Blind Ambition

Why should I care when the Arizona Republic turns a blind eye at news somebody else breaks? After all, the lamer the Republic, the easier my job and the more indispensable this publication.

Call me a romantic, but I like to see journalists do their jobs. I like to see wrongs righted, bad guys exposed, corruption undone--regardless of who is doing it.

Call me naive, but I still believe an informed electorate makes for a better community.

When news is ignored, the journalistic spirit flags. According to an account in the Phoenix Business Journal, an outside consultant reported that the Republic's own journalists view their paper as "biased," "a corporate power broker," "the evil empire in bed with every special interest in town"; and, the journalists say, "the corporate character of the newspaper has come to dominate its public-oriented mission."

There are some talented journalists at the Republic. And the paper seems to have improved in some respects. But it would take Phoenix a very long time to overcome the civic atrophy wrought by the paper its employees describe.

Each year since 1976, researchers at Sonoma State University in California have produced "Project Censored," a compendium of important stories suppressed or ignored by the mainstream media.

How about a Phoenix version? My list of a few recent contenders:
* The Kevin Johnson story. Okay, the Trib and some broadcasters sort of did it. The Republic ran a six-sentence denial without detailing what he'd been accused of. By the time we wrote our story in May, the Republic had printed 242 stories about KJ this year alone. In this case, a massive police report was ignored.

* Sabotage at Sumitomo Sitix. New Times reported on August 7 that Sitix officials were concerned about internal sabotage. Not a peep about sabotage in your newspaper of record. (Special coded tip for research-challenged journalists: The inculpatory Sitix memo is on our Web site.)

* The administration of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. No journalists but New Times' have looked beneath the sheriff's façade to examine the record. Arpaio claims his posses save lots of money. The record shows they are expensive and drain resources from important missions. More disturbing is the dearth of reporting on people who've been abused or neglected in Arpaio's jails--and lived to tell about it. Richard Post, a paraplegic jailed for having an ounce of marijuana, was pulled from his wheelchair and so viciously strapped into a restraint chair that it broke his neck and split his anus. Post has yet to grace the pages of the state's largest daily. He hasn't been on TV, except in Germany, where news apparently is still nachtricht.

* The Symington-Canelos connection. On March 20, New Times reported that Governor Symington's family has extensive personal and financial ties to a Mexican businessman who's had difficulty getting permanent visas to enter the United States. The reason? Federal law enforcers suspect the businessman, Alejandro Canelos Rodriguez, may be involved in drug trafficking.

Dougherty was the author of the piece ("Symington Family Partner Under Suspicion"), which cited federal sources and documents as indicating that Canelos, a Sinaloa produce farmer, shipper and distributor, may have other enterprises as well.

The Symington connections: 1. The governor's wife, Ann Symington, has invested between $25,000 and $100,000 in a Mexican corporation, Melones Internacional SA de CV, headed by Alejandro Canelos. 2. Incorporation papers show "J. Fife Symington" is a director of Melones Internacional. The governor's attorneys say his son, J. Fife IV, is the director. Father and son are normally assiduous about distinguishing between themselves in documents. Why didn't they in these? 3. The governor's two eldest sons are business partners with Canelos' son in at least one Arizona corporation.

Dougherty went to Culiacan to get incorporation records on Melones Internacional.

But the fact that Canelos has been unable to get a permanent visa could have been reported with a single phone call to the State Department. The inquisitors in the mainstream never made that call. Or if they did, they never reported it.

Do you believe it's newsworthy that an indicted governor's close friend--partner of his kin--has been denied entry into this great nation? Does it pique your curiosity a smidge?

Well, it didn't at the Republic, or anywhere else. It's selective blindness, it's unethical and cowardly.

When Fife Symington is dethroned, the Republic will rush to print a breezy book that will chronicle how its hard-hitting scribes brought him down. It will be revisionary and will have many pages, although it requires only a few.

As the phantom Canelos story illustrates--even as the governor stands on the threshold of a conviction that reasonable people saw as a certainty three years ago--Republic chieftains remain Fife Symington's vassals. And they are truly terrified of John Dowd.

(Note to Dowd: No, I'll not omit the fact that your client, Alejandro Canelos, has denied being a druggie and has never been charged and was granted a one-year visa on March 25. We'll be glad to report his acquisition of a permanent visa--if he ever gets one.)

God, I love this job.

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