Inside the Capitol

Saturday, July 23, 2005

7-29 Jedi Mind Tricks

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson's dozen's of appointments of media personnel to top state jobs has worked well for the people of New Mexico.
As the governor says, reporters and others from the media tend to be intelligent, hard workers, with broad views, who are good at analysis and communicating the goals of the administration to the public.
But now one of them has gone over to the Dark Side. Matt Dillman, spokesman for the Children, Youth and Families Department, has revealed a centuries-old secret of all reporters.
The secret of which I speak, as everyone now knows, is the old Jedi Mind Trick, the basis upon which all inquiring and investigative reporting is accomplished.
Now that the secret is out, I have no idea how we are ever going to keep the public informed about what is going on behind the closed doors of state and local government.
It has been my experience that the state attorney general's office tends to go very easy on local public officials who shield their actions from public scrutiny. Without our old standby of Jedi Mind Tricks, we'll really be up a creek.
For those of you who missed it, Dillman, a former Albuquerque TV reporter, sent an e-mail memo to some 2,000 CYFD employees warning them of evil tricks by unscrupulous reporters.
And the most evil of all was the Jedi Mind Trick, designed to confuse unsuspecting state employees to the point they will reveal state secrets. Obviously, we can't let that happen.
Dillman's solution was for all department employees to always refer media questions to him, regardless of who is asking the questions or why. That means that if the department is proud of a program and wants to get some publicity for it, no one can answer any questions about the program except the department's public relations flack.
Dillman may find most of us very hard to reach.
Our only saving grace may be that Dillman revealed only one of the Jedi Mind Tricks -- the one that says if you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em. He apparently hadn't graduated to Mind Control in his Jedi training yet.
No reporter has ever been known to make it all the way through training to become a Jedi Knight. We're not sufficiently disciplined and don't have the proper respect for authority. But media bosses want us to have basic training in Mind Tricks, anyway.
Now that we've been outted, don't expect much more investigative reporting. That is a dying breed anyway. Woodward and Bernstein never would have broken the Watergate conspiracy under today's rules of engagement. They would have been labeled as unpatriotic and dangerous to national security.
Another factor inhibiting investigative reporting is the growth of media conglomerates. To advance the thirst for more and more acquisitions, these big companies have had to start selling stock.
At that point, the prime responsibility becomes attention to stockholder interests. And that means elimination of expensive functions, such as investigative reporting.
Although Gov. Richardson has had a good record for appointing members of the media to top jobs in his administration, he's had problems elsewhere. Last week another unwise appointment came back to haunt him after only three months.
Early in his administration, Richardson had a spate of embarrassing appointees bounce back on him after a very short time in their jobs. The governor has announced he intends to correct the problems with stricter background checks, more effective and efficient court record searches and more pointed questions at interviews.
Those will be helpful, but one other added precaution this column has suggested since Richardson took office is a trusted adviser who has been around state government for more than a few years.
Nearly all of the governor's embarrassing appointments could have been headed off by someone with first-hand knowledge of potential appointees' past problems.
FRI, 7-29-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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