V is for Vendetta: The Albuquerque Journal’s Vendetta Against the Wild Horses

The Albuquerque Journal has now printed, over the past two weeks, six opinion pieces denigrating Governor Richardson’s proposed 12,000 acre expansion of Cerrillos State Park and creation of a wild horse sanctuary. Four of the opinion pieces masqueraded as news articles, with one printed front page and just below the Albuquerque Journal banner, and featured the neutral headline of “Horse Haven Would be Exclusive Club”.

A listing of the “news articles” and editorials shows the increasingly strident view of the Albuquerque
Journal with each item: 

  • $2.8M Set Aside for Horse Sanctuary – Sept 17th – Mark Oswald
  • Horses, Kids And Stimulus – Sept 18th – Thomas J. Cole, Upfront Column
  • Governor Delays Vote on Sanctuary – Sept 22nd – Thomas J. Cole, Upfront Column
  •  Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Sense into Deal – Sept 23rd -Editorial 
  •  Horse Haven Would be Exclusive Club – Sept 25th – Thomas J. Cole, Upfront column 
  • Somebody Holler Whoa on Sanctuary – Sept 29th – Editorial

None of the news articles presented any information or quotes from proponents of the wild horse sanctuary, besides Governor Richardson himself, even though a chief proponent for New Mexico’s wild horses, the Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA), sought out the Journal’s Thomas J. Cole to  provide comment.  In fact, the headline of their most recent editorial against the wild horses snarkily incorporated the organizations acronym.

In the earlier news articles and editorials the Journal clearly tries to promulgate a false choice: funding childcare assistance vs spending on wild horses. Why is it a false choice? The $2.8 million being allocated for the park expansion calculates out to a mere 0.07% of the $3.9 billion Federal stimulus  funds being directed to New Mexico. The budgetary category of “Family Safety Net” has already been allocated 8.18% of New Mexico’s share of stimulus funds. Also, the $2.8 million is but a fraction of the shortfall in childcare assistance funding.

Here’s an anecdotal sampling of other stimulus funded projects in New Mexico:

  • 0.21%: Reconstruction of Existing Lanes fo NM 128, a rural road in Lea County (birthplace of Governor-Candidate Diane Denish). 
  • 1.31%: Levee improvements in Dona Ana County (home to Governor-Candidate Susana Martinez 
  • 0.06%: Improvements to Columbus US Land Port of Entry in Luna County (home of NM Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith)

The primary point being made here is that, clearly, the expansion of Cerrillos State Park is not preventing the funding of childcare assistance, as there are many other choices, many of them larger, which comprise the allocation of the $3.9 billion of stimulus funds for New Mexico.  False Choice.

Many of the news articles and editorials attempt to make great hay (sorry for the pun) out of the  opposition of Governor candidates Diane Denish and Susanna Martinez, and State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthurs Smith to the proposal. Here are some other anecdotal figures to  chew on:

  • $1.9 million: Increase budget for DA office of Governor-Candidate Susana Martinez, from 2003 to 2009. 
  • $2.8 million: Approximate cumulative budget for Lt. Governor office of Governor-Candidate Diane Denish, 2007-2010.
  • $7.5 million: Expenses for 2010 NM Legislative Session
  • $4.2 million: FY2010 Budget Recommendation for Legislative Finance Committee.

True, these numbers have no direct relationship to the proposed wild horse sanctuary, however, it does provide a sense of proportion to the cost of a project which is an investment into New Mexico’s and the  nation’s largest private sector employee, tourism. The Albuquerque Journal takes little note of the  financial benefits this investment in tourism will bring throughout the years to come.

Just to throw out another loosely related fact: 

  • Energy and Natural Resources: Biggest Campaign Contributors to NM Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith, 2004/2006/2008.

I’m just saying….

When Governor Richardson addressed the childcare assistance shortfall, the Albuquerque Journal changed tack and attacked the wild horses themselves, in the “Horse Haven Would be Exclusive Club” front page, below the banner news article (no, it was not labeled an Editorial or Opinion). The Journal  writer, Thomas J. Cole, merely repeated misinformation fed to him by the BLM regarding the existing wild horse herds in New Mexico, both underestimating their numbers and calling many of them “feral”.   The writer makes no mention of the role the BLM has played in the creating the current sad state of the  wild horses in the West.  The article also conveyed the BLMs viewpoints on the proposed wild horse sanctuary, without any countervailing viewpoints. The BLM is hardly a disinterested party when it comes to wild horses and certainly should not be the sole source for information on the subject.

Interestingly, when a Farmington-area BLM manager’s questionable ethics came into the spotlight last  month, the Albuquerque Journal could not be bothered to assign a reporter to the issue, but relied on AP reporting.

Amazingly, five negative articles and editorials in eight days was not enough. The Albuquerque Journal published another editorial on September 29th denouncing the wild horse sanctuary, “Somebody Holler Whoa on Sanctuary”. The Editorial contained no new information and no new insight, and so it seemed unnecessary, except to add more stridency to their opposition and to fit the acronym of the most vocal proponent of a wild horse state park to the headline, the Wild Horse Observers Association.

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