Lost voices:
Tribune’s demise reminds us of how scarce local news is

What a terrible time it is for Albuquerque to lose a prime source for local news. The Tribune's troubles leave us more vulnerable than we think.

With the bust of the subprime lending market causing the housing bubble to pop and, along with it, layoffs in the housing and lending industries and perhaps a recession in the works on top of our water woes, we need all the local coverage we can get to understand what's going on at ground level in our town.

But national news has taken over from local reporting in almost every market in the country. We are obsessed with national gossip, national scandals and national politics, and we pay precious little attention, or investigative muscle, to local coverage other than sports.

Michael Vick's dogs get so much more coverage than major water quality issues in the Middle Rio Grande Valley that you'd think we had no problems at all.

With the impending loss of The Tribune's perspective, the city is left with the Albuquerque Journal and the Alibi for local coverage.

The Alibi has been doing increasingly strong reporting and opinion writing in recent years. It's set to become the definitive alternative voice in our area.

There was a time, in the 1970s, when Albuquerque was more informed about itself, when local politics got intense coverage, and land use and water issues provoked public outcry. But Albuquerque has lost so many news outlets over the last 30 years that continuity in coverage is hard to find. And now The Tribune is going.

As a wise man once said, "We think in generalities, but we live in details." And the less we know about where we live, the more vulnerable we are to being blind-sided by events.

In Albuquerque, we are blessed with one of the most beautiful natural environments on Earth. But we are plagued with troubles, too. And the crime-crazed, weather-hyping, disaster-happy reporting of the electronic media, and inconsistent local coverage elsewhere, have left us in the lurch.

We know very little about what's actually happening to our local economy and our way of life. And we know next to nothing about local government and how it works or who the players are.

Will the bursting of the housing bubble ruin major new developments here? Will our water troubles and projected drought catch us so far off guard that we'll see a slow exodus to the Midwest? What will the impending upsurge in gasoline prices do to all of us, in our sprawling, Californicated car town?

Who's thinking realistically about the future? Who's doing contingency planning? Does our business leadership still have its head in the sands of the 1950s?

As local coverage withers from corporate pressures, we know less and less. And that is definitely not a safe or comforting place to be. It's very sad.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
September 21, 2007