Thursday, March 26, 2009
Has the legislature become beholden to the media?
As I look back on the 49th Legislature, first session of 2009, the real story is how much of the session was spent dealing with items near and dear to the heart of the media. With the economy being what it is there was no money this year for the state to spread around. This led to less lobbyists doing less lobbying and those who were there lobbying seemed to be less effective than in the past. Just look at the TIDDs legislation. Tons of money was spent lobbying for the TIDDS legislation and it failed not just once but twice!
So who was successful in getting legislation passed this year? The only lobbyist that don't even have to register as lobbyists in New Mexico, The News Media. In news papers, TV, blogs, and live blogging the press pushed for Live web cams in the legislature, open conference committee meetings, double dipping legislation, and ethics reform. Now don't get me wrong, I sure other people cared about these issues as well, but the news media hounded law makers on these issues relentlessly. Even the death penalty legislation was not hurt by the media stories on the issue.
Now its often been said don't mess with the person who buys their ink by the barrel but this year more than any the media was relentless and had no problem taking sides on the issues and pushing their agenda using all forms of traditional and non traditional media outlets. Politicians have to pay attention to the media at least some of the time, especially during elections when if the news media gets the scent of blood they can devour a candidate. However, during this legislative session the press seems to have wielded a exceptional amount of influence. You can read the blogs and news stories after the previously mentioned bills were passed and you will see a more than sufficient amount of celebrating.
So, we force anyone who actively lobbies our politicians to register as lobbyists. Should the media once they switch gears from just reporting the news to pushing an agenda be forced to register as lobbyists? Or is the media out of line? Now individual reporters have every right to be for or against an issue and to individually speak their mind. But, when they do it as part of their job what does that do to the our system of politics and the media and the fact that they consider themselves the watchdog of our government. Can you be a watchdog and take sides on issues at the same time?
Some of these issues really should matter to the public and the public probably should be clamoring for more open government and ethics reform and yes maybe even web cams in the roundhouse. But are they? And when the legislature listens to the media, when they are lobbying on these issues, are they now beholden to the media? Often times legislators are accused of being beholden to lobbyists when they listen to them or vote in their favor. So what about now that the media has won so many fights in one session. Would anyone in the media dare to write an editorial exclaiming that the media has had undue influence and the legislature has become beholden to the media lobby? I will not hold my breath.