Thursday, December 08, 2005

ABQ: How Crime Ridden Is It? We Take A Look From Both Sides, Plus: TV News; Creating Fear Or Reporting It? Here's Your Thursday Blog, No Bail Required 

Does ABQ get a bad rap when it comes to crime? The matter came up after I riffed in my "state of the city" that the "ongoing crime wave" was the Duke City's biggest problem. But ABQ Journal science writer John Fleck, who we blogged about on a different matter Wednesday, chooses to see the bright side of the equation. He e-mails in: "Joe, this is from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report:

Albuquerque MSA, violent crimes per 100,000 residents: 2000--945.7--2004--842.8

There's clearly an 'ongoing TV news crime wave,' but by the best measure we've got violent crime has declined over the last five years in Albuquerque," corresponds Fleck.

Well, John has a point. But the rate of violent crime has been going down everywhere as the population ages and as tough on crime platforms take hold. But when you look at the FBI's 2004 violent crime report, you see that ABQ's reputation as a violent place is not entirely undeserved.

According to the 2004 stats, the national rate of violent crimes per 100,00 persons is 465.5. ABQ, as Fleck pointed out, comes in with a rate of 842.8. Yes. it is down from 2000, as it is elsewhere, but compared to the rest of the nation the city still ranks #14 on the list of most violent metro areas. There are more than 320 metro areas ranked.


As for Fleck's 'ongoing TV crime wave,' it deserves serious consideration. The local TV's have been criticized nationally for going overboard and insiders here will even tell you they fear straying to far from the crime beat and risk a setback in the ratings.

Even NM TV news dean Dick Knipfing has defended his station's heavy crime coverage saying ABQ is "a violent town." But does that mean it has to be the dominant theme night after night? Apparently so if you want to attract viewers who are still interested. But according to one study between May 1997 and May 2003, early-evening news programs lost 16% of their available audience share or more than 3% a year. Late news programs lost even more, 18%, again more than 3% each year. Will constant crime coverage win them back?


The bottom line is that ABQ, compared to other metro areas, does have a very serious crime problem. But it's also worth pointing out that many victims of crime are themselves involved in criminal activity. For the vast majority, living in ABQ is not a proposition that puts your life in danger as media coverage might sometime convey. In fact, most residents are most concerned about property crime which gets only scattered attention because it lacks the sensation of the latest shooting.

The folks who run the TV news game are hard working professionals who mostly get it right and get it fast. And there is plenty of crime to report. But the steady diet of crime headlines make their broadcasts borderline irrelevant to an ever-growing number of educated viewers who used to watch religiously. Now, in the name of ratings, they often appeal to the lowest common denominator. While that may not be a crime, it is a shame.

Thanks to John for the thought provoker. You can catch more of him on his very own blog.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Heather, Patsy And the War: How Did It Get The Early Start? We Have The Report, Also: Angling For Auditor, And: Who Shot J.R. (Damron, That Is) 

Rep. Wilson
It will be the premier New Mexico political race of 2006. No doubt about that. In fact, I recently fielded a call from the national desk of the Los Angeles Times to discuss what contest they will target as a bellwether for their readers. The Heather Wilson-Patricia Madrid face-off is one of two they are considering tracking from beginning to end to keep tabs on the national mood and whether the GOP House majority is endangered.

Which leads us back to Heather's bold statement that it would be looking in "the rear view mirror" and a "distraction" for the House Intelligence Committee, of which she is a member, to investigate pre-Iraq war intelligence and where and how it went wrong. Why the controversial statement now, which Dem Madrid seized upon to score early political points? And not just with the partisans. The ABQ Journal, generally supportive of the GOP's Wilson, slapped her wrist with this editorial and then followed with a slew of letters to the editor taking her to task.

Curious insiders are asking just how this story emerged so early as a campaign hot potato. Me too. So I checked in with veteran Journal science writer John Fleck who penned the missive that kicked off what will be a long and hard fought congressional duel.


Fleck informs that Heather, on a tour of Sandia Labs with House Intelligence Chair Peter Hoekstra, did not raise the issue. "I asked the question because I have been following the controversy over aluminum tubes in Iraq that were mistakenly thought to indicate an Iraqi nuclear weapons program. I was not approaching it as a political question."

But Heather's hard-hitting language immediately red-flagged the story and it ended up a page one write-up and launched the campaign over the war.
And why was Heather so hard-hitting when she usually plays low-key on issues that divide the moderate district? Several theories abound including one that she turned it up because she was with her committee chairman who has stalled a pre-war probe. Another longtime Heather watcher said the tough tone was really not that unusual, but choosing to use it on the hyper-controversial Iraq war was the issue.

The Dems are hoping that the refusal to investigate will have long legs. "Even if the war turns her way, we will still have this issue of what went wrong. It's something that even supporters of the war may relate to and her position can be summed up neatly in a TV spot," analyzed the campaign operative.

It's worth repeating. The Iraq war is comparable to the campaign politics during the Vietnam saga. Before it's over Madrid and Wilson will both have their mettle tested like never before. And that's what makes for a premier political race.


We've got a contest for the Dem nomination for state auditor. Tuesday we reported that Jeff Armijo was in the running, but that some Dems were hoping for a rival. They have one. Tom Buckner, deputy superintendent for the state Regulation and Licensing Department is out collecting signatures.

He tells me he has served as a bank examiner for the FDIC and has lived in Rio Rancho since 97.' He's 64 and was appointed to his post by Big Bill. He also worked for Attorney General Madrid as a Medicaid fraud investigator. He adds: "I've got nothing against Jeff. May the best man win." And 35 year old Jeff, second cousin of ABQ Mayor Marty, phones in: "I like Tom." Come on fellas, you're going to give politics a bad name.

Is there an R auditor candidate yet? Not that I have heard. Have you?


Sometimes I even surprise myself with my bizarre late-night spelling screw-ups. Tuesday it was R Guv candidate "J.R Damson," when it should have been "J.R. Damron." I guess the question isn't who shot J.R. but who butchered his name. I have lashed myself ten times with a wet noodle and will now link to Dr. D's Web site as atonement for my sin for which I was gently roasted by several watchful blog editors.


Listen, but listen quick. The state GOP has put up a radio ad on conservative talker 770 KKOB-AM labeling Big Bill "King Bill" as they try to make hay over his pro baseball record. It's more of a symbolic play as the ad is up on just one station and ends Thursday. But it's the "earned media" they are after which they just got here and from the AP's Barrey Massey as well.

Corrections, criticisms, and of course, the latest political news, is always welcome. There's an e-mail link at the top of the page. Drop me a line. See ya' soon.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pete And Jeff And Their Buddy System, Plus: The Latest Candidate Comings And Goings; Warm Up With Your December Blog 

Domenici & Bingaman
A couple of years ago it looked as if the decades long collegiality between New Mexico's two U.S. Senators might be in jeopardy, but with Campaign 06' rapidly nearing it appears to be love and peace again between R Senator Domenici and D Jeff Bingaman who is is seeking a fifth, six year term to the senate. How cozy are the two senators whose combined tenure in he World's Most Exclusive Club suprpasses that of any other state's delegation?

"Jeff is mainly vulnerable from conservative Eastside R's and D's. It's natural for him to court Pete who can give him valuable cover with those constituents and its equally natural for Pete to warm up to Jeff as the R's come under fire for skyrocketing energy prices. Past differences are overcome by that equation," analyzed one campaign veteran.

Pete is chair of Senate Energy and Jeff, once the chair himself, is now ranking Dem. Earlier this year they banded together to pass an energy bill that Dems roundly criticized for being too friendly to major energy corporations, but one that Bingaman nevertheless supported, earning Pete's gratitude not to mention that of NM's oil and gas industry.


The Energy and Commerce Comittees recently held a joint hearing on high energy prices featuring the heads of the major oil companies who were later accused of lying to the senators when they testified they never met with Vice-President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 to plot energy policy. Then the news broke that that was not the case and it was Pete and the R's on the hot seat for refusing to have the oil execs take formal oaths at the hearing.

Not to worry. Jeff was quick to join Pete in signing a letter asking for answers from the oil bosses and not raising a stink about the oath-taking. It was nice cover for the senior senator.

Insiders in D.C. say Pete, as in the past, will not get active in the campaign against Bingaman. There is really no pressure for him to do so as the Bingaman race is not targeted by the national R's.

When it comes to being in the U. S. Senate membership has its privileges. Mutual back scratching apparently being one of them.


Coming onto the scene: Dem Jeff Armijo, a member of the ABQ TV-I Governing Board, now campaigning for state auditor. But one branch of D's says Armijo, who is in the travel biz, is not their favorite and they are looking to recruit another candidate, but there's no rush of applicants. Outgoing auditor Domingo Martinez is reportedly looking to get into Santa Fe county government when his term ends next year.

Dem Al Park is staying put. He says he will seek re-election to his ABQ State House seat after flirting with the notion of running for attorney general and then state treasurer. It's probably the smart move as both races were an uphill climb. He has raised over six figures for his campaign treasury, leaving him an odds on favorite for another House term and time to mull a future run in more friendly territory.

Finally, an R wag e-mails in his campaign slogan for GOP Guv hopeful and Santa Fe radiologist J.R. Damron: "He can see right through Bill Richardson." Hey, that and $10 million and it just might work.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

TV's Nelson Martinez: What Really Happened? We've Got The Scoop, Plus: Lots More From The Media Beat; It's Monday Blogging, New Mexico Style 

Speculation became fever pitched in media circles when ABQ NBC affiliate KOB-TV announced that longtime and popular native New Mexican TV anchor Nelson Martinez was being given his walking papers, but refused to give a specific reason. Martinez would only say that it was "complicated" and he was hiring an attorney. Here's the exclusive insider report on what really happened.

When it comes to TV news always start with the ratings. Because, for better or worse, (mostly worse) that's all that really matters in the bottom line biz it's become. The numbers for the broadcasts Nelson anchored (4 and 5 p.m) since joining KOB two years ago consistently lagged KRQE AND KOAT. With that as a backdrop Nelson was ripe for the picking, or the kicking.

"Management claims Nelson canceled a recent 4 p.m. anchor appearance saying he was too sick to go on, but was seen later that day at the book signing for Governor Richardson in ABQ's North Valley. On top of that, the station is said to have video of Nelson at the signing shot by a KOB crew. It was the straw that broke the camel's back," reports our reliable TV informer who has spent decades in the tube trenches and who adds that Nelson is disputing management's take hence the attorney.

You mean Nelson may have laid his career on the line for Big Bill?! If so, will he be rewarded? Heck, the Guv has hired half the journalists in New Mexico for lesser reasons. Nelson is one of the great Mariachi musicians in our state so do you suppose Music Commission honcho Nancy Laflin, once a TV news anchor herself, can make some desk room for Nelson?

Dick & Erika
As for the TV news wars, in the November sweeps KRQE again rode the strength of CBS primetime to capture another narrow win over KOB-TV for the 10 p.m. news title. ABC affiliate KOAT was third. To the chagrin of us political types who yearn for more varied coverage, the three stations have come to depend on an even heavier mix of crime stories. But in TV news it's not yearning that determines what gets on the air. It's what earns. Who says crime doesn't pay?


Let's stay on the media beat to tell you that another TV anchor veteran, Jane Metzler of 1980's KOAT fame, is now being heard in ABQ/Santa Fe. She's a national anchor for Fox News radio which airs on KAGM 106.3 FM. And in a twist of irony, Dianne Anderson, of 1990's KOAT anchor fame, gets to listen to her as she conducts a midday talk show there...Katy Zachry, one of a number of young and aggressive reporters signed up by KRQE to take them to the top of the 10 p.m news heap, is leaving the station for TV news in Hartford, CT., the #28 market in the nation. ABQ has now inched up to #46.

Over at NM's #1 radio station, 50,000 watt giant 770 KKOB-AM, Big Bill got a lesson in how quick conservatives will turn on him, despite his attempts to romance them with tax cuts. National talker Sean Hannity last week panned Big Bill profusely for his new position on Iraq--set a definitive timetable for withdrawal--and even threw in a hand grenade over the Guv's resume mishap. Hannity is so pro-Prez that critics have taken to calling him "Bush's Bitch." But Big Bill and Sean were cozy together, until now. Lesson for the Guv? Sometimes the one you're using, is using you.

Finally, one of the writers for "Late Night With David Letterman" could not resist lampooning the Guv over his baseball blunder calling it his "Field of Hallucination. To which the Guv and his minions say: "Amen. Better to take our lumps now than later."

And with that we say thanks for tuning in. Send me your news and comments via e-mail.

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