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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

blind leading the blind... or not

The top emailed story on The Albuquerque Journal's website today is Gov's Jet Has Kids Hanging. Forgetting the headline for a second (it's confusing, right? It's like, are they hangliding? They could have at least just left it at Gov's Jet Leaves Kids Grounded or something), the story itself is a tight little piece of journalism. Basically, the story says that because the governor is getting a new $5 million jet, and having three instead of four planes, it could no longer commit to taking blind students from New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired home to their parents for the weekends. Or so, allegedly, said school Supt. Diana Jennings. Well, no politician, regardless of rank or hubris, could imagine that leaving blind kids stranded at school on the weekends is going to play very well, right? I mean, you know, why not open the Legislature next year with a sacrifice of orphaned puppies?
So, this morning, bright and early (well, 10 am anyway), the governor's office issues the following press release:

News Report Wrong – Air Service for Blind Children will continue

SANTA FE – The Governor’s Office today released the following statement from New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Superintendent Dianna Jennings and General Services Secretary Edward J. Lopez, Jr., who jointly assure parents that state aircraft will continue to transport the school’s students.
“Today’s Albuquerque Journal’s report that ‘the General Services Department can no longer commit state aircraft for student travel’ is simply untrue,” said Jennings.  “We understand that circumstances beyond our control, such as bad weather and mechanical issues, might prevent state aircraft from flying.  But General Services has a solid ten year record for being a reliable aviation services provider to the school,” she said.
Lopez also refuted the report’s accuracy. “The suggestion that we would single out a state agency and ban it from flying state aircraft is absurd,” said Lopez.  “The recent sale of the old 1966 airplane and the addition of a new jet aircraft to help transport the students and other state agencies positions my department to provide better and more reliable service than before.”
The children from the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired will fly on the new state jet. As we have stated, the jet will service all the state agencies, including this long-standing responsibility to fly the children from school to their home on the weekends.
Lopez also took issue with the Journal’s report that New Mexico State University had not verbally committed to buy a 1978 aircraft.  He noted that the director of NMSU’s Aviation program, Jeff Miller, clearly expressed that he had been given authority in May from NMSU’s president to verbally negotiate the purchase 1978 aircraft, subject to executive approval.

I love the dateline on the press release. "Santa Fe", as if the governor's office has suddenly turned into 60 Minutes or something and is headquartered in New York (Jesus, I guess it could be one of these days). Anyway, at 1:20 pm (that's three hours later), The Albuquerque Journal posts an Associated Press story, Governor Denies Report, Says School Will Continue to Fly Kids Home
So, let's be suspicious for a minute. The Journal has some pretty detailed quotes and reporting in its first story, but by mid-morning the players are issuing denials FROM THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE that they said any of it or that any of it was true. The Journal responds by posting an AP story about the denial, but the AP story doesn't ask The Journal if they're sticking by their story or wha (presumably by tomorrow the Journal will have something to say). Further, it's next to impossible, unless you're a better reader to me, to understand what the basis for such an extensive misunderstanding would be in the story, and the AP does nothing, NOTHING, to explain it.
On the bright side, it looks like the kids ain't getting stuck at school for the weekends (although I always was and never minded).