This is the scrappiest the Review-Journal and Sun have been in some time.
On Friday the morning paper published an editorial explaining why it was seeking a court ruling to end its Joint Operating Agreement with what now is a daily insert. It said, “We are asking a court to rule that the Sun has not met a contractual obligation to produce a high-quality metropolitan print newspaper.”
That day’s Sun had a column by a Nevada congresswoman, a feature on historic preservation, a local editorial and editorial cartoon, letters to the editor and a locally generated sports story about Big Ten football. The rest of the 8-page section was syndicated features and columns.
Today the morning paper came back with a news story about the court filing, repeating what was in the editorial but also quoting the paper’s lawyer, as well as a journalism prof on the demise of JOAs. The story concludes by reporting, “The Review-Journal filing is in response to a 2018 Sun complaint that raised concerns about the distribution of profits under the joint operating agreement and how the Sun is promoted in the joint newspaper.”
Meanwhile, back in the insert, there is an editorial under the headline: “The Sun refuses to kneel before Sheldon Adelson — and you should too.” It declares, “It is a desperate move and behind a tissue of dishonesty lies the real motive: the R-J longs to silence the Sun and be the only voice in daily newspapers in this community.”
Actually, as the R-J points out, the Sun would be free to keep printing and trying to sell its feeble content. The Sun’s website today has what appears to be eight locally produced items that do not appear in the printed product. The printed product seldom contains any breaking news.
The Sun screed claims it won the 2018 litigation over distribution of profits, saying, “This move also comes after the R-J lost a recent arbitration between the Sun and the R-J. Not only did the arbitrator reject the R-J’s predatory interpretation of the contract and adopted the Sun’s interpretation, but the arbitrator made an award to the Sun for the money the Review-Journal has wrongfully withheld from the Sun each year. Those are funds that support the Sun’s newsroom. The consequences of that ruling in favor of the Sun will be in effect for the next 20 years.”
The amount of the settlement is not mentioned and no news story about the end of the arbitration is to found anywhere.
The Sun piece accuses the R-J of trying to “monopolize the ideas of the day,” though the Sun prints a weekly tabloid and maintains a website with more content than it deigns to print and there are competing websites produced by the Nevada Independent and the Nevada Current, as well as a number of local online commenters and bloggers. Countless national publications are available for home delivery and online.
Why the Sun even protests is a head-scratcher.
In January 2018 Sun putative editor Brian Greenspun posted an online note telling readers they would start being charged for website usage because profits from the R-J had dried up. “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,” he wrote.
Under the JOA the Sun was to get a percentage of the profits of the R-J. If there are no profits …
Apparently the Sun dropped the paywall after getting few takers.