Monday, July 13, 2009

Axe Falls On ABQ TV News Boss In Newsroom Showdown; Insider Details, Plus: R's Hit Di In TV Spot, And: Summer Thirst? We Have Free Coke For You! 

Knipfing vs. Carr
A newsroom showdown has them talking in TV land. The news director for the top-rated ABQ TV news operation, Forrest Carr, was abruptly given the axe last week after serving in the post for less than a year at CBS affiliate KRQE-TV. One of our media Alligators has the back story--the one you won't get anywhere else:

Insiders say (KRQE-TV anchorman) Dick Knipfing met with station manager Bill Anderson and told him: "He goes or I go." Carr brought into the market "Viewer Advocacy Journalism." "VAJ" consists of putting microphones on reporters and requiring them to ask aggressive questions in a belligerent way--baiting public officials like the Governor--as if the reporter has cornered the guy and is beating up on him on behalf of viewers...It requires a bad guy and requires the reporter to go after the designated bad guy...Needless to say, most reporters know that most of the time there isn't any bad guy and they're not the knight in shining armor...That's the journalism side. On the business side, KRQE news at 10 p.m.--although #1--should be a more dominant #1. CBS hauls in huge prime time ratings but KRQE loses a big chunk of them to KOAT and KOB. Carr and "VAJ" failed to reverse the trend...

VAJ might be offensive, but in defending it some might equate it to traditional investigative reporting tactics. (KRQE station manager Anderson called in Monday to dispute the contention that Knipfing demanded that Carr be fired. He said Dick expressed "concerns" about Carr's leadership, but did not say it was either Carr or him.)

July marked the beginning of another TV news rating period, but it is the least important one because of traditional low viewing in the summer months. The next big "ratings sweep" is in November. KRQE-TV assistant news director Iain Munro has been named to replace Carr. Knipfing, dean of NM TV news, last year signed a new three year contract with KRQE. He has worked in the ABQ TV market for over 45 years.


In 2000, while serving as anchor at KOAT-TV, Knipfing, 66, tangled with another news director--Pahl Shipley--who later became a communications aide to Governor Richardson and recently took the PR post with the state film agency. Insiders report Knipfing disputed an assignment Shipley wanted to give him during the huge and destructive Los Alamos fire. Shortly after, Knipfing departed the station for KRQE-TV. Besides the anchor turmoil, KOAT was unable to get its news helicopter into the air space near the fire, while KOB-TV's helicopter did and provided mostly exclusive and startling live video of the event. Not only did it turn out to be one of the biggest news stories in state history, it was one of the biggest stories in the history of TV news here. KOAT never regained its past ratings glory.


The R's like the feedback they're getting for their ethics hits on Light Guv Diane Denish, so they have come with very early 2010 TV to try to define the early front-runner for the Dem Guv nod. The 30 second spot from the state GOP comes on the heels of an ABQ Journal op-ed piece from NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates knocking Denish for not being forceful enough in condemning the various scandals plaguing Big Bill's administration. This new ad tries to associate Denish directly with "pay-to-play," the buzz phrase that haunts Richardson.

As Lt. Gov. the R' says Denish cast two tie-breaking votes in 2005 in the state Senate to allow state racinos to extend the hours they operate their slot machines. The R's are asserting the votes were later bought by campaign contributions she received from the industry. They are circulating a list of over $55,000 in contributions she received in the months after those votes.

Denish held a news conference to unveil an ethics package after the first Republican hit. But for now Di stays directly out of the fray and Dem Party Chairman (and possible lt. gov. candidate) Brian Colon is assigned attack dog chores:

More than a year and half before the general election the Republican Party of New Mexico is already desperately beginning the negative attacks that often come from a party running scared. They know that their group of candidates can’t compete with Lieutenant Governor Denish. These dishonest attack ads are more about their desperation than anything else.

Rather than again directly engage Harvey and company, Di also marched out her campaign chairman and old political war horse, Ted Martinez:

All across New Mexico, families are working hard to get through the national recession. This is a time for our leaders to come together and find solutions, which is exactly what Lt. Gov. Denish has been doing. It's sad that the GOP has nothing to offer but dishonest, negative attacks...

The R's aren't saying how much they are spending on the negative ad. Whatever it is, they will get some mileage in the free media. The ad is not a knock-out, but a competent zinger that is meant to keep Di on the defensive as she embarks on building her name ID for the Guv run. No doubt the R's are also trying to get her to tap into some of that $1.7 million in cash she has on hand. If the TV buy is cursory, don't expect her to take the bait. If it is more than that, she may have to take a bite out of her tormentors, or at least shred what is left of Colon's leash and let him and his surrogates hit even harder.


Back in '98, Denish teamed with Marty Chavez to form that year's Dem Guv ticket. They lost to R Gary Johnson, but Di lives to fight another day. For Marty, the intervening years have been about being mayor of ABQ, but nothing higher on the political scale. Sunday he came with his official announcement for a fourth term. Judging from the media coverage, it came off well. We haven't seen Chavez's polling data, but we suspect his campaign believes women are the swing voters in the Oct.6 election. That's why former NM first lady Clara Apodaca and disability activist Cody Unser were probably featured on the stage with the mayor when he announced at a Taylor Ranch community center. (Marty came with a five minute YouTube video outlining the message of his candidacy. You can view it here.)

Chavez's campaign slogan is "Now More Than Ever," a reference to the tough economic times being felt. He does not want to fall behind the curve on that crucial issue, so applying his experience in difficult times is brought to the fore.

And former Mayor Baca predicted correctly---cops and public safety are going to be the most prominent issue, even if it is a bit over the top. Chavez foe Richard Romero scored points on it after the sensational Denny's murder and he was back on that tack in reacting Sunday to Chavez's announcement. As for the Mayor, he is not going to be outgunned on public safety. He is, as he has in campaigns past, talking about hiring more police. This time about 100 more of them. Where the money will come from is a good question, but right now he's more concerned about where the votes are coming from.


We know you're thirsty as we enter the dog days of summer and so do the folks at Coca-Cola, one of our blog sponsors. What to do about it? How about a contest in which two winners get themselves cooled off with a six month supply of America's favorite beverage? No problem, Coke is ready to play and so are we. So, on with the contest. Our first winner of a free six month supply of Coke will have to correctly answer two questions from the realm of La Politica and be the fifth entrant to do so. We don't think you can easily "Google" the answers for these, but then we're giving away a pretty cool prize.

Question #1: Who was the chief of staff to NM Governor Toney Anaya (1983-87)?

Question #2: Which newspaper editor, in the 1970's, dubbed NM House liberal legislators the "Mama Lucy's"?

We'll let this run for a couple of days and announce the first winner Wednesday. There's an e-mail link on the right side of the blog and one posted at the bottom of this entry. And if you don't win this one, you get a second chance in our next Coke contest. Click on Coca-Cola's ad icon to check out all the cool commercials from the past and present for this iconic American brand. And thanks to Coke and all of our sponsors for making this blog possible.


Several astute readers pointed out that Rep. Harry Teague pumped nearly $1.8 million of personal money into his '08 campaign, not the $800,000 we initially blogged on Friday. How much will he put up this time? Probably not that amount. After all, he is an incumbent who will draw heavy support from national Dems. His GOP foe, Steve Pearce, will also draw national support, but he is still the challenger and not a few of his backers are telling us they think he needs to prepare himself to get his checkbook out.

And what will be the biggest issue in the biggest county--Dona Ana--in the southern congressional district? Last we looked there were no oilfields there for these two oilmen to argue about. And they don't have very high heating bills in warm Las Cruces so the argument that a new climate law, if passed, will raise energy bills loses some of its wallop in the key county. The R's would like the contest to be concentrated on energy because they rule the conservative and oil rich SE. But but the folks in Cruces, Silver City and other non-oil and gas counties are going to have a lot to say about that. Don't say those Alligators didn't tell you so.

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