City angered by business claims
Editor’s note: This is an email sent from City of Rio Rancho spokeswoman Annemarie Garcia to editor Argen Duncan and staff writer Amy Byres in regard to the article “Ram Motors moving from RR to ABQ” in the Dec. 6 Observer. It is reprinted here in its entirety and unedited. The Observer denies that the article was unbalanced, and we did include the city’s counterpoints and evidence in the article. Our response is below the email.
Amy and Argen,
I was disappointed at the outcome of the Ram Motors article. In our response to you, we refuted, with a detailed timeline, Mr. Ramazzini’s claims. Yet, his questionable claims were still printed without correction and without comparison to what we provided. Mr. Ramazzini repeatedly ignored staff’s direction, he was in communication with staff on a regular basis, and was given multiple opportunities to get his property into compliance. Even his unsubstantiated claim about being picked on by the city was printed without proof. Mr. Ramazzini — one business owner with a history of repeatedly objecting to city code standards — falsely claims that the city isn’t business friendly, yet everything we provided that refuted that statement was not used.
Staff spent a number of hours putting together a timeline of events that went back years, for it to not even be utilized for the article, expect uploaded to the website as an afterthought. Additionally, I provided information regarding a conversation Mr. Ramazzini had with the mayor about not having enough time to get his property into compliance because his sales were booming. Yet, that was nowhere in the article and we did not receive a follow-up for more information. We could have not provided any information and the outcome of the article would have been the same.
Let’s be clear: This person was using property illegally; was granted an extension to get his property into compliance; he didn’t get the property into compliance because, as he told the mayor, he was too busy making money; then he contacted you to complain after not receiving an extension at the governing body meeting he didn’t attend. Then, with our information in hand, you didn’t use it to provide a more balanced account of the entire issue.
When I was initially contacted by Amy, she stated that she wouldn’t move forward with an article if it became a he said/they said piece. However, this is exactly what it became and yet it was published. Moving forward, the city will not participate in Observer articles that are nothing more than incomplete he said/she said narratives. You will receive little to no comment. If information or documents are needed, the Observer will need to put in a request for public records.
Public Affairs Division manager
Observer seeks openness from the city
The Observer and the City of the Rio Rancho should have open lines of communication for the sake of taxpayers.
The Observer strives to inform Rio Rancho residents to allow them to be free and self-governing. To do this, we often ask the city’s spokeswoman, Annemarie Garcia, questions.
After we printed a story that contained opinions the city didn’t like, Garcia said, “Moving forward, the City will not participate in Observer articles that are nothing more than incomplete he said/she said narratives. You will receive little to no comment.”
We don’t know how city staff will determine what articles fall into that category, especially before they’re written.
We doubt Garcia spoke unilaterally, but probably acted with the knowledge and approval of higher-ranking city representatives.
To the Observer, this decision seems like it would do the community more harm than good. A well-informed community makes a stronger community.
In the Dec. 6 Observer, a story about Ram Motors RV and Truck moving to Albuquerque was published. The article is at rrobserver.com.
After doing business in Rio Rancho for over 12 years, dealership owner Walter Ramazzini said he felt the city was not business-friendly. We shared his perspective.
To prevent a he said/she said article and in the interest of fairness, reporter Amy Byres contacted the city for more information and to see if the city would like to issue a statement about Ramazzini’s opinion.
Garcia offered to create a timeline of interactions between the city and Ramazzini. In addition, she issued a statement and sent the city ordinances in question.
We quoted from the timeline several times. The paper had physical space limitations, so the timeline is linked in the article online, as are a relevant governing body meeting video and other paperwork Garcia provided and we quoted.
We included the perspectives of the city and Ram Motors while adding documentation regarding statements made.
At this point, the Observer believes the article changes from a “he said/she said article” to just an article. There is enough documentation for readers to form their own opinions.
In journalism, fairness, balance and fact-checking don’t involve deciding who we think is right and printing only that side of the issue. Particularly in matters of opinion, such as those expressed by Ram Motors owners, it means we allow both sides to share their perspectives and then strive to present enough evidence for the readers to make their own judgements.
The Observer does not necessarily have the same opinions as our sources. We have also quoted business owners happy with the city in other stories.
We take our responsibility to give the people a voice seriously and will never silence an opinion because the city doesn’t agree with it. We don’t even silence opinions because we don’t agree with them.
In the interest of Rio Rancho’s taxpayers, the Observer urges the city to reconsider its position and nurture open lines of communication. We are journalists; we are residents of the city; we are not your enemy.