In defense of Larry Barker
By Dennis Domrzalski
You know you're doing something right as a reporter when a bunch of nobodies and failures in the business—self-important hypocrites who refer to themselves as “journalists” and who join “journalism” organizations—dump on you for violating rules that they themselves make up.
And that's why all of you should applaud and support KRQE-TV investigative reporter Larry Barker for acting like a real reporter and not a politically-correct apologist for politicians and political parties. Unfortunately for Barker, though, being a real reporter who actually demands answers from public officials, and who strives every day to hold those officials accountable to you, their bosses, has gotten him into trouble.
This past week, Barker cornered Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's press secretary and PR hack, Nora Meyers Sackett, at the Albuquerque Convention Center. A photo of the incident shows Barker wagging a finger at Sackett as she has her back to a wall. It's a great picture and it shows what real reporters sometimes have to do: confront politicians and their PR flunkies.
Barker wanted to interview the governor about something that was, in Sackett's words, unrelated to the cannabis legalization conference she was speaking at. Sackett told Barker that Grisham was busy and was about to speak to the conference attendees and that she didn't have time to talk to him.
We don't know exactly what Barker and Sackett said to each other, and we don't know a FEW really important things, which are what Barker wanted to talk to the governor about, how long he had been asking Sackett to interview her and how long Sackett had been putting him off.
But that didn't stop losers at something called the Society of Professional Journalists, Rio Grande Chapter, from posting on its web site, “Larry Barker out of bounds during confrontation with press secretary.” The short article went on to say:
“After seeing the photo and reading the accounts of Barker’s confrontation of Sackett, we, as members of the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Mexico journalism community, were appalled. No person, especially a journalist, should treat another human being the way Barker treated Sackett.
“However frustrated, angry and just plain pissed off we get at each other, it is never, ever, ever — let us repeat — EVER even remotely acceptable to physically corner a source, no matter how important we think it may be.”
Here's the photo the SPJ posted on its web site:
The SPJ scolds then said they were ashamed of Barker and called on him and KRQE to apologize to Sackett. All to which I say, “Bullshit, and bullshit again.”
I doubt that the Rio Grand Chapter of the SPJ has very many members, which means that they don't speak for every single reporter in the state. The organization's board of directors reads like a Who's Who of failures and wannabes. I know some of them and I can tell you that they have not done any thing even remotely as challenging and as difficult as what Barker has done for the past 40 years or so. He has done investigative reporting on a daily basis every day of his professional career.
I'll tell you what that entails. It entails immense and thorough research for each and every story. It entails fighting for information that wrongdoers and public officials don't want you to have and often try to hide. It entails talking with people who don't want to talk to you. It can entail pissing off almost everyone you deal with. It gets lots and lots of people angry at you, and sometimes, it means you get threatened.
The reason the losers at the SPJ have never done what Barker has done—and can't do it—is because it takes skill, courage, talent, dedication to the truth, fearlessness and an immense amount of fortitude. They don't have any of those. I'm guessing that many of those wusses want people, including public officials, to like them.
I also know that many political PR hacks consider it their job to shelter their bosses from real reporters and to keep those reporters from getting to the pols and asking them tough questions. They deny access to real reporters like Barker and give access to pretend reporters who ask questions like, “Tell us, Mr. Mayor. We demand to know! Tell us, why are you so brilliant?”
A favorite strategy of the hacks is the line that a reporter's question is off subject for the event. Then they whisk the pol away before any more tough questions can be asked. The flunkies often delay, delay and delay interviews with the excuses that the public official is busy, busy, busy. In that case, a real reporter will basically stalk the pol by showing up at every event he or she attends and try to ambush them with questions. I suspect this is what happened with Barker and Sackett.
I had to do that with R.J. Berry when he was mayor. He refused to answer my questions at his news conferences because they were off-subject. His PR flack refused to set up and interview, and so I stalked him. If showed up at one of his convention center luncheons and followed him as he walked off the podium, trying my best to get right next to him. His tiny PR hack tried to run interference for him and tried to physically block me from getting to Berry's side. So I basically pushed her away. Berry seemed a little stunned, but he finally answered my questions. The PR flunkie never spoke to me again.
Was Sackett trying to keep Barker from getting to Grisham? We don't know, but I'd say that's a good guess. Barker has been doing investigative reporting for a long, long time. Every public official knows who he is and what he's about. When Barker calls it's not to talk about the weather. When he calls for an interview, he's done all his research and basically has the goods on who he's trying to interview. He's going to ask pols about fraud, theft, corruption, incompetence and so much more. I'm also guessing that Barker would not have confronted Sackett unless he had been stonewalled.
The fools at the SPJ also wrote this about the event: “However, decency and respect during any interaction between the two is of utmost importance.” What about decency and respect from the PR hacks?
I say bullshit again. How is it decent and respectful for PR hacks to deny reporters access to their politician bosses, and how is it decent and respectful for public officials to duck and refuse to answer hard questions? It's not. Thank god those decent and respectful SPJ “journalists” aren't doing real reporting and trying to hold public officials accountable. They'd never get an interview and they'd never get any questions answered because the decent and respectful PR hacks would be stonewalling them and laughing their decent and respectful heads off at their stupidity and naivete.
Here's one more thing. The pathetic losers at the SPJ are vile and despicable hypocrites. Would they have been so deeply offended if Barker had wagged his finger at a man? At a male Republican? The answer is no.
What if Barker had done the same thing to Betsy DeVos or Elaine Chao, cabinet secretaries under President Donald Trump? Would the SPJ scolds have been as outraged? Nope. If Barker had confronted a male or female Republican, he would not have been a disrespectful and unprofessional bully who shamed the entire journalism profession, he would have been—wait for it—SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER! I guarantee it.
Unfortunately, KRQE management did apologize for Barker's behavior. And in apologizing they basically said that they don't support real reporting or real reporters anymore. Too bad.
I can also guarantee you that now that KRQE has apologized, the PR hacks are laughing their asses off.