Thursday, January 31, 2008

The stories (other) reporters miss

New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici under a possible senate ethics investigation.

They missed the story the first time when the senator first asked the Federal Election Commission to dig into his campaign warchest for funds to pay his own legal expenses in connection with the ethics committee probe and for his the defense of members of his staff. It's not unusual for a member of congress to be granted the use of such funds for his/her legal expenses. But it's unheard of to pay for the defense of staff.

The information was out there, and KSFR did an extensive interview with Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington. That was in early January.

Then in late January came word that the Federal Election Commission could not deliver a formal opinion because it lacks enough members for a quorum. KSFR reported that one, too, from readily available information.

A prominent U.S. senator on a possible ethics charge and no other reporter in New Mexico gets it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Man bites dog 2

Another endorsement message. I've underlined the boilerplate similarities:

Associated Press - January 17, 2008 2:25 PM ET

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - Mayor Martin Chavez on Thursday endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.

Chavez said New Mexico is ready for change, and Clinton will be ready to lead from day one in office.

He said she will be the best president for working families - a constituency he said has been ignored by President Bush....."

And from the earlier post:
Associated Press

"SANTA FE — Lt. Gov. Diane Denish today endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the presidential race, saying Clinton will make the best president and is best prepared to win in November.
"We have to have a leader whose ready to start doing things on day one and make change happen," said Denish, who backed Gov. Bill Richardson's bid for the Democratic nomination until he dropped out of the race last week...."

Man bites dog

Political endorsements are beginning to roll in. And it beats me why some of the media are actually carrying campaign "commercials" instead of news.

The old cliche is that news is defined as "man bites dog." With stories about endorsements, it appears to be more like "dog bites man." Is it a news story that yet another dog has bitten yet another man, with quotes about who, what, when and where?

I took part in the conference call announcing New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish's endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. What else could Denish say about Hillary other than the expected platitudes?

Why report a campaign commerical -- these platitudes -- as news? Associated Press did:

"SANTA FE — Lt. Gov. Diane Denish today endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the presidential race, saying Clinton will make the best president and is best prepared to win in November.
"We have to have a leader whose ready to start doing things on day one and make change happen," said Denish, who backed Gov. Bill Richardson's bid for the Democratic nomination until he dropped out of the race last week.
"I've read her plans for the country," Denish told a conference call announcing the endorsement. "They're thoughtful, they're detailed, they're comprehensive. They're not just press announcements."
She praised Clinton's record of fighting for children and families, and said Clinton would help states obtain affordable health care and would negotiate to end the war in Iraq quickly and responsibly.
Denish, the first female lieutenant governor in New Mexico history, was Richardson's running mate in 2002 and when they won re-election in 2006.

During the conference call, I asked about and then reported on the possibility of a conflict between the lieutenant governor and the governor, should he choose to endorse another candidate.

In the "man bites dog" category, it would have been BIG NEWS if the lieutenant governor had instead endorsed a distant possibiity like Dennis Kucinich or, even more way out, a Republican. In a case like that, the reasons for the candidate's appeal would be real news, since the endorsement would have been totally out of the ordinary.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Democrat from Mexico?

My son once mailed a package to Santa Fe from Washington, D.C. The postal clerk starting looking up international mailing rates, unaware that New Mexico was in the U.S.

Popular New Mexico political blogger Joe Monahan caught C-Span in a similar gaffe. Note the tag under Gov. Bill Richardson.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pub radio editorial standards

A debate is stirring about the public radio station in Athens, Ohio, refusing to broadast Amy Goodman's "Demoracy Now." I ran across the issue in the pub radio journal Current. A retired professor challenges the station's position that Amy's "DM" does not meet its editorial standards.

In a local newspaper op-ed, he writes: "I challenged WOUB's assertion that "Democracy Now" does not measure up to certain journalistic standards. With respect to journalistic standards, we wonder about WOUB's own journalistic standards, when the station recently accepted a $500,000 donation from Roger Ailes to help pay for a technologically advanced newsroom. Ailes is best known for his association with the right-wing Fox News Channel as news chairman and then, since 2005, as chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group.

"Additionally, my first analysis focused on the coverage of Secretary of State Colin Powell's address to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, in which Powell marshaled the evidence for invading Iraq. "Democracy Now" had experts who expressed skepticism about Powell's evidence, while the guests on NPR and PBS largely accepted the evidence in favor of an invasion. I will be investigating coverage of other significant events in coming months."

FYI, KSFR does air Amy Goodman and as news director I've found less reason to question her slant on issues I know about than some of the majors.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Happy birthday, KSFR News

We've been at this for six years now, going on seven.

When we started, it was with a commitment to local broadcast news. The naysayers said it couldn't be done with a volunteer news staff.

Since then:

-- More than 18,000 hourly newscasts
-- Live broadcasts of every county, municipal and primary election returns
-- Staffers at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2004
-- More than three dozen awards for excellence in broadcast journalism
-- Ongoing professional development of the largest broadcast news team in northern New Mexico -- from 8 to 12 people on average throughout the year
-- Four years of affiliation with BBC

We began with one computer for the entire radio station and a rudimentary Radio Shack telephone connection for getting phone interviews. I bought two cassette tape recorders and cable to dub/edit tape from one to the other. Thanks to contributions, we've been able to add numerous computers, high-quality telephone connections, sophisticated audio software and super remote broadcast equipment.

It's been a wild ride. And there's more to come.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Osama dead? part 2

The BBC has finally said something about the missing sentence in the Frost-Bhutto interview.

Website Editor Steve Herrman blogs Jan. 4, 2008, that "Ms Bhutto made what was, on the face of it, an astonishing allegation - that Osama Bin Laden had been murdered by Omar Sheikh. The claim was brief, and went unchallenged by Sir David Frost. Under time pressure, the item producer responsible for publishing the video on the BBC website edited out the comment, with the intention of avoiding confusion. The claim appeared so unexpected that it seemed she had simply mis-spoken. However, editing out her comment was clearly a mistake, for which we apologise, and it should not have happened."

Astonishing equals "news" any day of the week.

If the video editor paused because this "astonishing revelation" (even "on the face of it") appeared to be news, then the intervening two months should have seen some fact-checking by BBC.

We can therefore assume these facts will be presented when the fully restored video is re-posted to the BBC website.

Correct assumption, Mr. Herrmann?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Top KSFR web views of 2007

I just took a look at the stats for the most viewed stories on KSFR.Org Local News for the full year 2007. Thousands hit these stories.

1: Dec. 19 Tom Udall on LANL job cuts (Podcast) Congressman Tom Udall on job cuts at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
He tells KSFR the current round of job cuts at the Los Alamos National Laboratory is the result of the lab's privatization. He also points to how the lab might diversify its scientific work.

2. Aug. 28 At Noon midday report (Podcast)
Congressman Tom Udall who wanted the US Attorney General impeached says Alberto Gonzales' troubles may not be behind him, even though he's quit his job.

Plus, Gov. Bill Richardson is spending a whale of a lot of money in Iowa. A news report says he may be among the big spenders there.
And we'll talk with a former staff writer for the Albuquerque Tribune as we learn that that afternoon newspaper may be changing hands or worse shutting its presses.

3. Dec. 4 Privatization at the Los Alamos national lab (Podcast)
The question has to be raised - is privatization of the Los Alamos National Lab working? The lab is planning to get rid of as many as 750 jobs - equal to $100 million off the budget. Perhaps coincidentally that number equals the profit the management company was promised to get for managing the lab under the new privatization set up, plus a good portion of the extra gross receipts sales taxes it has to pay because, unlike the previous contract holder, it is a for-profit partnership. We put the question to New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman - is privatization of the lab working?

4. Aug. 2 At Noon midday report (Podcast) We talk with the state Motor Vehicle Division about the new drivers license rules.

Cockfighting in New Mexico is now illegal. But what about dog fighting?

Congressman Tom Udall on why he's co-sponsoring a resolution to impeach the U.S. Attorney General.

5 Meet KSFR's news team (Video)

6. Sept. 4 At Noon midday report (Podcast) Did New Mexico's largest utility use the same accounting methods as that famous bankrupt Houston company named Enron?

A Santa Fe-based Think Tank is urging state lawmakers to dump a state law that has the state Public Regulation Commission set the rates for homeowner title insurance.

Good news for Santa Fe bicyclists.

We hear from the oldest rider taking part in the Great Santa Fe Trail horse race.

Aug. 22 At Noon midday report (Podcast)

About those credit cards in your wallet or purse - they could be costing you extra money.

Sheriff Greg Solano wants a new job - he'll tell us about his run for the job of lieutenant governor.

An environmentalist explains the problems he sees with New Mexico's latest foray into renewable energy.

And the former federal prosecutor for New Mexico has signed a book deal about his wrangles with the Bush administration.

8. Polling places -- School Board election

9. Supervisor of troubled Texas nuclear plant moved to Los Alamos (Podcast)"

The federal official in charge of overseeing a Texas nuclear-weapons plant where workers are complaining about safety issues has been transferred to oversee the Los Alamos National Laboratory's nuclear weapons operations.
Los Alamos Site Office Manager Dan Glenn has not returned our call for comment. But we talk to a watchdog group about charges critical of the Texas facility that were aired in a Los Angeles Times article.

10. Dec. 14: KSFR News files complaint against Santa Fe County Commission"

KSFR's letter of protest over a county commissioner's holding a closed-door meeting (no media invited or allowed in).

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Osama dead?

We are interested in news outside Santa Fe, though we don't pretend to be able to cover it and, so, we don't broadcast much if any of it from our local newsroom. We rely on BBC for that.

But a mention by Air America's Thom Hartmann of a Benazir Bhutto interview by David Frost got our attention. So we researched it.

Frost does BBC interviews and has a program on Al Jazeera English television. He talked with Bhutto after she survived a November 2007 assassination attempt. In the interview she makes an incredible claim -- that Osama bin Laden was murdered and she knew who did it.

We took a look at the video that Al Jazeera posted on its section on You Tube (yes, they are legitimate Al Jazeera videos). Then we compared it with a version of that same interview posted by the BBC on the BBC News website. BBC cut out the mention of Osama's murder and the name of the person Bhutto said murdered Osama.

Why? We'll try to find someone at BBC to answer that question, if we can.

Meanwhile, here's a typewritten transcipt of Bhutto's statement on Al Jazeera. We have underlined the sentence that did not appear in the BBC version:

Frost: These three people you mentioned, were they members of or associated with the government?

Bhutto: Yes, well one of them is a very key figure in security. He's a former military officer. He's someone who has had dealings with (she names a name and a group whom we could not understand the names of) who was in an Indian jail for decapitating three British tourists and three American tourists. And he also had dealings with Omar Sheikh, the man who murdered Osama bin Laden. Now I know having dealings with people does not necessarily mean having direct evidence....

Compare the two videos yourself.

The reference begins at 6:00 minutes into the Al Jazeera video.

The reference begins 5:00 minutes into the BBC video.