Thursday, December 22, 2011

Who Gets to Decide Whom the Media Is? Part Two APS Communications

What’s Wrong With This Picture?
August 11, 2010

Albuquerque Public School’s Communications Department headed by Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta, above left, through Communications Specialist John Miller, above right, created a mechanism to disallow otherwise recognized members of the media, including electronic/Internet journalists from being able to attend and cover the gubernatorial candidate’s debate.

As a freelance photojournalist, I have contacts with a number of media outlets and individual journalists, and on August 9, I became aware of the requirements APS was sharing, with a select group of media members of their choosing, to talk about their requirements for issuing press credentials.

At the Wednesday August 11, Martinez press conference, Ched MacQuigg asked for a ticket to attend the education debate. APS had not yet delivered the campaign's allotment of tickets, he was told.

I spoke with a number of my colleagues in the press about their having received information about the APS event.
Following the press conference, MacQuigg and I went to the APS Twin Towers, now known officially as the Alice and Bruce King Educational Complex, 6400 Uptown NE, to ascertain what was necessary to apply for and obtain credentials for the debate.

MacQuigg took the lead asking to speak with APS Communications Specialist John Miller, whose name appeared on the media advisory as the contact person.

We spoke with Miller, I presented my business card and asked that I be placed on APS’ media advisory list; he said he would. To date, I have received nothing from him.

Miller said that no media advisories pertaining to the debate had been issued from the communications office and had there been, he would have known, because it would have only come from him.

He said there would be information forthcoming and he would forward it to both MacQuigg and I. Nothing arrived.

Miller said that the choice of the 400-seat performing arts center at Eldorado High school was the choice of the campaigns.

He had a prepared statement that he sent to those whose requests for credentials were denied. Miller wrote:
I’m writing to inform you that we will be unable to accommodate your request for a media credential for the APS 2010 Gubernatorial Education Debate on Aug. 19. Unfortunately, space is very limited at Eldorado High School and we not going to be able to fit everyone who wanted to attend the debate.
APS offered a larger space, such as a gym, for the debate, but the two candidates preferred a smaller venue, like a performing arts center. Eldorado’s seats 400. We expect to be at full capacity.
The debate will air live on KANW-FM (89.1) and live audio will be streamed on the APS website (
I received a copy of a correction to the “Request Credentials for Gubernatorial Debate by Aug. 13,” that was sent out to other media a half-hour before our meeting with Miller.
Request Credentials for Gubernatorial Debate by Aug. 13
All media must have APS-issued ID to enter Aug. 19 debate at Eldorado HS
Attention Editors and Print Media Personnel:
All media representatives will be required to show a credential issued by the Albuquerque Public Schools Communications Office to gain entry to the APS 2010 Gubernatorial Education Debate on Aug. 19. Requests for credentials must be received by Friday, August 13.
Print outlets may send a maximum of two (2) staff members, including photographers, to cover the debate.
Please e-mail or fax your request on company letterhead to John Miller, Communications Specialist, at or 505-872-8864. Be sure to include the names of each staff member who will be covering the debate.
Credentials are non-transferable. They will be available for pick-up on Aug. 16 or 17 by 5 p.m. at the APS Communications Office, 6400 Uptown Blvd. NE, Suite 400 West.
Please note that this detailed information is critical for us to have for reasons of security and limited venue space.
Debate Facts
Who: The two candidates for governor of New Mexico: Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and Las Cruces District Attorney Susana Martinez.
When: 6 p.m., Thursday, August 19. Media may check in beginning at 4:30 p.m. and must be inside the building and set up by 5:45 p.m.
Where: Eldorado High School Performing Arts Center, 11300 Montgomery Blvd. NE. Please use parking lot entrance off Juan Tabo Blvd. The credential and a photo ID will be required to enter the school.
I also spoke with Interim APS Police Chief Steve Tellez, below left. I worked with him at the Albuquerque Police Department over a decade ago.

I mentioned that there was a constitutional crisis brewing with the manner in which members of the press were being treated for the debate. I said I had covered presidential events with less restrictions; the only thing missing from APS was metal-detectors.

Tellez said that he had been able to dissuade them from going that far by reminding them that it was an “invitation only” event and they knew everybody attending, so they didn’t need to pass through magnetometers.

I attempted to take Tellez’ picture, but this was the result, above right. "I only look good in the morning," he said.
According to an APS website page, a committee made up of APS employees and four members of the Board of Education – President Martin Esquivel and Lorenzo Garcia, David Peercy and David Robbins – used those web-generated topics to develop about 15 questions to be submitted to Superintendent Brooks, who will choose which questions will be asked during the debate and in what order.
According to the public records, the board members of this committee were made up of two Democrats, Esquivel and Garcia, and two Republicans, Peercy and Robbins. However, APS Board elections are non-partisan.

The committee represented a quorum of the seven-member Board of Education and the nature of their task, selecting questions of grave concern to the public education process, qualifies as a discussion of public business triggering the requirements of the States Open Meetings Act.

The fact that the board members did vote, even if it was through a consensus process, to select the 15 questions to be asked by Brooks of the candidates, their gathering triggers the full requirements of the state’s open meetings act. They totally disregarded the act.
Statutory Chapters in New Mexico Statutes Annotated 1978:
10-15-1. Formation of public policy; procedures for open meetings; exceptions and procedures for closed meetings.
A. In recognition of the fact that a representative government is dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be public policy of this state that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them. The formation of public policy or the conduct of business by vote shall not be conducted in closed meeting. All meetings of any public body except the legislature and the courts shall be public meetings, and all persons so desiring shall be permitted to attend and listen to the deliberations and proceedings. Reasonable efforts shall be made to accommodate the use of audio and video recording devices.
The Debate also constituted a meeting subject to the open meetings act, as a fact-finding endeavor when a quorum of the board was present. It’s like a joint session of Congress gathering to listen to the president’s state of the union address; they don’t vote on anything, but it’s an official session.
Heath Haussamen requested credentials for me to cover the event for his He wrote on his site:
I requested a media credential for the event so as a photographer could shoot the debate for, but my request was denied – even though I’ve been credentialed to attend presidential candidates’ events and even twice interview John McCain on his bus in 2008.
As far as I can tell, with the exception of the New Mexico Independent, other online journalists’ and bloggers’ requests for media credentials were also rejected.
I offered to provide video services to New Mexico Independent. Editor Gwyneth Doland had already teamed up to live webcast and blog, with the Santa Fe New Mexican and KNME TV, which is owned and operated by University of New Mexico and APS.

The Independent has fostered a relationship with KNME early on when it was first created. KNME had two half-hour shows: In Focus and The Line. The programs were combined and are now “New Mexico in Focus” initially co-hosted by David Alire Garcia, below left, who was a Santa Fe Reporter staff writer, on the editorial staffs at the Albuquerque Journal and Tribune, before he became NMI’s first managing editor, then editor, he transferred to the Michigan Messenger, a sister operation of The American Independent News Network. In 2000, Alire Garcia was executive director of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

The other co-host was and now is the host, former Albuquerque Journal and Tribune Columnist Gene Grant, above right, who also now freelances.
Alire Garcia, middle, with KNME Staffer Kathy Wimmer, left, and Public Affairs Producer Kevin McDonald, right and below, at the May 14, 2009. President Obama’s visit to Rio Rancho High School for a Town Hall meeting on Credit reform.
New Mexico Independent staff members were regular panelists on the roundtable discussion group. Doland is a correspondent.

I don’t begrudge NMI’s association that gave them access to the debate, but what I do object to, is the position that the APS communications department took in credentialing and allowing one web based journalistic effort into the room while excluding others.

The issue becomes a very technical ethical question because of the University of New Mexico/APS owned KNME is covering its parent organization and favors their Internet news group partner.
On the surface, the partnership makes sense, KNME and NMI have teamed up before; I recall their successful effort, above, during last years mayoral campaign when they covered the first public event when the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees held a forum.

In addition to KNME's coverage of the debate, APS' internal video department also videoed the proceedings and put up clips on a link.

Upon reviewing the partially surrendered documents received that were requested under an inspection of public records, it wasn’t quite that simple.

Doland wrote Shur at the Denish camp:
Hiya, Oren–
As I mentioned, the Independent and The Santa Fe New Mexican are co-hosting a live blog of the APS debate on Thursday. We had planned to do this using streaming video provided by KNME-TV. But we’ve been told by APS that the campaigns demanded there be no live streaming video from the event.
I understood from you that’s not the case, but I’d appreciate any help you can offer in clearing up this matter.
Shur sent an e-mail to Armenta and Canggiolosi about Doland’s e-mail:
… I just wanted to clarify so we’re on the same page: it is not the Deinish campaign’s position that there be no live streaming video from this event online – quite the opposite. Live streaming through the web should be allowed and encouraged by credentialed members of the media who have the capacity to do so. That way any New Mexican with a laptop and internet connection can watch the debate live.
I confirmed with Gwyneth that they need no extra space or special accommodations. It can be done with the camera KNME is already bringing and the laptop the Independent will be working from.
I hope everyone can agree that we don’t want to tell members of the press who are bringing cameras and laptops what they can or cannot do with their cameras and laptops. That’s not what we’re about; we want as many New Mexicans as possible to be able to view this debate live and unfiltered.
Public Schools owned KANW FM radio provided the sound for the event and every microphone flew a KANW flag. The station also provided a broadcast press mult box, a device that takes the audio from all microphones, after it has gone through the sound board and is provided as a single audio stream which goes to the public address system and to a multiple outlet plugs box allowing the media to plug into the house sound system.

Of particular interest was the inclusion on the community guest list that had parents and six student journalist, a Major Barber and Monica Armenta’s mother, Loretta Armenta of Qwest.

Media passes were issued to:
Brian Martin, Kenny Hatchitt KOAT-TV
Stuart Dyson, Blaise Koller KOB-TV
Ian Schwartz, Robert Pugsley KRQE-TV
Ana Sanchez, Jim Morrison KLUZ-TV
Michael Jasso, Mike McCoy KKOB-AM
Kate Nash, Jane Phillips Santa Fe New Mexican
Vicente Franco, Fernando Donado EL Semanario
Barbara Armijo, Mas New Mexico + 7 Student Journalists
Sean Olson, Hailey Heinz Albuquerque Journal
Leslie Lithicum, Roberto Rosales Albuquerque Journal
Gwyneth Doland, Tripp Jennings New Mexico Independent
Tim Kork Associated Press
Brian Sanderoff KOAT-TV
Leslie Cumiford NM Breeze

There were 15 VIP Media parking passes distributed.

Government owned media credentialed
Kevin McDonald KNME-TV
Jim Williams KUNM 89.9 FM
Michael Brasher KANW-FM 89.1
Kalisha Weidemann APS still photographer
Aaron Jaramillo APS videographer

APS’ still photographer and videographer had special access on the ramp toward the front of the auditorium.

High School Student Journalists
Caryn Nguyen Highland
Brianna Salazar Pool Photographer/ Highland
Andy Sutliff Cibola
Christina Rodriguez Volcano Vista
Leena Villegas Atrisco Academy
Jana Richardson Eldorado Student Journalist
To be named La Cueva Student Journalist
Pat Graff La Cueva teacher/sponsor

In answering a question about the student journalists getting tickets to the event and whether the photographer needed a press pass to shoot, Armenta responded:
Yes, give Brianna a press pass – give them all press passes in addition to their tickets to make them feel important.
One online journalist of NM Politics, Michael Hays was allowed without credentials by simply showing up from Las Cruces.

“APS rejected a lot of requests from a lot of other organizations. One of the TV stations told me today they had two of their guys rejected—they have no talent going, only a camera,” wrote a media source who shall remain unnamed to protect them from possible recrimination. This message was written to me days before the event and things must have changed because the four networks affiliates each sent a reporter/photographer team.

I chose not to use any of my political associations to try to influence acquiring credentials; I recognize a poisoned well when I see one and I won’t waste the efforts of my contacts in a futile venture.

Hausseman did expend some personal capital, especially from the Denish campaign, in an effort with the campaigns to help get credentials with no luck.

Other media requests denied:
Mary Ellen Broderick Democracy for New Mexico .com
Ched MacQuigg Diogenes Six

“My office mate Rob Nikolewski from Capitol Reports couldn't get credentials either,” Santa Fe New Mexican’s Steve Terrell wrote on the live blog from the debate.

“I called a couple days before the event and was told there was no room in the inn – that all media credentials had been given out,” Nikolewski wrote in an e-mail exchange.

KOB Eye wittiness News, KOAT Action 7 News, KNME TV, and KRQE News 13/KASA Fox 2 live streamed the debate on their websites.
So, What’s Wrong With This Picture?
Both campaigns had cameras present, but the operators were using staff, not media credentials. The Martinez campaign used Wayne A. Johnson President, Vista Media Productions, Inc. Johnson is a former KOB News photographer editor and producer. He was elected to the Bernalillo County Commissioner for District Five in November and sworn in January 1, 2011.

I was unable to identify who made video for the Denish camp.
Some may ask why the need for so many views. Why should I or MacQuigg’s Diogenes Six or Mary Ellen Broderick of Democracy for New Mexico or Rob Nikolewski from Capitol Reports have access?

The answer is in the fact that you’re reading this now, but didn’t have complete coverage then. You, the public should have access to many different viewpoints, not just those of the government’s as provided by KNME TV, or KANW-FM 89.1 or APS’ still photographer, and videographer.

It doesn’t necessarily make them true propagandists, but the presence of a free press lessens the possibility that government media might shade events to make them look good. I am not disparaging any of the individuals who manned government equipment, I believe they have the best of personal motives and those I know are ethical people. I will grant the others, blanket coverage. However, it is not them I worry about, it is those above them who worry, a truth could damage the institution’s reputation, they have the power and willingness, in the absence of an open press to manipulate the image as it really was. It’s happened before.

Besides my photographs and writing, I would have live streamed the event through New Mexico Senate Live, at the same time: KOB Eye wittiness News, KOAT Action 7 News, and KRQE News 13/KASA Fox 2 who also live streamed the debate on their websites.

The media is a competitive group and each journalist comes with their own viewpoint, those of their media outlet.

One of the best examples is the Nielsen's rating system for TV and radio audiences to determine the demographic and size of viewers and listeners.

Those ratings are used to determine the value of commercials as stations sell their audiences eyes to advertisers.

Contrary to the belief that there is only one “truth” to record, nothing could be further from the truth. Each person sees events in their own unique way; the best that comes from the collective viewing are a set of observations, which might be distilled into a number of facts.

My coverage of events often differs greatly from what Associated Press or the Journal or the television and radio news stations offers; it doesn’t make how I cover news illegitimate; only different.

The APS’ gubernatorial candidate’s education debate was not just political theater, but literally was played out on a stage. Political events from the beginning of history have played out on the public stage.
Next segment: Part Three: August 19, 2010, APS 2010 Gubernatorial Education Debate..

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