Thursday, March 6, 2008

Laura MacCallum Unleashed; Cites Ethical Lapses at KKOB

No longer has to wash off slime

Laura MacCallum resigned last Thursday as drive-time news anchor for KKOB Radio. She quit because News Director Pat Allen pulled her stories about an alleged vote buying scheme at the state Republican Party ward conventions (see my post below). Here are MacCallum’s thoughts on the matter--DD

By Laura MacCallum

In life, you either have integrity or you don't. There's no gray-area here. Nor should there EVER be.

In my work over many years as a print and broadcast journalist, the point was always to get to the truth, no matter whose toes it stepped on, or who got angry.

Truth rules.

I have spent my entire adult life looking for the truth in situations, in politics, with governmental agencies, with law enforcement, injustices (think Elton Richard), etc.

Being an ethical journalist carries a responsibility. You should have a sense of justice, a strong sense of right and wrong—a conscience—have the drive and resourcefulness to bring to light information in a truthful, objective way; to have an internal driving force that compels you to help people by giving them as much truthful information as you can. To abuse that responsibility is an abomination.

Those who do abuse it are not journalists. They play to whatever side is winning, to whoever complains the loudest about coverage; they bury the truth in ad sales, or potentially pissing off advertisers.

Let's say there was a car dealer who was finding ways to rip off buyers. The newspaper, radio station or TV station learns about the scam and does a story. Problem is for some of these journalist wannabes is this: The car dealer is a huge advertiser. He calls and bitches. Loudly. Threatens to take his money elsewhere. The news department now folds to those complaints. Readers, listeners and viewers are now done a disservice by cowardly news departments and managers who are afraid of losing ad revenue.

As I wrote in my letter of resignation to KKOB-AM last week after my pieces on alleged delegate-buying were canned by News Director Pat Allen:

This is not journalism. It is extortion.

At that February 17th Bernalillo County GOP Delegate Convention, which only I and KOAT-TV Anchor/Reporter Mike Garofalo attended, it was clear that Bernalillio County Sheriff Darren White had tied himself to Heather Wilson. "On her coattails" was obvious. They worked the room together; White showing up at Ward tables with slates, getting his votes from people who'd never been involved in the party's politics before that very day. White has some serious skeletal baggage that WILL be exposed.

This isn't the first time that KKOB-AM News and Programming management breached the ethical line with me. Obviously, it will be the last. It's something I'm proud of and I have absolutely no regrets.

The first time occurred several months ago when Phil Sisneros took over as spokesman for Attorney General Gary King. News Director Pat Allen told us we were not to put Sisneros on the air. Why? Because he'd previously worked for KKOB-AM owner Citadel Broadcasting and was in the process of suing Citadel for wrongful termination. That lawsuit, by the way, continues after nearly four years.

I said at the time, I had an ethical problem with this decision. After all, Sisneros is the goddamn spokesman for the A/G's office! News Director Pat Allen said, and I quote, "This comes from the top. You can only put him on as a last resort if there's no one else to talk about an issue."

What I learned from experience is that, if you cross top management, there will be a high price to pay.

This is not journalism. It is extortion.

By now, you've all read News Director Pat Allen's e-mail to me, describing why the stories were pulled. By now, you've all reached your own conclusions based on reading his own embarrassing, shameful, banal and loaded words. He said it wasn't a worthwhile story because the bloggers hadn't picked it up, nor had other news agencies; that it was an inside politics story that our listeners wouldn't be interested in.

What he didn't say was what I actually WITNESSED for those two days last week...that Heather Wilson's campaign called to complain two days in a row when my pieces aired. I personally took a call from State GOP honcho Adam Feldman. He proceeded to scream at me on the phone about the stories, which he admitted, when I questioned him, he hadn't actually heard! I told him that if he didn't have anything to worry about, why was he calling?

Last time I checked, journos were supposed to serve the public interest. Last time I checked, it was a responsibility to inform voters of what some candidates were doing to influence the ability of OTHER qualified candidates from the SAME PARTY to run for office, and to alert them to any possible illegal...if not just plain cheesy...tactics to win. Things that were not ethical. Things that could affect voters in making their choices at the polls. Things that are now being investigated by the A/G's office.

State Senators Mark Boitano, Joe Carraro and Janice-Arnold Jones have all corroborated that White's campaign thugs have threatened them. Only Carraro continues running for the 1st Congressional District in spite of White's threats. Apparently, he feels he has nothing to hide (the threats don't work very well under those circumstances) and a 20-year record of quietly doing the serious business of New Mexicans in the State Senate.

Dennis, a hard-core journo in his own right, and I have discussed all of this at length. Somewhere along the line, the way news is covered changed. If you have ethics in the news business, you're rapidly becoming a dinosaur.

The Left is just as guilty. If you don't believe it, think back a few weeks ago when Chelsea Clinton, who is not only openly campaigning for her mother, but who is 28 years old, was given a pass by the media because Hillary got pissed off! Hillary personally called news organizations, complained and threatened for a hands-off deal for Chelsea. Excuse me? She's on the campaign trail spewing for Mom Hillary, but no one is supposed to put her on the spot as an obvious campaign spokeswoman?

Honesty and guts in journalism, print or broadcast, is becoming a thing of the past. Here in Albuquerque, the city's now-only newspaper has refused to cover this story. I must wonder why.

Here's the thing. While I may be unemployed today, I have no trouble sleeping. My conscience is clear. And, I certainly don't worry about washing off any of that residual slime.


Anonymous said...

It's disgusting that a radio station claiming to be THE major New Mexico source of news refuses even to allow an investigation of a vote buying scheme. And why? Because no blog or other media has reported it???? Puhleeze!!! With that reasoning, Woodward and Bernstein, and the Washington Post, never should have investigated or reported the truths about the Watergate conspiracy, because the DC gossip columnists and local news media hadn't reported it.

It appears that KKOB and the Albu-Turkey Journal don't understand what it means to "scoop" other news outlets. But that probably explains the "media-cracy" of both. Here's hoping that a fearless national news outlet gets its teeth into this one and thoroughly embarrasses all of New Mexico's so-called news media.

Anonymous said...

Just one question for you Laura. Did you ever call either the Wilson or White campaigns to ask about the vote-buying accusations before you went on the air with your stories that the station later pulled?

Last time I checked, that was a basic tenent of quality journalism.

Laura said...

This was an unfolding investigative piece. One thing everyone seems to bury is that the FIRST story I did was with the state GOP spokesman Scott Darnell to allow him to dispute what I witnessed personally at the Bernalillio County Delegate Convention.
I never talked about Heather Wilson! She inserted herself, through her spokeswoman Whitney Cheshire, into the issue and drew a lot of attention to herself. As a journalist, a red flag goes up when people "doth protest too much." Her campaign continued to push it and push it. Why is that?
As the story unfolded, here was the order of the pieces:
-GOP Spokesman "Scott Darnell setting straight the record on how delegates are always vetted;
-Former Governor Dave Cargo, running a Ward table (that I witnessed)alarmed at what HE witnessed.
-My pieces were pulled before I ever got a chance to talk with anyone else. I told "News Director" Pat Allen that I would call both Wilson and White campaigns the following morning.
Remember, this was an unfolding investigative series. Most people don't listen to one piece and let it go if they're truly interested.
AGAIN, LET ME BE CLEAR. I NEVER TARGETED HEATHER WILSON. NEVER SAID A WORD ABOUT HER! If you check, you'll see my original scripts from both days of the stories I did. If you can find Heather Wilson in any of my copy, wow...
In addition, THREE State Senators complained to the state A/G about intimidation tactics and threats made against them and their families by Darren White's campaign. All of this has been documented.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to THAT part of the story. I just couldn't work for KKOB another day. And, this wasn't the first time they had pushed the limits with ethics. I had filed a complaint with the Poynter Institute about the first incident several months ago.
If voters have any sense, they'll pay attention to these threat allegations. It doesn't bode well for somone who claims to be a law enforcement officer, now running for Congress.

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