There was a time when wire services, newspaper and tv stations in New Mexico actually covered political campaigns.
Associated Press Santa Fe Correspondent Bill Feather or Albuquerque Bureau Chief Howard Graves would leave their cramped offices for about a month before election day and travel the state with the candidates. They’d file reports for their member papers and stations from places like Encino, Loving, Glenwood, Chama, Mora and yes, even Claunch.
I did the same while working for KOAT-TV.
Traveling with the candidates we would ride in the same car, fly in the same plane, eat at the same restaurant, stay in the same motel, get invited to a home cooked meal at a supporter’s home, or sometimes, like a trip during a Dave Cargo campaign – we stayed in the same ranch house.
On more than one occasion a campaign would call and ask if I’d like to tag along on the evening trip. We’d fly to Farmington or Socorro in the campaign plane, the candidate would make a speech, and then we’d all pack up, squeeze into the plane seats and head back.
I even took a brief trip when Morris Udall was running for President of the United States in 1976. I flew in the plane from Albuquerque to Silver City and back. I don’t think the station paid for the seat on the plane, and I got to meet Bill Plante, the veteran CBS correspondent who now covers The White House. What a funny and clever guy Udall was, as is Plante.
The candidates benefitted from the exposure – and the reporters got a story. A fair trade – perhaps a bit more fair to the candidate, but nonetheless it worked.
All of us got to know one another. We didn’t print or broadcast everything we saw – because in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter.
I recall another trip, to Las Cruces on a Labor Day holiday. I was going to cover a “rally” that a candidate was giving – it was part of the profile I was putting together of his campaign, personality, electability, etc. From Las Cruces we were to travel to Alamogordo for another “rally”.
At the rally in Las Cruces, there were about 7 people – including me and the candidate. Sadly, his campaign was going nowhere – I knew it and he knew it. Instead of going along for the next leg of the trip to Alamogordo I had them drop me by the bus station and I rode Greyhound back to Albuquerque.
Then came the purification of the media. Conflicts of interest, reporters are taking free rides, etc. Reporters started having to pay for their seats on airplanes or in cars, paying for hamburgers at the drive-in along the way – and when that happened…within a couple years we all went away.
We covered campaigns – instead of covering campaign commercials.
I think, as a people we were all the better for it.
But, times have changed.
Now we have breaking news crawls across the bottom of a TV screen that block the video we’re supposed to be watching! And the breaking news occurred 2 days ago!