CENSORING THE NEWS FOR POLITICAL REASONS IS NEVER OK

The Albuquerque Journal should be angry over the way Gov. Susana Martinez’s people discussed one its reporters in private emails. The top brass at the Journal, though, cares a lot more about the perceptions of politicians than its own people. I should know. 

This is what Downs lawyer Pat Rogers wrote to Gov. Susana Martinez’s deputy chief of staff Ryan Cangiolosi, via private email accounts: “You should be informed of Mr. McCluskey’s (sic) kissing of Brunt’s posterior and his continual participation in the erosion of the executive branches’ authority and majesty.” 

ISPAC released that Monday. The Journal wrote a story that ran this morning, which mentioned a different email from Rogers to Cangiolosi: “My position is that Hossie needs to run everything.” 

Now, it’s pretty bad that the Downs lawyer is telling the governor’s office who should be in charge on the massive deal (“Hossie” is State Fair Commissioner David “Hossie” Sanchez). But also bad is the notion that Jay McCleskey, who runs the governor’s Susana PAC, is “kissing of Brunt’s posterior….” 

Brunt is Charles Brunt, the Albuquerque Journal reporter who has written extensively on the Downs deal and has done a good job (when allowed). If McCleskey isn’t working for the Downs, as he keeps saying, then why does Rogers care about what he says to Brunt?

And how about the rest of that email: “his continual participation in the erosion of the executive branches’ authority and majesty.” So McCleskey’s money-centric, unelected, unaccountable influence over state government (the governor says he’s her “top advisor,” and legislators call him “the fifth floor”) is funny to these super-elite government middle men. And apparently the Albuquerque Journal doesn’t even feel that warrants mentioning. 

The important distinction to make here is that Journal reporters are not ideologues. The rank-and-file staff is stressed out by their mouse-nuts salaries and by bosses constantly telling them to do more with less. They are in a noble, thankless profession. They want to come in each day, do good work, and go home. I know this from experience.

It’s the decision makers who enable the administration to run state government as a money trough for campaign donors by not holding them accountable for saying things like “you should be informed of Mr. McCluskey’s kissing Brunt’s posterior and his continual participation in the erosion of the executive branches’ authority and majesty.” 

I am biased. Totally. I admit it. I got fired from the Journal last year because in a fit of boredom I fired off an email to the spokespeople for Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, challenging them to an “email duel” about their bosses’ lousy approval numbers. 

That moronic letter included this: “As a spokesman whose job exists so that we in the media may tell the public what is happening at the highest levels, I challenge you to prove me wrong when I say politics is dominated by the lazy and corrupt. Prove to me your boss is working for the people in his district, and not his fellow suits….”

I also wrote “This is a challenge. A duel. You’re a congressional flak and I’m a newspaper reporter, so let’s dance.” 

It was a dumb thing to do and I apologized profusely and begged to be allowed to move on from that story and get back to grunt reporting for less than $100 a day. I was fired two business days after sending the stupid thing. (Incidentally, none of the flaks wrote me back.) 

Wanna know who else apologized profusely? The Albuquerque Journal, to the spokespeople. They sent letters to each, saying the top editors were sorry and that what I’d done was insubordinate and unprofessional. 

I was an employee there for years, covering multiple beats, but they cared much more deeply about the potential for a congressman to be offended than they did about me. I have a hard time believing the biggest newspaper in New Mexico would suddenly get cold-shouldered by Lujan or Udall or Bingaman because of a stupid letter from a stupid reporter in Santa Fe, but the feelings of these legislators are apparently quite important to the Journal. 

Again: The feelings of powerful politicians are more important to the bosses at the Albuquerque Journal than the people who work there. This might explain why joking about kissing Burnt’s ass isn’t newsworthy enough to get into the paper. 

I thought what I did was fine, because I was at a newspaper and they were elected politicians. I thought that dynamic meant we were allowed to grill them once in a while. I got too cutesy-clever in the delivery, I know that, but democracy doesn’t work well unless the public knows its press is keeping an eagle’s eye on what politicians do with the powerful offices they’re given by voters. 

I was wrong. The proof of that is what gets included in the Journal’s coverage of the New Mexico governor’s office, and what doesn’t. It’s just one newspaper, and I’m personally bitter and confused still about my own firing. But this is distressing. The governor and her people shouldn’t be working so hard for campaign donors, especially not like this. 

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