By Tracy Dingmann
The director of a New Mexico sportsmen’s group says he is having no luck getting a correction issued for an erroneous column that recently ran in the Mountain View Telegraph.
On Aug. 27, the Telegraph ran an guest opinion column on its editorial page that had previously been taken down from two other online news sources – one a blog, one a newspaper site – for inaccurate information. (see ABQJournalWatch, Sept. 2, 2009)
The column, purportedly about the New Mexico Wildlife Federation’s positions regarding whether oil and gas drilling had affected fishing on the San Juan River, was written by Marita K. Noon, who has previously (and since) enjoyed prominent placement on the editorial pages of both the Mountain View Telegraph and its parent paper, the Albuquerque Journal. According to her column bio, Noon is the executive director of the Citizen Alliance for Responsible Energy, or CARE, whose members include New Mexico oil and gas producers.
Jeremy Vesbach is executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, a statewide group of “conservation-minded sportsmen” that was founded in 1914 by famed conservationist Aldo Leopold.
In an interview this week, Vesbach said he asked the editor of the Telegraph for a correction, but was rebuffed. Vesbach also said he was told that the paper “is not interested” in fact-checking the guest columns it runs.
Vesbach said he was told he is welcome to submit his own column for possible publication in the Telegraph.
The editor of the Telegraph did not respond to an email from ABQJournalWatch requesting comment on this story.
“I think its pretty clear that there is no policy of verifying information on the editorial page. No fact-checking,” said Vesbach. “They ought to develop a policy for what to do when verifiably false information appears in the paper. And it would be nice to know that the same standard applies to everyone.”
Vesbach said much of Noon’s column was based on material contained in the Spring 2009 edition of the NMWF publication, The Outdoor Reporter.
In comparing the column and the publication, Vesbach is able to point out several outright errors.
I’ve looked at both the column and the publication.
From a journalist standpoint, perhaps the most dishonest part comes when Noon skips over 45 words to create a statement that expresses a very different sentiment from the one written in the NMWF publication.
Compare this line from Noon’s column, including her use of ellipsis marks (Boldface added for emphasis):
Later (page 8), a photo caption addresses “Sediment from Rex Smith Wash has been pouring into the San Juan River… from… oil and gas development.“
To this cutline in The Outdoor Reporter from which it was taken. (Non-bolded text indicates what was omitted by Noon):
Sediment from Rex Smith Wash has been pouring into the San Juan River near Navajo Dam after the state Division of Parks built the berm on the right to protect a parking lot. Many anglers are hoping the state and federal agencies that control development along the San Juan will do more in the future to reduce sedimentation from both natural and man-made sources, such as oil and gas development.
Now that’s just not right.
In addition to being perplexed at the lack of concern from the Telegraph, Vesbach said he’s disappointed that Noon apparently keeps peddling a piece that she knows is dishonest.
Vesbach said he has sent letters to the editorial page editors of a number of New Mexico newspapers to warn them about the piece, but isn’t sure he can reach them all.
“It seems clear that she’s going to keep pushing it,” Vesbach said. “All it’s going to do is discredit her with these publications.”