Archive for July, 2009

A long time ago, boys and girls, a fine rabble rouser named Mark Acuff gave the Albuquerque Journal much heartburn in his “New Mexico Independent.” (It’s no relation to the current online New Mexico Independent. Acuff’s was written on and printed on actual paper. (Google “paper.” It will explain everything.)

Now we have a veteran former Journal staffer, Tracy Dingmann, picking up where Acuff left off. ABQ Journal Watch is only a couple of days old, so we shall see what comes. But Tracy worked there for 18 years. She won’t be lacking for sources.

Here’s a taste from Tracy:

“Every day I talk to Journal readers who express dismay at the paper’s editorial stances and seemingly related news coverage – content that often seems driven by a undefined political agenda, not one that simply covers the facts.  The fact that some news stories and editorial opinions appear to be in lockstep flies in the face of the long-cherished journalistic principle that there should be a hefty firewall between news and opinion.

“For me – and for many others I talk to – the problem isn’t so much with the reporters – it’s with the decisions that fall squarely into editorial territory.

“On the news pages, it’s things like headlines that don’t match a reporter’s story, puzzling story choices for the front page or investigations that amount to thinly-veiled vendettas against certain people or groups.

“On the editorial page, it’s endorsements that are wildly out of step with the community, or the barrage of conservative columnists who express views grossly dissonant to the ideological views of most of those who live here.

“Then there’s the things that the editorial department simply doesn’t have – like ethnic diversity in management and a positive image and involvement in the wider community.

“All this is especially disturbing in light of the fact that the Journal calls itself the state’s “Paper of Record,” a term that implies that it covers everything and covers it fairly. The Journal also claims that its news gatherers and editors are “objective,” hewing to the old-fashioned traditional journalistic principle that a newspaper can produce coverage with no bias.

“I’ve always found it odd that there’s no regular outlet for media criticism in Albuquerque.  It needs to happen now, because today’s transformed media landscape means newspapers and other huge companies aren’t the only one who can make their voices heard. Now anyone can point out that newspapers aren’t always the bastions of objectivity they claim to be.

“I believe readers can and should keep an eye on the watchdog. That’s why I’m helping start this media criticism site, which  will take a serious look each week at editorials and news coverage from the state’s largest paper.”

In the past I have suggested that you read Jon Carroll in the San Francisco Chronicle. The reasons are many — his writing, his thinking, his humor, his ability to cut through the baloney and get to the good stuff. Today, I’m going to suggest again that you read him — and there’s an added surprise in the deal, another writer who makes you read slowly — Michael Chabon.

Have you noticed that about good writers? How they slow you down? Their sentences are so beautifully constructed that you must slow down. They make it impossible to speed read. The writing is too good to be read fast.

Here’s a beautiful Chabon sentence: “Childhood is a branch of cartography.”

Think about that for a little while. Carroll wishes he wrote it instead of Chabon. I wish I’d written it instead of Chabon. That’s the way the world spins when you come across a lovely sentence. First thing out of your mind: envy. Then, appreciation.

Oh, well. You’ll find Carroll at the San Francisco Chronicle. You’ll find Chabon at The New York Review of Books. Each writes about childhood and how we’ve changed it, made it more like a prison for the kids and a fearful place for the grown-up. Each of the writers makes his argument with lovely sentences.