Ripping the Albuquerque Journal’s Op-Ed pages, as we have done lately, may be useful. It’s possible management doesn’t realize how much its rightist tilt unfairly deprives readers of diverse ideas or that it may hurt business. Every once in a while, after all, a Journal reader accuses the paper of liberal bias! Editors could see such letters as evidence they’re hewing to the middle, rather than what they are — proof that some extra-terrestrials survived Roswell.
In fairness, we shouldn’t judge the newspaper on its Op-Ed pages alone. And the Albuquerque Journal has many virtues. Let’s begin, arbitrarily, with the front page to which the Journal recently added columnists. Good move. Permitted to say “I,” liberated from certain protocols, a columnist can communicate humanly, write stories about people rather than issues (or arrive at issues by way of individuals). So columns are easier to read than conventional reports.
Cheers, then, for veteran reporter Leslie Linthicum, former Tribune stalwart Joline Gutierrez Krueger, investigative reporter Thomas J. Cole and Jim Belshaw, whose work comes forward from the inside pages. Belshaw’s diffident, civilized take is familiar; I pray the Journal will give each newbie time to refine his or her unique voice. Also, that the editors do not devalue “UpFront” by slapping that logo on any old feature.
Mentioning Mr. Cole reminds me the Albuquerque Journal invests in three full-time investigative reporters –- Mike Gallagher, Colleen Heild and Cole. While general assignment reporters routinely produce reams of copy to fill the news hole, investigative specialists can spend months producing zero, zilch, nada. There’s always the risk, too, that their probes will come up with still more nada.
Of course, the exposés they regularly produce serve the public interest.
This financial investment in investigations looks even more impressive juxtaposed against the Journal’s trimming of news pages, adjustments (I presume) to diminishing advertising revenue. Critics may say this is justice, that the newspaper is reaping what it has sowed by advocating the very economic doctrines that undermined the economy. Maybe. The publisher deserves applause, nevertheless, for funding the diggers.
Consider, too, some outstanding beat reporters. Winthrop Quigley writes about business generally, the health industry in particular. I learned enough covering Wall Street to see that he understands his beat; as businessmen will tell you, that’s uncommon. He navigates the complexities of New Mexico’s health industry easily — an intellectual feat. More admirable yet, he reveals the assumptions on which he erects analyses.
(Confession: I suffered writing that last paragraph. Mr. Quigley approaches healthcare as an industry. He’s right. It is. I remember, however, when doctors were neither entrepreneurs nor employees but professionals organized in guilds. When hospitals were non-profit. When health care was a social good, not the product of corporate enterprise-on-welfare.)
As for the Journal’s science guy, John Fleck, he writes so well that I get most of his stories, despite my scientific ignorance and density. Happily, he has zeroed in on energy, a most timely focus; witness a recent lucid takeout on New Mexico’s coal industry in “Business Outlook.”
And can there exist a more useful, fact-filled column in our auto-dependent state than “Road Warrior”? Could anyone steer that column better than D’Val Westphal? Not likely.
Mentioning Ms. Westphal, whom I have never met, prompts me to disclose that I am friendly with several reporters and an editor or two at the Journal, something you should know.
I plan to highlight other positive contributions by New Mexico’s only statewide newspaper, as well as some negatives, soon. As always, your comments are appreciated.