The mission of the New Mexico Foundation of Open Government (NMFOG) includes advocating, educating and litigating to help New Mexicans vindicate their rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Freedom of the press is one of the hallmarks of American democracy and enshrined as one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment – freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of petition, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. This is not just an opinion, it’s the law. The Constitution recognizes the right (and duty) of the press to report all news.
A key to democracy is information and we live in an information age. Secrecy has the potential to corrupt any institution, public or private.
While NMFOG is reluctant to wade into any political fight because of our nonpartisan status, we cannot be silent about the recent effort to keep a reporter out of an event hosted by a gubernatorial campaign.
Some background — on Saturday in Carlsbad, the private security working the doors at a Mark Ronchetti for Governor campaign event prevented Shaun Griswold, a reporter who works for Source NM, and other press access to the Saturday Carlsbad political rally on the basis of the content of their reporting. For the record, Mr. Griswold lists his occupation as “Reporter” on his federal income tax return.
NMFOG feels compelled to speak out about this incident because it could happen again, either in county offices, city halls or the Roundhouse. Case in point, in 2017, the state of New Mexico agreed to a settlement with the weekly Santa Fe Reporter following a lengthy lawsuit that accused a former governor of failing to release documents and denying the newspaper access to information provided to other outlets, violating the state constitution’s Free Press Provision.
As this lawsuit showed, it’s a dangerous precedent to let any public servant decide who is and is not a “legitimate” reporter. Reporters are the eyes and ears of the public. If they can be silenced by being denied access to events of public interest, the members of the public are the ultimate victims.
The government or any of its representatives cannot and should not deny a particular reporter access to routine information such as press releases, media advisories or other tools. Nor should a campaign or government official deprive a particular media outlet of access to facilities or localities where other reporters routinely gather news.
Our democracy hangs by a thread. It requires constant vigilance, well-informed citizens and a robust press.
It is particularly important for NMFOG, reporters, good government officials, media outlets and private citizens to unite and support reporters who become the target of such odious practices. This solidarity is necessary because another reporters may become the next target – a detriment to us all.
Karen Moses retired from the position as Albuquerque Journal Editor and Senior Vice President in late May. She joined the Journal’s staff as a copy editor in 1981 after one year working at a weekly publication on Chicago’s North Shore and three years at the Gallup Independent. Moses is president of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, past president of the New Mexico Press Association, a graduate of Leadership New Mexico, a board member of the United Way of Central New Mexico and a member of the International Women’s Forum-New Mexico.
Jessica Onsurez is the news director of the Carlsbad Current-Argus, Alamogordo Daily News, Ruidoso News, Las Cruces Sun-News and the Farmington Daily-Times. She was a Peace Corps Community Economic Development Volunteer in Peru. Her career has also included work as an assistant in the office of U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici in Washington, DC.
Secretary Rashad Mahmood, Executive Director, New Mexico Local News Fund (443) 486-2406
Treasurer Sammy Lopez, Executive Director, New Mexico Press Association (505) 275-1241
Sammy Lopez is the executive director of the New Mexico Press Association. He has served as a publisher for newspapers in Las Cruces, Farmington, Carlsbad, Ruidoso, Deming, Fort Sumner and at the Valencia County News-Bulletin. Lopez also served in executive capacities with World West, where he was group manager for eight newspapers in three states, as well as Civitas Media, where, in addition to managing six daily and two weekly newspapers, he was instrumental in launching four real estate websites supported by four magazines. He is a past Dixon Award recipient.
Daniel Russell, Publisher, Hobbs News-Sun (575) 393-2123
Daniel Russell is the co-owner and publisher of Sunrise Publishing, which owns the Hobbs News-Sun. Prior to purchasing the News-Sun in January 2022, he was named by the previous owners as the publisher in 2013. Before being named publisher, he was the editor for 10 years, advertising manager for two years and a reporter for six years at the News-Sun. He began his career as a reporter at the Artesia Daily Press. He is or has been active in community theater, arts and various nonprofits in Lea County.
At-Large Member Paula Maes, President, New Mexico Broadcasters Association (505) 881-4411
Paula Maes is the president of the New Mexico Broadcasters Association. For many years she was the public affairs director at KOB-TV 4. She is a past member of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and is a current member of the APS Foundation Board of Directors. She is also active with the Children Cancer Fund of New Mexico. In 2023 she will be inducted into the NMBA Hall of Fame.
Immediate Past President, Kathi Bearden, Former Publisher, Hobbs News (575) 390-4776
Kathi Bearden is the retired publisher of the Hobbs Daily News-Sun where she received many awards from the New Mexico Press Association, the Associated Press and the New Mexico Press Women for outstanding journalism. She is the Past President of FOG, a past president of NMPA and is a recipient of the Dixon Award in Journalism. She is a business owner and has served on state and local boards.
Dede Feldman, Owner, The Feldman Co. (505) 242-1997
Dede Feldman has had a varied career as a journalist, high school and university teacher, and the owner of a small public relations business. She is the author of three books on New Mexico government. As the New Mexico State Senator for District 13, she served from 1997-2012. She is a past recipient of the Dixon Award in government.
Nate Gentry, Attorney, Gentry Law Firm, (505) 764-0111
Nate Gentry is a native New Mexican and a 2003 graduate of UNM School of Law. Prior to entering private practice, he worked for U.S. Senator Pete Domenici and served as counsel to the U.S. Senate. He was a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives for four terms where he was elected by his colleagues to serve as both minority and majority floor leader.
Chris Keller, Data Reporter, The Associated Press (505) 348-8323
Chris Keller is a data reporter at the Albuquerque Bureau of the Associated Press, He is a former managing editor of Albuquerque Business First as well as a deputy editor for graphics and data visualization for the LA Times. He has also worked in public radio and was a part-time lecturer at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
Henry Lopez, Digital Editor, Santa Fe New Mexican (505) 986-3054
Rashad Mahmood, Executive Director, New Mexico Local News Fund (443) 486-2406
Rashad Mahmood is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Local News Fund. Before coming to New Mexico a decade ago, he worked in international development in Washington DC, Egypt and Iraq. He has worked in print, online and radio journalism. In New Mexico, he worked for the youth media organization Generation Justice and KUNM 89.9 FM Radio.
Lucas Peerman, Digital Editor, Albuquerque Journal (505) 823-3840
Lucas Peerman is the digital editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Prior to that position, he was the editor of the Las Cruces Sun-News. He was also a copy editor at the Santa Fe New Mexican and worked at the Boston Globe. He is a graduate of New Mexico State University with a degree in journalism. While there, he was the managing editor of the student paper, the Roundup, and was awarded awarded Best Non-Daily College Newspaper by the Society of Professional Journalists. He was a longtime board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters in southern New Mexico and was a member of the 2015 Leadership Las Cruces class.
Charles Peifer is principal at Peifer, Hanson, Mullins & Baker, P.A. Before joining the Office of the New Mexico Attorney General, where he supervised the work of 30 lawyers in four civil law divisions, he practiced law at Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin & Robb, P.A. He is listed in the Best Lawyers in America, has served as an adjunct faculty member for the University of New Mexico Law School Evidence and Trial Practice Program.
Charles "Kip" Purcell is a director of the Rodey Law Firm, a past president of FOG, and a 2014 Dixon Award winner. He was law clerk to the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1984-1985. He was also a member of the Harvard Law Review from 1982 to 1984 and was Executive Editor of that journal from 1983 to 1984. He graduated from the University of Virginia and Harvard Law School.
Mary Lynn Roper, former President and General Manager, KOAT (505) 379-7979
Mary Lynn Roper retired as president & general manager of KOAT-TV, the Hearst Television ABC affiliate serving the New Mexico, television market. She spent 48 years in broadcasting, first in radio at station KRTN in her hometown of Raton, New Mexico. In 2005 Roper was inducted into the New Mexico Broadcasters Hall of Fame; in 2008 she was named New Mexico Broadcaster of the Year; and in 2013 she received an American Advertising Federation of New Mexico Silver Medal.
Kristelle Siarza, CEO, Siarza Social Digital (505) 234-6900
Kristelle Siarza has been the owner of Siarza Social Digital since 2014. Prior to opening her own firm she worked at The Garrity Group Public Relations, Heritage Hotels and Resorts, and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. She is a past board president of the Domestic Violence Resource Center Inc. and Filipino American Community Council and the United Way of Central New Mexico.
Rebecca Valdez, Assistant News Director KOB TV-4 (505) 243-4411
Rebecca Valdez is the Assistant News Director and Executive Producer at KOB-TV 4 where she supervises a team of producers, reports and news anchors to execute weekday news coverage for the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. shows. She was also Producer/Interim Morning Executive Producer at CBS 4 Denver, Denver CO and an evening Executive Producer at KRQE News 13. Her coverage of the 2010 Balloon Fiesta as nominated for an Emmy Award.
Gregory Williams has 20 years of experience practicing law. He is a past president of the board of directors of FOG and a past Dixon award recipient. He is a former President of the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association of the UNM School of Law. He has degrees from Princeton University and the UNM School of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief for the Law Review.
Melanie J. Majors
2333 Wisconsin St NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110 [email protected]