N.M. Compass Navigates a New Media Wilderness



By Margaret Wright

When I first embarked on my writing career, I couldn’t wait to leave home. After landing in cool, green, forested New England, I couldn’t escape my longing for New Mexico. I hungered for a glimpse of yawning horizon. My white-picket/white-bread college town was stifling. I also found that much of the subject matter that compelled me related to life back home: a place of unexpected intersections, where human stories emerge full of contrast, heartbreak, power struggles and perseverance.

Those stories drew me back and I got addicted to writing news. Fair, even-handed, fiercely independent journalism is the backbone of the New Mexico Compass, an online reporting outlet my colleagues and I launched on Dec. 21. We’re thrilled about forging a print partnership with Local iQ just a couple of short weeks later.

The New Mexico Compass—and the people who founded it — are products of the greater Southwest: a place populated by underdogs, pioneers, vision-seekers, prospectors, wanderers and self-reliant iconoclasts who dug deep to survive amidst unknowns and an unforgiving landscape. The sheer size and scale of the Southwest also means that many people and places are cut off. They lack a venue to air grievances, and they lack a watchdog for their public officials.

The New Mexico Compass strives to become a hub for New Mexicans — a public resource so people can begin creating their own stories, a venue where they can share them with a wider audience.

We embark on our mission in the midst of a gradual devaluing of hard news reporting and the flowering of celebrity talking heads, journalists converted into pundits and personalities.

Our top priority is journalism that adheres to a strict code of old-school print ethics. That means our reporters are required to seek out many angles, to be mindful of their personal biases in order to approach subjects with objectivity and to dig deep enough that preconceived notions fade. We’ll also present a clear division between opinion and news, labeling each.

Firm separation between our editorial content and our revenue is essential to the Compass. The reporter, as a conduit through which a story is filtered, is in a privileged position of influence. We see that role as a responsibility that must be safeguarded against personal or commercial motivations. We strive to serve our readers so that they trust our brains and our judgment and have faith that we’re in this for the public interest — not to line our pockets.

We’re also committed to quality cultural reporting. Creative output is entwined with society, and we can learn about a place from its artists and the ideas they engage with. Art is not frivolous but essential. It’s a subject that cries out for coverage with a probing, hard-minded journalistic lens.

Top-notch reporting is, in a sense, a teaching endeavor. Journalists should give communities the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about issues that affect their everyday lives. That’s why the Compass will also be an educational venue. We look forward to making our expertise available to people who are first getting started as storytellers, and to imparting the values of balance and independence.

Over the next 60 days, the Compass will be teaming up with Local iQ to provide coverage of the 2013 legislative session. We are grateful to have your ear. Be assured you have ours: nmcompass@gmail.com.

* This article originally appeared on Page 5  of Local iQ. Look for Compass reports there in every edition through the end of the legislative session.