Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Rebounding from his unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate, Mark Ronchetti last week returned to the weather forecasting seat at KRQE-TV.
“It’s something that I’ve always loved,” Ronchetti said, “and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to come back.”
Some New Mexicans and the Rio Grande Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists criticized his return to the station, where he worked for 15 years before his foray into politics.
The rehiring, the SPJ said in its newsletter, “should raise red flags for anyone worried about political influence in newsrooms.”
It further noted that “throughout his campaign, Ronchetti proudly stated, ‘I stand with President (Donald) Trump.’ ”
The SPJ specifically asked whether Ronchetti, a Republican, still stands with Trump, who repeatedly called the media “the enemy of the people,” if Ronchetti “denounces the attack on our democracy,” and whether politicians belong in the KRQE newsroom.
It’s ironic that the SPJ “wants me to clarify my political positions to show that I’m apolitical,” Ronchetti countered.
“Politics is not involved in the weather and never was,” he said. “When I wanted to get involved in politics, I left the station to do it. When the election results came in, I accepted them, congratulated my opponent and then shut my mouth. I’ve set politics aside now, because you can’t do both, and I fully do realize that.”
KRQE posted the SPJ letter on its Facebook page, which elicited mostly positive comments welcoming Ronchetti back. One writer took the opportunity to slam journalists in general, saying “the overwhelming majority of today’s reporters are now advocates rather than journalists,” while another writer criticized station management for “pushing the other weathermen and women aside.”
Twitter postings were overwhelmingly critical of the station’s rehiring of Ronchetti. One writer noted the violence at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, saying that Ronchetti “aligned himself with Trump every step of the way.”
While Ronchetti did say he supported Trump, “I also said from the very beginning I didn’t agree with every tweet and every sound bite from the president, but I will support those policies of his that help our state.”
Like most Americans, Ronchetti watched as the violent siege of the Capitol unfolded and said he was “horrified” by what he saw. “There’s no place for it, period.”
Regarding Trump’s attacks on the media, Ronchetti said he frequently defended his colleagues in the profession by telling people “how hardworking I think journalists in this state are, that they care and want to get the story right.”
Ronchetti also takes issue with the implication that there was something improper about his returning to the newsroom after his run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat Tom Udall.
“Have we gotten to a point in this country where you can’t step aside and say, ” ‘Hey, I want to try and help in the world of politics,’ and if it doesn’t work out then you’re done, and you don’t have a right to come back and earn a living?”
Gwyneth Doland, who teaches media law and ethics at the University of New Mexico, questioned whether a weather forecaster is a journalist. “I don’t know the answer to that,” she said.
But the questions posed in the SPJ newsletter are legitimate and relevant, given Trump’s attacks on the media, which endangered working reporters, she said.
KRQE-TV’s president and general manager, Bill Anderson, said he asked Ronchetti to return to the station “because he’s a workhorse and the best weather guy I’ve ever seen.”
The prohibition against bringing personal politics into the newsroom is applied to everyone at the station, he said.
“I didn’t ask him to swear allegiance to anything other than the meteorological seal.”