By Arthur Alpert
The scene is a fictional newspaper in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012. It’s 10: 30 AM and five editors, each armed with coffee, are straggling into a conference room for the daily morning meeting. The Editor speaks first.
“OK, guys, let’s get to it. Before we tackle the local docket have a look at the front page.”
A political editor stirs. “You did a lot last night.”
“Yeah, well Lugar lost and it wasn’t close.”
“So I see.”
“Hey, it was a no-brainer. Big story, right, and we had an angle with Domenici. Remember when everybody was freaking out about loose Soviet nukes and he and Pete and Sam Nunn got together to lasso ‘em?”
Nods, all around the table.
“So Mike in Washington tracked Pete down for the sidebar on what the Senate is losing. And I slotted it next to the WaPo piece on the Indiana results. Hey, that’s how I get my kicks, connecting big national stuff to local so it makes sense.”
The political editor put down his Styrofoam cup. “Should I get going on an analysis, maybe? You know, how our enchanted Tea Party types are elbowing the conservatives? A little history maybe and bites from Pat Rogers and Mickey Barnett.”
“And who speaks for the old guard?”
“Manuel Lujan, if he’ll talk to me. Worse comes to worst, Carruthers.”
His boss thought for a moment.
“Yeah, sure, we’re in the news business, right? Now, enough history, what are we working on locally for tomorrow?”
Lights dim, the conversation continues until the sound fades, then blackout.
That scene transpired at a fictional newspaper, remember. I have no idea what happened inside the Albuquerque Journal newsroom.
But Journal editors’ decisions determined what appeared in the Wednesday, May 9, 2012 issue.
Sorry, I put that badly; their decisions determined what didn’t appear.
To be specific, that Wednesday Journal carried no story about the primary defeat of conservative Republican Richard Lugar in Indiana by the Tea Party-backed candidate, Richard E. Mourdock.
No basic story, no sidebar, no analysis. Nothing.
Predictably, the editors did get around to the Lugar story a day later. Not the news but an (unlabeled) interpretation from reporter Thomas Beaumont of the Associated Press.
Significantly, Beaumont didn’t lead with what he later termed the “deep divide” in the base.
Thus, the Journal headline:
“Lugar’s Loss a Lesson for Both Parties”
And thus did management conform the Indiana events to its editorial agenda.
Still, looking back at the Journal’s failure to publish any Lugar story Wednesday morning, I’m confused.
I mean, which is the “pretend” newspaper, the one I made up out of whole cloth or the Albuquerque Journal?