And her power to put public pressure on the Legislature is weakened.

And pity Steve Pearce, the GOP Guv nominee-to-be. He not only has Susana's baggage to carry but the Donald's as well. That's what you call a heavy load.

MO AND MONEY

With the Santa Fe mayoral election now less than a month away, he's got the mo and the money, but the often topsy-turvy politics of the City Different have been known to turn quickly so entrepreneur Alan Webber may find himself tested in the final weeks.

Besides raising more money than his opponents, Webber, who became know politically when he unsuccessfully sought the 2014 Dem Guv nomination,  also picked up the endorsement of outgoing Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. That might be a mixed blessing in a two way race. The Gonzales tenure has proved divisive and not all that popular, according to the polls. But the endorsement math works for Webber in this five way contest.

Webber has also won the endorsement of the New Mexican.

The mayoral campaign has been less aggressive than those of the past. The new system of ranked voting in which candidates need to appeal to voters not only to be their first choice but also their second--has calmed the animal spirits that usually take hold at this point.

Webber has worked the beat hard and assumed the front-runner position, making the question of the campaign not "Why Webber?" but "Why Not Webber?" Will any of his foes take up that question?

THE BOTTOM LINES

At the Roundhouse, it appears BernCo DA Raul Torrez will walk away with a big budget boost, if not all that he wanted. The Dem DA can thank GOP Gov. Martinez and the unrelenting crime wave that has caused near desperation as citizens look for solutions. . .

Some are saying that Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith has now given Torrez "enough rope to hang himself" if the money doesn't make much of a difference. And it may not.

By the way, not a bad play for lame duck Martinez in how she got Senate Finance to give in on overall crime funding.  No one likes being "soft on crime.". . .

The state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is coming in at around $6.3 billion. Despite having about $300 million more to appropriate, mainly because of rising oil prices, that budget is less than a 5 percent increase from the general fund budget of 10 years ago. How about that?. . .

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