Dying for a Breakfast Burrito in Albuquerque

The bicycle commuter cruising toward downtown Albuquerque on a pleasant April morning hugged the curb as he slipped into the shadow of a tractor-trailer rig slowing in traffic. As the bike reached the cab, the trucker on a delivery route suddenly turned right toward a Safeway loading dock granting the unlucky biker barely time to blink before he lay crushed on the pavement.

And that was that.  The cyclist became a statistic, one of seven of what the feds call pedalcyclists killed in New Mexico that year, a low number but given our small population placing our rate of bumping off bicyclists among the worst in the country, where it remains. Regardless he was dead, and I was hungry.

Car hits girl crossing street.

The driver and witnesses comfort a girl hit while running across a street in Las Cruces, N.M., in 1973 as the ambulance, a pickup truck with camper, approaches. She survived. © William P. Diven. (Click to enlarge)

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Bashing the Bearers of Bad News

While I miss some aspects of the 1970s, my hair and the Allman Brothers Band, for example, the Nixon zombies roaming Albuquerque City Hall are not welcome here in 2015.

Spiro Agnew (left), Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, image No. T25035c1-27; John Mitchell, photo by Steve Northrup in Time Magazine, April 30, 1973, author's collection.

Spiro Agnew (left), Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, image No. T25035c1-27; John Mitchell (right), photo by Steve Northrup in Time Magazine, April 30, 1973, author’s collection.

Among the undead is Attorney General John Mitchell, part of the team that shilled for President Nixon by attacking enemies real and imagined in and out of the news media. He’s the one who said Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham is “gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer” over exposing a connection between the Watergate burglary and the Nixon re-election campaign. By that time, Mitchell ran the Committee to Re-Elect the President, wonderfully known as CREEP. Continue reading

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The Last Cadillac Ride of Jaime Pescado

Hell, it might have been Fish’s first Cadillac ride although either way he was just a passenger.

None of us in the news game could afford pricey wheels like the one he cruised in today. Well, maybe, if we picked up an old Fleetwood because it was cheap, didn’t smoke much and was roomy enough to live in, if necessary.

Photo © William P. Diven

Photo © William P. Diven

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Planet News Spins Through Space

It used to be said you only enjoyed freedom of the press if you owned one. Those times vanished with the last millennium as the Internet and outlets like Twitter, Facebook and WordPress spread faster than a Grumpy Cat video. Now anyone — from press-card and citizen journalists to neighborhood activists, would-be writers, hacks and shills — can beat an online drum to attract your attention and say anything they please. This is one revolution that actually handed power to the people but with little guidance for spotting honest information brokers among the misguided, misinformed and routinely deceitful.

Do you really know the source of your information? © William P. Diven

Do you really know the source of your information? © William P. Diven

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Reforming the Impossible

Justin Weddell arrived in New York City as a newly minted graduate of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts Class of 1908. No Aggie hayseed, Weddell sprang from Chicago and came of age in the rowdy Progressive Era replete with yellow journalism and muckrakers stirring up scandal and busting monopolistic and rapacious corporations.

NMCA&MA Class of 1908. Justin Weddell far right second from top.

NMCA&MA Class of 1908. Justin Weddell far right second from top. (The Round Up, June 2, 1908, New Mexico State University Library, Archives and Special Collections.)

At the time New Yorkers read about 20 daily newspapers, not all in English. Feuding news barons like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst battled for readership creating their own headlines and perhaps their own wars, if you credit Hearst’s Morning Journal and its million-a-day circulation with pushing the McKinley administration into the Spanish-American War.

Weddell took all that in as he wrote back to A&M Professor Elmer Ottis Wooton in June 1908 describing his new surroundings:

I find everything and everyone in the East concerned in some form of reform. I’ve read so much of it, and heard so much of it that almost am I persuaded to be an ardent foe of any reform movement. One can’t turn around without encountering a new graft and its attendant muckrake. I prefer the spotless Southwest–where reform is almost impossible. — Justin R. Weddell, Ballston Spa, N.Y., June 15, 1908. Courtesy Hobson-Huntington University Archives, New Mexico State University.

A lot has changed in New York City since then. Too bad the same can’t be said for New Mexico.

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Death and the Newsroom

John Cleveland didn’t die at the assignment desk in the KRQE newsroom although I feared he might given the health issues he mentioned from time to time. Instead we are told he died in his sleep, a peaceful end for a larger-than-life character who boosted the game and noise level of an already frantic place. He wasn’t much past 50 and leaves behind a wife and young son.

John Cleveland. Photo by Rebecca Valdez.

John Cleveland. Photo by Rebecca Valdez.

For those of you who don’t know TV newsrooms, the assignment desk occupies the high ground at the center of the maelstrom. It’s where police scanner chatter merges into ringing phones while competing with a two-way radio base and shouts from all directions. The manager assigns photographers to reporters and live trucks to photographers, dispatches the helicopter, updates all on fresh developments and constantly calls contacts for information and confirmation. Continue reading

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