Saturday, June 30, 2007

Strange News Day at the Tribune

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is KOB TV’s Nicole Brady, co-hosting Eye on New Mexico with Dennis Domrzalski. She just got married in the past few weeks to a producer at KOB, Brian Close. Their wedding was featured on the front page of Monday’s Albuquerque Tribune with a side bar about planning your own wedding and the Inn where theirs took place.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

This is Craig Fritz, one of the Tribune’s ace photographers who photographed the wedding that took place in Algodones, at the Hacienda Vargas Bed and Breakfast Inn. Fritz, seen here contemplating his next photograph at Democratic Headquarters, last November when Patricia Madrid conceded defeat to New Mexico District 1’s congressional seat, is also one of the better wedding photographers in the area, who teams-up with his photographer-wife, Kitty Clark-Fritz. They operate Twin Lens Image, from their home in Algodones. They are both award winning photojournalists who do beautiful work.

Brady is one of those people whom everybody seems to like, but the idea that a wedding of a popular TV news anchor rates “above the fold treatment” on a Monday afternoon begs the question, what’s going on at the Tribune?

Later in the day, managing editor Kate Nelson, an 18-year veteran political reporter at the Tribune announced that she was going to work for Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, as deputy chief of staff and communications director.

The Tribune has faced a continuing decrease in readership and now has a circulation of less than 10,000.

In most towns the size of Albuquerque, an afternoon paper with 10,000 readers would be non-existent.

But here, the Journal and Tribune operate under what is called a joint operating agreement. The two papers are under the same roof with two separate editorial staffs. Virtually everything else is shared: the press, the circulation department, the delivery trucks and carriers, the advertising and profits. The Tribune’s parent company, Scripps, gets 40 percent. Consider that the Journal has a little over 100,000 weekday readers; the Tribune is getting 40 percent for less than 10 percent of the output.

If this sounds like some kind of a monopolistic operation; it is. It also is Supreme Court approved.

The larger question is, what does it do to the quality of the newsgathering and delivery in our community? Is the front-page story of a popular media celebrity going to become the norm, where we get what might be best described as an infomercial, advertising wedding photographers and local Bed and Breakfast Inns?


This is Peter Rice, left, the Tribune’s city hall reporter at a city council meeting getting an amendment to a bill from the council’s staff. He is with Jim Ludwick, center, of the Journal and Laura Sanchez of the Weekly Alibi.

Thursday evening, Price called me looking for an archived picture of the city’s Chief Financial Officer Gail Reese. I had the picture. I asked what the story was and he gave me the standard Tribune response; it’ll cost 50 cents to read it tomorrow. He said it was a good story and I would like it.

The Tribune used this picture of Reese, left, addressing the City Council in the lead story on the front page of Friday’s edition, entitled; “Called out Familiar voice strokes mayor's ego -- agenda? -- on his radio show.”

Reese called Chávez’ KKOB 770 radio show June 16, using only the name “Linda.”

Chávez said he was going to the phones and called Reese, “Linda, thanks for your patience."

"Oh, I'm a very patient soul," Linda said, "except when we're talking about the City Council. What is wrong with those people? They don't want to give me a tax cut. They want to give the county $9 million, no questions asked. And then they want to do a pay raise? You've got to just keep vetoing this stuff, mayor."

The implication of Tribune article is that Chávez’ minions still engage in sleazy politics. Chávez’ propaganda efforts are reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s “Dirty Tricks” squad with Donald Segretti’s “Rat F***king,” or screwing up his perceived opposition or by using puffery to make himself seem omnipotent.

It raises several questions: What is the Mayor doing with his own program, "the Mayor Martin Chávez show," that airs, Saturdays, 1 p.m.-1:45 p.m., on commercial radio? What impact does it have on how KKOB 770, a news station, covers Chávez? Does a media outlet have to provide Chávez direct access in order to be able to cover him? Chávez has his own television show on government access television GOV TV cable channel 16, Mayor's Open Line. He meets regularly with the Journal's editorial staff in a private press conference, yet won't provide access to electronic journalists.

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