Morning newspaper is a ‘non-profit’ operation, says Greenspun

Brian Greenspun — the putative editor of the Las Vegas Sun, the tiny printed insert in the morning newspaper and the website of the same name — has just confirmed what many have presumed for the past few years.

He has posted online a note telling readers that the Sun is about to start charging for access to online articles after free access to 10 articles. The reason is simple. He is not making money from the joint operating agreement with the Sheldon Adelson-owned print newspaper. Not that he is contributing much of anything to attract print readership.

Here is his explanation about the paucity of funds coming his way from the JOA:

A major source of our newsroom funding has dried up. Years ago, the Las Vegas Sun stopped publishing our print newspaper and stopped selling newspaper advertising in competition with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In 1990, we combined our print operations (as well as our circulation) with the Review-Journal. The Review-Journal took responsibility for printing, distributing and selling advertising for the Sun and benefited mightily from this arrangement. The quid pro quo was that the Las Vegas Sun would get a small percentage of R-J profits that we could use to help fund the continuing operations of our newsroom. In short, the combination with the Review-Journal provided much of the money necessary to pay for the quality journalism the Las Vegas Sun provides.

For decades this approach benefited the R-J, and every management team there delivered a profit — a little less of a profit each year, but still healthy enough to help us offset the significant costs of our news operations.

Unfortunately, that has changed.

The current management of the Review-Journal plunged the newspaper into a loss immediately after purchasing the newspaper in 2015. To date, the Review-Journal’s management continues to run a money-losing newspaper. We hope they find a way to turn the R-J around in the face of ongoing revenue and circulation decline. (And no, purchasing a print subscription to the Sun and R-J doesn’t benefit the Sun in this current scenario.)

Our initiative with the metered paywall is an effort to replace some of that lost funding for the newsroom.

Perhaps Greenspun continues the contractual JOA just out of spite, because it is surely costing Adelson a lot of money for wasted newsprint for the wasted Sun section, whose only worthwhile content is the cartoon Dilbert.

Donald W. Reynolds, the former owner of the morning Vegas paper, is reputed have declared that the only measure of the success of a newspaper is its profitability.

Advertisements

New opioid law restrictions creating pain for docs

Well, that didn’t take long.

Only three days after a new law dictating to doctors how to handle opioid prescriptions took effect, doctors are complaining about the excessive paperwork and the potential risk to their licenses for simple mistakes, according to the Las Vegas newspaper.

Doctors at a Wednesday meeting complained that regulations are vague as to what actually constitutes a violation.

The law attempts to prevent oversubscribing of opioids, though every patient is different and causes of pain are difficult to pinpoint and levels of pain are relative.

Here is an example of how the law is being explained to doctors:

  1. Rules for First-Time Prescriptions of Controlled Substances For The Treatment Of Pain: AB 474 includes guidelines that prescribers must follow prior to writing an initial prescription, which include having a bona fide relationship with the patient; establishing a preliminary diagnosis and treatment plan; obtaining and reviewing the patient’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Report; and discussing non-controlled substance treatment options with the patient. The practitioner must also perform a patient risk assessment, which consists of reviewing the patient’s medical history, conducting a physical examination and assessing the patient’s mental health and risk of abuse, addiction and dependency.If after review and assessment of the patient, the prescriber writes a prescription it can be for no more than 14 days for acute pain, and no more than 90 morphine mili-equivalent for opiate-naïve patients. Also, the patient must complete a written informed consent form stating that, among other things, they understand the potential risks and benefits of using the controlled substance.

  2. Prescribing After 30 Days: A practitioner who prescribes a controlled substance to treat pain for more than 30 days must enter into a Prescription Medication Agreement with the patient. The agreement must be part of the patient’s record and must include goals of the treatment. Patients also must agree to use the controlled substance as prescribed, not to share the medication, and to inform the practitioner of other prescriptions or substance uses that may affect the prescription.

  3. Prescribing After 90 Days: A practitioner who prescribes a controlled substance to treat pain for more than 90 consecutive days must now determine an evidence-based diagnosis for the cause of the pain; complete a risk of abuse assessment; continue an ongoing discussion about the plan with the patient; and obtain and review the patient’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program report at least every 90 days during treatment.

  4. Prescribing After 365 Days: A practitioner should not prescribe a controlled substance to a patient who has already received 365 days’ worth of that controlled substance for a particular diagnosis in any given 365-day rolling period. The practitioner may choose to prescribe a larger quantity than the patient needs for the treatment period, so long as the practitioner documents their rationale in the patient’s medical record.

Clear as mud?

One doctor complained that it now takes an extra 10 minutes per patient just to fill out forms. Time is money.  And that is in the first week. Wait till the 30-, 90- and 365-day rules kick in.

In an op-ed in USA Today six months ago, a doctor offered this suggestion to lawmakers:

If we are really interested in addressing the opioid overdose problem, we should get government out of the way and let doctors be doctors. Trust health care providers to follow their best judgment, use “harm reduction” strategies and abide by their oath to ease pain and suffering and “do no harm.”

He also said aggressive laws drive patients into the illegal market, where drugs may be laced with dangerous additives.

In fact, the Las Vegas paper quoted a Reno doctor as saying, “Just the other day, I had a patient tell me point-blank they’re not going to sign the forms, they don’t want to do initial testing, and they would just go to the street to get their narcotics.”

Lawmakers, heal thy selves.

Doctors complain about new law restricting opioid prescriptions. (R-J pix)

 

 

 

 

Public safety project delayed over petty prevailing wage law dispute

Workers installing bollards along the Strip. (R-J pix)

Talk about the tail waging the dog.

The geniuses at the Clark County Commission postponed approving a $2.5 million contract to install 500 steel post barriers along the Strip to protect pedestrians from vehicles veering onto sidewalks, because three construction workers might have been shorted a couple of hundred dollars for work performed on a previous contract, according to the Las Vegas newspaper today.

It is all because of the state’s prevailing wage law that mandates public works projects pay workers what amounts to union scale, inflating the cost of such projects by millions of dollars and now delaying a public safety project by at least a few weeks over a petty dispute.

According the paper, the Nevada Foundation for Fair Contracting, whatever that is, complained that three, just three, concrete finishers performed jobs that under the law should have been paid at a higher scale — $6 to $7 an hour more. Of course, Tuesday was the first the company heard of the claim.

At $5,000 per post, called bollards, apparently the job is not as simple as digging a post hole and cementing in a steel pipe, but what government job ever is?

Local police would prefer there be no delay, but have no control over the situation, Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Larry Hadfield said.

“Although it would be optimal for these to be installed on time the LVMPD is not part of the construction of the bollards,” he said.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak was quoted as saying of the delayed contract, “That’s just the beginning, the next 500. We’ve got thousands coming after that, and I want to make sure the company is doing the right thing by paying their workers at the appropriate rates.”

Why should a dispute over a past contract delay a future one, especially over such a petty amount. In fact the head of the complaining organization was quoted as saying, “They basically got cheated who knows how many hundreds of dollars.”

Where are the liberals shouting: If it saves one life, it is worth it?

Newspaper insert takes its lead from the previous day’s editorial page

At least we know there is one person at the Las Vegas Sun insert in the morning newspaper that is reading the editorial page of the Review-Journal and taking it to heart.

It can’t be a coincidence can it?

Back on the 20th of December, the R-J published an editorial referencing an article in The New York Times from four days earlier about Harry Reid ramrodding through $22 million in secret funds for the purpose of researching UFOs. The next day the Sun published that week-old NYT story on its cover.

On Monday the R-J published an editorial referencing an NYT article from the previous Saturday about the regulatory burden being heaped on apple growers by federal agencies. Today the Sun printed that same story on the cover. Perhaps they have finally found their niche — being a helpful supplement to the actual newspaper.

Or, once Pavlov rang the bell his dogs salivated.

Does anyone really know what time it is? Does anyone really care?

Pardon us for being sticklers. Occupational hazard.

The lede on a story in today’s newspaper set us off in search of nits to pick:

Several laws adopted by the Nevada Legislature in 2017 sprang into effect just after midnight Sunday as fireworks exploded over the Strip, marking the start of the new year.

Technically, the fireworks started at midnight, which is between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, but exploded over the Strip on Monday the 1st. But according to the AP Stylebook, or at least the 2011 version I have lying about, midnight “is part of the day that is ending, not the one that is beginning.” So, the laws went into effect after midnight Sunday, but on Monday.

Now as far as the AP Stylebook, the designation of midnight as being a part of the day that is ending instead of the day that is beginning is, shall we say, arbitrary and capricious. If 11.59:59 p.m. is Sunday and 12:00:01 a.m. is Monday, why isn’t 12:00:00 the beginning of Monday and earn the tag of a.m.?

Strictly speaking, midnight ought not be construed as either, but rather is that infinitesimal point in between.

As the  National Institute of Standards and Technology, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, points out:

Are noon and midnight referred to as 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?

This is a tricky question because 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. are ambiguous and should not be used.

To illustrate this, consider that “a.m.” and “p.m.” are abbreviations for “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem,” which mean “before noon” and “after noon,” respectively. Since noon is neither before noon nor after noon, a designation of either a.m. or p.m. is incorrect. Also, midnight is both twelve hours before noon and twelve hours after noon.

Got it?

As the NIST notes, it is generally clear what one is talking about when referring to “midnight tonight” or “midnight last night,” but what is meant by “midnight on Friday, October 20th?” Does that mean the beginning of the day or the end of day?

Just to be clear the cutline on the morning paper’s online pix says the fireworks on the Strip went off on Monday, Jan. 1.

Glad to clear that up for you.

Las Vegas Strip fireworks (R-J pix)

Editorial: Time to reopen Ash Springs to swimmers

File photo from Lincoln County Record

The Lincoln Country Record reported that the popular swimming hole at the Ash Springs hot springs north of Alamo was shut down because of possible safety hazards.

Someone had noticed a child playing near a wall of rocks that looked as if it might collapse any moment and a local law enforcement officer brought it to the attention of the Bureau of Land Management.

Victoria Barr of the Caliente BLM office told the newspaper, “The structural instability as well as bank erosion and undercutting has caused a concern for public safety.”

The report said the repairs might move slowly due to the presence of two federally protected fish — the Pahranagat roundtail chub and the White River springfish.

“The amount of time needed for repairs is uncertain at this time, but Barr thinks it could be, ‘weeks at this point,’” the paper recounted. “She said their plan is to go through an official closure, and then start a collaborative planning process with the stakeholders and other federal agencies. ‘We anticipate public meetings,’ she said, and when those meetings get scheduled, will be able to inform the public.”

Lincoln County Commissioner Adam Katschke said, “We miss having it open, especially the businesses in Alamo and Pahranagat Valley.”

Those “weeks at this point” have turned into four and half years. That report was published in July 2013 and the ol’ swimming hole remains closed to this day, testimony to the glacial pace of the federal land agencies that control 85 percent of the land in Nevada.

The Las Vegas newspaper reported recently that a BLM official said the agency is nearly finished with a draft environmental assessment for the site, but she could not predict when it might be made available for public scrutiny. So, paperwork has been pushed, but no dirt.

Local residents are said to be anxious to see Ash Springs reopen, but are concerned about how well the BLM would manage the popular tourist site if and when it does.

The paper quoted nearby land owner Cody Whipple as saying he and others would like to see the site turned into a small resort with fees collected for upkeep and repairs. He said the BLM is not in the resort business.

A group called Friends of Pahranagat Valley has stated they would like to create some soaking pools next to a fenced natural area where swimming would be prohibited to protect native plants and fish. Their plans include changing rooms, boardwalks and trails, improved restrooms, a paved parking lot, picnic pavilions, a playground and courts for basketball and sand volleyball.

According to Sunday editorial in the Las Vegas newspaper, the man in charge of the BLM, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, commented to the paper recently about the lengthy closure of Ash Springs, “This is exactly why the federal government needs to clean up our act. I’m not in the business of locking the public out.”

Zinke said Ash Springs will again be open and chided his agency for taking so long to resolve the issue. “We need to work with local communities and be better neighbors …” he was quoted as saying. “Local voices hadn’t been heard and people rightfully get upset when they get locked out.”

Perhaps a few of Zinke’s minions who would like to continue in their cushy, well-paid government jobs should pay heed to what the boss just said.

Whatever happens, it should be sooner rather than later for the benefit of the local residents and potential tourists who would help spur local businesses.

Frankly, the BLM should consider turning over the property to the state, county or a local entity — nonprofit or for-profit.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Bundy case secrecy being rightfully challenged

Bundy family exit court. (R-J pix)

Though the most recent trial of four defendants in the April 2014 standoff between armed protesters and Bureau of Land Management agents trying to confiscate Cliven Bundy’s cattle ended in a mistrial, the case will stand as an historic example of how sweeping secrecy can cast doubt on whether justice is being served.

This past week U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro halted testimony in the trial and sent the jurors home while she heard arguments behind closed doors over whether the prosecution had failed to provide the defense with potentially exculpatory evidence quickly enough. The judge said the prosecution’s repeated failure to timely disclose information was “sufficient to undermine the confidence in the outcome of the trial,” which she said could result in a mistrial. This week she declared a mistrial.

Attorney Maggie McLetchie — representing the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper and Battle Born Media, which publishes weekly newspapers in Mesquite, Ely, Eureka, Sparks and Lincoln and Mineral counties — promptly filed a motion seeking to intervene, which was granted. The newspapers are asking that all documents previously filed under seal be unsealed and that future hearings be conducted in open court.

In July 2016, despite objections from the newspapers, the judge granted the government’s request for a protective order that required nearly every piece of paper to be filed under seal due to some vague suspicions that witnesses and law enforcement officers might be subjected to threats or intimidation.

Though the case involves the April 2014 effort by the BLM to impound 500 head of Bundy’s cattle for failure to pay $1 million in grazing fees over two decades for his Bunkerville ranch, arrests of the original 19 defendants were not made until early 2016. Most remained jailed until recently on charges that include conspiracy, extortion, carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, threatening an officer and obstruction of justice.

The BLM released the cattle rather than risk a shootout.

The complex case, which includes an estimated 1.4 terabytes of electronic evidence, was broken into three trials. The first ended in a mistrial. At retrial two were acquitted and two pleaded to misdemeanors and were released on time served.

The just ended trial was the second and a third is scheduled for 30 days after this one ends, whenever that might be.

In arguing as to why the veil of secrecy should be lifted, McLetchie states that one of the most critical aspects of news reporting is to inform the public as to whether justice is being carried out, quoting a classic Supreme Court aphorism: “In short, justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.”

McLetchie goes on to say, “This shroud of secrecy is anathema to the presumption under the First Amendment and the common law that all documents filed with a court are presumptively public documents open for review and inspection. Moreover, closing hearings and filing documents under seal has prevented Intervenors from carrying out their constitutionally protected function of reporting the news. This is troublesome given the importance of this case, and the public’s right to know about the government’s handling of its investigation and prosecution …”

One of the documents apparently filed under seal — meaning the defendants can’t even discuss it — is an 18-page Nov. 27 memo from a BLM investigator to a Justice Department attorney alleging “a widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical, and legal violations” by BLM staffers involved in the Bundy case.

The memo was leaked to numerous newspapers. It is a rambling, often redundant, typo-filled diatribe against the agent’s supervisors and prosecutors.

The agent said he was dismissed from reviewing the Bundy case in February and his files confiscated. “Futhermore,” he wrote, “when I did report the misconduct, ethical, professional, and legal issues, I also became a victim of whistleblower retaliation.” He wrote that he “feels” the prosecutor’s judgment is “likely clouded by extreme personal and religious bias and a desire to win the case at all costs. I feel he is likely willing to ignore and fail to report exculpatory material, extreme bias and act unethically and possibly deceptively to win.”

Though it may well be a self-serving effort on the part of a BLM staff member scorned, this is the very thing the public should be allowed to evaluate.

McLetchie notes the tradition of openness “serves as a check on the judiciary because the public can ensure that judges are not merely serving as a rubber stamp” for law enforcement.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.