Eclipse-ing The Bad News?

August 24th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Tracy Dingmann

One of the first things I learned in journalism school was this: When writing a news story that includes two diametrically opposing sets of facts, a newspaper reporter should foreshadow both in the first sentence (known in the business as the “lead).” That way the reader doesn’t get blindsided halfway through the story.

That’s not what happened in the Journal’s Aug. 21 story “New Eclipse Is Just A Day Away.”

The first six paragraphs of the copyrighted, front-page story contained nothing but positive news about the resurrection of Eclipse Aviation, an Albuquerque-based jet manufacturing company that racked up $1 billion in debt, filed for bankruptcy and then shut down in February.  According to the story, the Charleston, S.C. based Eclipse Aerospace has bought the company’s assets and will start servicing the existing fleet of 259 jets soon.

That’s good news for those who own Eclipse jets and were worried about who would service them.

But the real economic engine for Albuquerque comes from the manufacturing of the planes – and we don’t find out after the story jumps off the front page that an industry expert who correctly predicted the Eclipse bankruptcy thinks that can’t happen unless the new company can raise “tens of millions in additional funding fast.”

The expert, aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Fairfax, Va.- based Teal Group Corp., also says that the dozens of companies who supplied parts to the original Eclipse and lost money will likely not want to do business with the new company, making it difficult to service existing jets, much less build new ones.

Deep into the story, Aboulafia paints a considerably darker picture than the rosy one put forth by Mayor Martin Chavez, who is quoted high in the story calling the Eclipse sale “a tremendous validation of our economy.”

I know that everyone is desperate for good economic news right now, and I’m glad to see the Eclipse update on the front page. But Eclipse is a venture that went bad once and, from a credible account contained in the Journal’s own story, it’s apparently in for an even more uphill battle this time around.

I’d feel much better if the Journal kept the heat on the new incarnation of Eclipse and didn’t let economic cheerleading get in the way of presenting a balanced story about the very real difficulties this company is going to face.

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