2022 Governor's Race

Dissecting Demarco’s Defense of SourceNM and Its Pretense of Objectivity

Before the local news started digging into Source New Mexico‘s dark money roots, its editor, Marisa Demarco, ran a column defending the online publication’s status as a “scrappy, independent” news source for the state.

Ronchetti camp can’t stop a scrappy, independent press,” Marisa Demarco, SourceNM, Aug. 16, 2022

In it, Demarco told their side of reporter Shaun Griswold being denied access to a Republican campaign rally in Carlsbad, NM. No one is disputing what happened, but there are disputes about the reason it happened, the rationale, and whether or not limiting SourceNM‘s access was justified. Demarco’s observations about the role of the press–in scrutinizing government and educating the public–were dead-on. A free press is a pillar of civilization and justice. The problem is that Demarco’s publication hasn’t lived up to the journalistic standards of fairness and objectivity they are presumed to be operating under, and that failure has consequences, both in terms of reputation and access.

What follows is a point-counterpoint of what editor-in-chief Marisa Demarco says versus what her publication does–or doesn’t do–when it comes to covering New Mexico politics.


Retaliation?

After describing the situation at Ronchetti’s Carlsbad rally, Demarco writes that her reporter was barred entry into the event as “retaliation for critical coverage.”

The article in question was titled, “Ronchetti fails to denounce violent extremist groups,” a headline that was so detached from the facts that it should have been pushed to the opinion page if not scrapped altogether.

Ronchetti spokesman Enrique Knell told the Journal: “Source New Mexico was denied a credential because they are ‘a left-wing advocacy group, not a legitimate news organization.’”

Demarco’s reporter was denied entry into the campaign event not because of “critical coverage,” but because the publication peddles in partisan propaganda that is explicitly meant to ruin the reputation of the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

No editor at the Journal would ever allow a reporter to publish an article accusing Ronchetti–or any candidate for that matter–of “failing to denounce” extremists when said candidate has clearly done exactly that.

“There is a difference between protesting and violent riots. I believe in each and every person’s freedom of speech and right to protest. Regardless of political affiliation, legitimate political discourse crosses a line when there is destruction of property, breaking of our laws, or violence of any kind. It’s disappointing that some on the left are willing to support prosecution of rioters on January 6th, but defend those who burned down police stations and looted during the riots of last summer. When protestors of any political persuasion break the law and riot, they should be prosecuted” (emphasis added).

GOP gubernatorial candidate questionnaires, The Santa Fe New Mexican, May 14, 2022

It should matter when the facts contradict the headline. Unfortunately, in many cases that’s the point. Studies have found that as much as 60% of media consumers don’t read beyond the headline when scrolling the news each day, which means that headlines alone contribute more to national awareness of current events than the content of the articles. When the facts contradict the summary headline, the effect is a misinformed public. It’s not always accidental.

A 2019 story published on Governing.com reported that the States Newsroom network was launched as a sponsored project of the Hopewell Fund, which it described as a left-leaning nonprofit group focused on “social change” projects. 

–“NM reporter’s rally ejection ignites controversy over press access,” The Albuquerque Journal, Aug. 18, 2022

There’s a reason The Conservative New Mexican has never run a piece accusing incumbent Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham of “failing to denounce Nazis.” Or “Black Lives Matter.” Or “Antifa.” The reason is that it’s cheap clickbait that would not-so-subtly imply that MLG’s “failure to denounce” means she actually supports the slaughter of Jews and the murderous riots that destroyed cities across America. No sane person would believe that, and no sane person believes that Ronchetti is a closeted Oath Keeper.

That doesn’t mean insane people aren’t out there, including those who do believe Mark Ronchetti supports violent rightwing extremism (scroll through the comments of SourceNM‘s articles and you’ll read comments like, “Sounds about white. He needs those #GOPDomesticTerrorists votes”)–it’s only to say that most people don’t believe it, at least not until an “independent” news source operating under the guise of objectivity makes the case.

The “failure to denounce” schtick is cheap and childish. Taylor Swift famously sued a blogger for accusing her of supporting White supremacy because the pop singer hadn’t outwardly denounced it, writing, “silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”

In fact it doesn’t.

For SourceNM to use this tactic to attack a gubernatorial candidate diminishes their credibility as an objective news source.

Taylor Swift famously sued a blogger for accusing her of supporting White supremacy because the pop singer hadn’t outwardly denounced it, writing, “silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”

One-Way Scrutiny

“Scrutinizing governments, officials and candidates is a big part of being a journalist,” Demarco said.

This is absolutely correct. And yet SourceNM hasn’t published a single article scrutinizing MLG’s COVID policies, last-in-the-nation unemployment, or record murders in three of the last four years. The publication didn’t cover the state’s last-place ranking in childhood well-being or its 51st rank in education (no, Diane, there aren’t 51 states; the ranking includes Washington, DC).

In fact, when you search “KIDS COUNT”–the organization that downgraded New Mexico’s childhood well-being to 50th nationally–SourceNM returns results like, “Misogyny is fueling the country’s gun violence epidemic, experts say” and “Parents and advocates scrutinize FDA delays in approving vaccines for young kids.”

If scrutinizing governments is such a big part of being a journalist–and we believe it is–why hasn’t SourceNM scrutinized any of the government policies contributing to New Mexico’s well-being? Either they’re not actual journalists or they shy away from news that is critical of the Democrat incumbent because it goes against the agenda of the private donors that keep publications like SourceNM afloat.

Demarco states that, “Election cycles should be about voters weighing and debating ideas and policies before we head to the polls,” and yet none of their “news” articles covering the abortion debate have acknowledged that a vast majority of Americans oppose late-term abortions.

This is typical among pro-abortion crowds. They cite polling that shows a majority of Americans support abortion, and oppose the overturning of Roe v. Wade, they don’t break down the data by trimester.

While a majority of Americans do consider themselves to be “pro-choice” (55%, according to Gallup) and even more opposed overturning Roe v. Wade (58%), responses to the abortion question change dramatically when asked about first-, second-, and third-term abortions specifically.

Fifty-five percent of Americans think second-term abortions should be illegal. That number jumps to 71% for third-term abortions. An Associated Press/NORC poll last year tallied opposition to late-term abortions at 81%. A Marist poll in January found only 17% thought abortion should be available at any time during a pregnancy. Pew Research in May 2022 found that three-quarters of Americans want restrictions beyond 24 weeks and two-thirds said the same after 14 weeks.

In “Ronchetti has to walk a fine line on abortion as election nears, expert says,” reporter Patrick Lohmann cites Ronchetti’s 15-week abortion ban (with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother) and quotes him as saying that this is “a very reasonable position that most in New Mexico will support.” But Lohmann never cites the data proving that Ronchetti is correct.

There’s a reason.

If Ronchetti’s view on abortion aligns with the majority of New Mexicans, that means that Grisham’s position–unrestricted abortion at any stage in the pregnancy–is out of touch with the majority of New Mexicans. Hence the cherry-picking of data.

Tough Questions?

Demarco wrote that “It’s hard to get Ronchetti’s camp to answer questions.”

Here’s our question: “What questions?”

Trip Jennings of New Mexico In Depth wrote a piece titled, “Is Ronchetti ready for tough questions?” in which, without irony, he posed zero questions. Former lieutenant governor Diane Denish took to Twitter recently to respond to the news that Grisham would not be participating in a debate with Ronchetti.

“Hold your fire power,” she wrote. “He won’t answer questions either way.”

When we asked Denish to identify what questions Ronchetti allegedly won’t answer, Denish…didn’t answer.

In fact nobody to date has been able to pose a single question Ronchetti won’t answer, which indicates that the allegation is meant not as a genuine inquiry but as a political attack. By “failing to denounce” and “refusing to answer,” the liberal media is casting Ronchetti as some sort of shadowy figure with secret plans to…what…somehow make New Mexico worse off than it already is if he’s elected governor?

Nobody is doubting the skill of Demarco or her reporters. They have, past and present, written fine articles about issues affecting New Mexico and the country. The problem is that the articles are not objective and yet SourceNM advertises itself as an “independent” news source that has no ideological agenda. Its content aligns perfectly with the progressive organizations that founded and presumably continue to fund SourceNM. It is partisan and one-sided–much like ours–but they do not present themselves to readers as ProgressiveSourceNM. And therein lies the problem.

SourceNM can proclaim as loudly and as often as it wants that its job is to scrutinize governments and provide voters the information they need to make educated decisions at the ballot box, but when that scrutiny is directed only at one side, and when topics such as education, the economy, COVID, and even abortion are censored or outright ghosted so as to avoid reflecting poorly on Democrats in power, SourceNM should not expect to be treated like an objective news organization. Because they’re not.


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