Commentary

Welcome to Source New Mexico

August 31, 2021 6:30 am

Yerba mansa in the Bosque (Photo by Marisa Demarco / Source NM)

During round one of the pandemic, I spent a lot of time with the river that runs through the middle of Albuquerque. In a mask, I ran along its trails, inhaling the spicy yerba mansa scent when the Bosque was thick with them. I brought burritos in a backpack to a sandy bank, met a friend and watched the sun set. 

I walked in the river when it was knee-high and laid in it when it was shallower. I saw jewel-bright beetles, trundling porcupines, blue-black ravens, so many lizards and those migratory cranes. 

Sometimes I was there to get some air. Sometimes I was there just to be outside of my apartment after long months of isolation. Sometimes I was there to grieve. And when I met anyone else’s eyes above their mask on the trails, I wondered if they were there for the same reasons. 

The river and its forest run through the center of Albuquerque, and make it so the city has a distinct Eastside and Westside. I’ve lived here all of my life, and so this body of water provided my body the water I’ve needed as long as I’ve been alive. The river we know today as the Rio Grande is a big part of the reason — maybe the reason? — that there is a city here. That’s likely true all over this region.

I was thinking about rivers when I named this news outlet. They all have a source, a point of origin. And they are also the source of so much life, human and otherwise, across the high arid desert that’s lately been designated New Mexico.

The Rio Grande near Las Cruces, N.M. (Photo by Santana Ochoa for Source NM)

Rivers are often a metaphor for time, but I also think of them as symbols for free-flowing information exchange, connecting us to our neighbors upstream and downstream.

News, too, is about looking at systems, tracing impacts back to their source, the decision-makers. If you do it long enough, journalism starts to be about seeing a bigger arc made up of all the reporting you do each day, so you’re on top of it and maybe even a little prescient when a huge story breaks. 

Here at Source New Mexico, each member of this crew — Austin Fisher, Shaun Griswold and Patrick Lohmann and myself — wants to tell stories about policies and elected officials by looking at how decisions made in government chambers actually play out for us all. We want to tell stories that center the experiences and expertise of the people who live here. We’re ready to do source-centered reporting. 

We’re launching today with the backing of States Newsroom, a nonprofit network of newsrooms in 23 other states, including our neighbors in Arizona and Colorado. Because we’re a nonprofit, you’ll never hit a paywall here. You won’t run into ads, either. And all of our content is under a Creative Commons license — that means other news teams anywhere can pick up this work and carry it for free. It’s a newer model slowly unfolding in journalism, and it’s long overdue.

Maybe you’ve already got a couple of places you look for news. New Mexico is home to some excellent journalists. But I promise you, they’ve got their hands full. We’ve been scrambling to catch all of this news coming at us and trying to find a compelling way to get it in your hands, on your radios and on your screens. 

The Source team is here to help out. We’re ready to lend a hand. We’re your resource.

Reach out to us with suggestions, questions and tips: [email protected]

Closeups of the river channel on Aug. 30. (Photo by Laura Paskus, New Mexico PBS. Used with permission.)

And the Rio Grande is struggling. Human-caused climate change diminished its flows, drying the river for miles at a stretch in recent years. It’s not part of the river’s normal cycling. It’s not just a dry year. The monsoons can only help so much. It’s really all about the snowpack at the river’s source, and whether that snow can melt and become river water before evaporating or getting sucked into thirsty ground in new hotter temperatures. Water managers warned farmers who rely on the river against planting crops. This summer, the Water Utility Authority temporarily stopped using the Rio Grande for our drinking water to try and make it so we don’t lose the river in Albuquerque this year.

When we tell such stories, when we connect people and information, we can begin to ask the questions and make the changes we need to and replenish our rivers — and ourselves.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Marisa Demarco
Marisa Demarco

Marisa Demarco is an Albuquerque-based journalist and lifelong New Mexican whose work has won national and regional awards. She's spent almost two decades as a reporter, producer and newsroom leader, co-founding the New Mexico Compass, and editing and writing for the Weekly Alibi, the Albuquerque Tribune and UNM's Daily Lobo. She began a career in radio full-time at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health and criminal legal reform for much of the last seven years. During the pandemic, she was also the executive producer for “Your NM Gov” and “No More Normal,” shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice.

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