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Okay, maybe I had too much coffee. Enough coffee to make me run around the house ranting obsessively about the Albuquerque Journal's endorsement of Mayor Marty Chavez in the upcoming election. This, in itself, doesn't surprise me. Of course the Journal endorses the Mayor. But the reasoning? The writing? Shouldn't we expect a bit more from our local daily? It is times like these that I long to live in a city where the lead of the daily's election endorsement says something besides the pathetically vague and detestably obvious. Too much coffee.

Journal Endorses Marty For Mayor Because He’s Mayor

Okay, maybe I had too much coffee. Enough coffee to make me run around the house ranting obsessively about the Albuquerque Journal’s endorsement of Mayor Marty Chavez in the upcoming election.

Not the endorsement, per se. This, in itself, doesn’t surprise me. Of course the Journal endorses the Mayor. He’s a Republican posing as a Democrat in a non-partisan yayoral election. He’s the king of sprawl and he’s been endorsed by a newspaper whose owner is deeply involved in land development. But the reasoning? The writing? Shouldn’t we expect a bit more from our local daily? It is times like these that I long to live in a city where the lead of the daily’s election endorsement says something besides the pathetically vague and detestably obvious.

Too much coffee.

I had just finished reading Joan Didion’s beautifully written, powerfully moving mini-memoir in the New York Times magazine about the death of her husband, John Dunne. I switched to the Journal for a moment, to catch up on the treasurer’s scandal, and here was the endorsement. How could I think it was a good idea to read this after four cups of strong, Sunflower Market French roast and reading a piece by one of this country’s best writers? It would only make me apoplectic.

The Journal, you see, thinks Marty should be mayor again because he was mayor already and he’s good at the job. That is, if you consider unplanned sprawl, a neglected downtown, and a road through our treasured archeaological sites, to be good mayoring. I don’t, personally, but that’s my opinion.

What bothers me even more is the way this particular column is written. You have to pay to read it online, but here’s the first couple of sentences.

“Being mayor of Albuquerque is a tough job. Every mayor has found it hard to get things done and difficult to move the city in the direction he believed it should go. Maybe that’s why no mayor has ever been elected to a second consecutive term.”

I really like to edit, because I like the process of taking a mediocre piece of writing and making it stronger. I like teaching, as well, and editing and teaching are closely linked. Sometimes I edit to amuse myself, as a kind of mind game. Just for fun I edited (unasked) this endorsement.

“Being mayor of Albuquerque is a tough job. [STATING THE OBVIOUS. LET’S BEGIN THIS WITH SOMETHING MORE COMPELLING]. Every mayor has found it hard to get things done and difficult to move the city in the direction he believed it should go. [AGAIN, THIS IS PART AND PARTIAL OF THE POLITICAL PROCESS. MY REACTION AS A READER IS, DUH. BESIDES, ISN’T THE MAYOR A COLLABORATIVE JOB? WE LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY, LAST TIME I LOOKED. THE MAYOR WORKS ALONG WITH (EMPHASIS) CITY COUNCIL, TO GOVERN THE CITY. WE SHOULD MAKE SURE OUR READERS KNOW THAT A MAYOR IS NOT A DICTATOR] Maybe that’s why no mayor has ever been elected to a second consecutive term. [YES, THAT COULD BE THE REASON, BUT A DEEPER ANALYSIS HERE IS CALLED FOR. WE CAN’T ASSUME THAT NO MAYOR HAS BEEN ELECTED TWICE BECAUSE HE DIDN’T GET ALONG WITH CITY COUNCIL. THAT’S COMMON IN MANY CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY. VERY FEW MAYORS GET ALONG WITH CITY COUNCILS. IT’S PROVINCICAL TO THINK ALBUQUERQUE WOULD BE OTHERWISE.]

Here’s another paragraph: “Two of his rivals are city councilors who will frankly tell you they don’t like dealing with this mayor. [AGAIN, STATING THE OBVIOUS. IT IS A COMMON THING THAT MAYORS DON’T LIKE SOME MEMBERS OF CITY COUCIL AND VICE A VERSA] It is a not uncommon sentiment among local political rivals.[IMPLIED] They don’t like his personality or his tactics. They don’t like him always wanting to get his way. They especially don’t like him getting his way so often. [IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE PROSAIC? IT ACTUALLY JUST FEELS REPETITIVE]

And so on. I have rarely felt moved to take on bad writing so publicly. But in my war against mediocrity, I firmly believe the people of Albuquerque deserve more than this pablum from their daily newspaper, whether or not I agree with its political views.

And now, time to brew another pot.

About Emily Esterson

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7 comments

  1. “Okay, maybe I had too much coffee. Enough coffee to make me run around the house ranting obsessively about the Albuquerque Journal’s endorsement of Mayor Marty Chavez in the upcoming election. ”

    Talking about coffee is trite and patently yuppie.
    Is this a “new West” style essential?

    “I had just finished reading Joan Didion’s beautifully written, powerfully moving mini-memoir in the New York Times magazine about the death of her husband, John Dunne. I switched to the Journal for a moment, to catch up on the treasurer’s scandal, and here was the endorsement. How could I think it was a good idea to read this after four cups of strong, Sunflower Market French roast and reading a piece by one of this country’s best writers? It would only make me apoplectic.”

    Literary reference included to try to impress people but really adds nothing to the story.

    “I really like to edit, because I like the process of taking a mediocre piece of writing and making it stronger. I like teaching, as well, and editing and teaching are closely linked. Sometimes I edit to amuse myself, as a kind of mind game. Just for fun I edited (unasked) this endorsement.”

    After you finish the endorsement, maybe you could try it on your own article? I didnt feel it was any better stylistically.

    “And so on. I have rarely felt moved to take on bad writing so publicly. But in my war against mediocrity, I firmly believe the people of Albuquerque deserve more than this pablum from their daily newspaper, whether or not I agree with its political views.

    And now, time to brew another pot.”

    If this is supposed to pass for good writing or interesting writing, I am not impressed. Same for a number of other early article reads. The look and feel of this website also seems below expectations. But you are just starting, so I’ll watch and see.

  2. My always faulty memory tells me that Ms. Esterson supports Eric Griego, the candidate of the left in the Albuquerque mayoral race. That should have been mentioned. I’ve said for a year that Albuquerque could do worse that re-elect Marty Chavez as mayor. That is the case. The candidate of the hard left, Mr. Griego, fortunately appeals only to a modest minority. The candidate of the right, Brad Winter, is a school bureaucrat, a burden he hasn’t transcended, who got into the race because of a pork barrel spat with Mayor Chavez.
    A stones and glass houses note: “Pablum,” used in the final paragraph, really is spelled “pabulum.”

  3. pab·lum: n. Trite, insipid, or simplistic writing, speech, or conceptualization: “We have to settle for the pablum that passes for the inside dope”? (Julie Salamon).

    I believe the two spellings can be interchanged but it seems pablum refers more to writing.

  4. In the spirit of making partial amends, I’ll revise and accept that referencing Didion as good writing and make a comparison to the article is reasonable for what you intended with your column. I wasn’t interested in hearing that but that is me.

    I also fell into being impolite to make my point, the same thing I faulted you for. I could have been more polite, but I didnt feel like it at the time. I guess you didnt either. I think is an example of how blogging and self-editing fall down compared to formal writing and taking more care. I hope New West finds the right balance point between that. We don’t really need more stuffy and painfully balanced, but I am not sure glib is much better. But we can all filter and fuss about it to our own tastes I guess.

  5. Mary,
    Thank you for your comments (and thorough research on the meaning of pablum :}).

    Indeed New West strives to find this balance of which you write. What we aim to do here is marry the best of what “blogging” has to offer (open, honest conversation and often real-time, vibrant dialogue) with the best of what traditional journalism has to offer (thoroughness, fairness and thoughtful reportage). It’s a lofty goal, but I firmly believe we can and in many places are attaining it.

    We really do appreciate the feedback and always encourage it.
    Again, thanks.

    Courtney Lowery
    Managing Editor

  6. Ok. Thanks for the feedback and listening to mine. Good luck with the new venture.

  7. Ignore the chill in here. Great piece Emily. Coco