News people tooted Richardson’s horn

Ned Cantwell, State Columnist

It’s wrong, I know, but I can’t get Monica Armenta off my mind. No matter what else I may be doing, there she is. Monica. Monica. Monica.

You’ve seen her. Poised, seriously concerned about New Mexico events, pleasant sense of humor.
Monica is a star of New Mexico journalism, co-anchor of Eyewitness News 4 Today, the state’s top-rated morning newscast. Her partner is Steve, the weather guy, who is always talking about his dog. Steve is a good guy, but this is about Monica.

Monica was once a journalism teacher at West Mesa High School, so she should know better. So should Nelson Martinez, the heavy-duty KOB evening anchor and longtime veteran newsman. And so should KOAT anchorwoman Cynthia Izaguirre.

Here’s what happened. When Gov. Bill Richardson wanted to look good in front of his fellow governors at the Border Governors Conference, Monica, Nelson and Cynthia were the three people he called on to polish his helmet.

Journalism 101: If you are going to be responsible for covering a man and his administration, the good and the bad, you can’t go kissy-kissy all over him in public. To do so leads viewers to doubt the accuracy of your reports.

And that is just what Monica Armenta did when she and the others were called upon to introduce Big Bill at the Border Conference. Here’s what this objective reporter had to say, according to an Albuquerque Tribune story written by Shea Anderson:

“Gov. Richardson has done more for New Mexico in two legislative sessions than any previous governor has done in decades.” Wow. Could there be higher praise? Apparently so. Monica was just getting started.

She said Richardson “cut personal income taxes and capital gains taxes nearly in half … and has “led New Mexico to one of the most dramatic economic turnarounds in U.S. history.”

She said Richardson “successfully and effectively represented the Democratic Party, New Mexico and the border region as the 2004 chair of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.”

When it comes to heaping praise, no one can out gush our governor. He took the podium and called Monica “the Katie Couric of New Mexico.”

OK, so I am a little jealous. No one has ever called me the “Art Buchwald of New Mexico.” In fact, no one has ever called me.

Look, journalists are people. They like to get recognition from the power brokers. Those whose job it is to give us the news, though, need to play it straight and keep their opinions to themselves.

According to the Tribune story, KOB station manager Mike Burgess “said his outlet welcomes the publicity his station gets from such appearances, but aims to keep its news broadcasts neutral.” Sorry, Mike, but KOB’s credibility is such now that you might as well hire Barbara Richardson to cover her husband’s administration.

Monica and the others were, thankfully, not paid for showering praise down on the governor. That’s encouraging. Less encouraging is that these seasoned, talented news people did not even write their remarks about Richardson. His staff did.

Astute New Mexico political observer Joe Monahan, whose Web site is
www.joemonahan.com
suggests, “Hey, maybe Big Bill press flak Billy Sparks can write the 10 p.m. news too!”
Right on. That makes the point.

Ned Cantwell is a member of the New Mexico Press Hall of Fame. Contact him at:
ncantwell@charter.net