Thursday, August 19, 2004

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: INTRODUCING THE GOV

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 19, 2004

It used to be that Gov. Bill Richardson had to give reporters jobs in his administration before they started singing the governor's praises in public.

But after last week, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.

As reported by The Albuquerque Tribune, three Albuquerque television news anchors gave introductions for Richardson at the recent Border Governors Conference, reading scripts written by the governor's office.

And apparently one of them was downright sparkling.

Monica Armenta of KOB-Channel 4 reportedly credited Richardson for "one of the most dramatic economic turnarounds in U.S. history" and said he "has done more for New Mexico in two legislative sessions than any previous governor accomplished in decades."

Richardson, according to the account, referred to Armenta as "the Katie Couric of New Mexico."

That hurts.

I thought I was the Katie Couric of New Mexico.

If nothing else, the governor's cozy relationship with the TV news folk has united people with disparate views.

In an e-mail newsletter, state Republican chairman Alan Weh referred to the introductions: "Unfortunately we encounter the media's liberal bias on an almost daily basis; here is a blatant example we wanted to share ..."

Weh gave the phone numbers of the two stations, urging readers to call " if you think that three news anchors subjectively stumping for Governor Richardson is biased or inappropriate ..."

Meanwhile, on the left, Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra, a publication of the New York-based organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, agreed that such an introduction was inappropriate.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Naureckas said, "News anchors are not expected to be entangled with the governor's office. Reading P.R. handouts from the governor's office is entanglement."

Naureckas added, "A lot of people have serious doubts that news media is as impartial as it claims to be. Stories like this confirm those suspicions."

But two of the three anchors said Wednesday their roles in the introductions were significantly less than Armenta's. Armenta couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Nelson Martinez, also of KOB, said all he did was say the names of the various governors and where they were from. The only compliments he gave were directed to an old table at the conference on loan from the Palace of the Governors.

"My script was very cut and dry," Martinez said. He said he wouldn't have said the same things his colleague did. "I know where the line is," Martinez said.

Cynthia Izaguirre of KOAT Channel 7 said, "to be lumped in with remarks by another anchor is libel."

The only thing she said about Richardson was that he was "a very busy man," Izaguirre said. "The governor and I have had some tough interviews."

Who's the brain?: An e-mail advertising the debut of a new anti-Bush film Bush's Brain - a critical profile of political adviser Karl Rove - excitedly announced that the film would be showing in major cities later this month.

But the list makes me wonder how serious the folks in charge of this are about trying to affect the election.

Of the 19 cities listed, nine are in California - one of the bluest of the blue states by virtual every estimation - while four are in Texas, where George W. Bush would have to forget the Alamo to come even close to losing. The other cities include the Democratic strongholds of New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Nothing in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, or New Mexico.

Somehow, I don't think Karl would have done it this way.


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