Two news accounts of same event are widely disparate

Seldom is seen such disparate accounts of the same event.

Today’s morning newspaper and its inert insert both carried reports about a court ruling Wednesday. The morning paper’s lede was about a Clark County judge staying a final ruling in the state litigation between the two newspapers until a federal court resolves an antitrust suit filed by the owner of the insert. The final paragraph of the insert’s story mentions this fact.

The lede in the insert is that the county judge agreed with an arbitrator that the morning paper’s accounting practices denied the insert a fair share of the morning paper’s actual profits — an amount that could well be in the millions of dollars. In the middle of the morning paper’s account there is a mention that the judge refused to include the arbitrator’s decision in his stay, concluding that part of the case has been resolved. No mention was made of the dollar value.

Seldom do both papers cover the same event. In fact the insert seldom covers hard news at all, except in its online version and most of that is about entertainment, sports or crime.

The papers combined printing and business operations in 1989 under the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, which allowed newspapers to avoid antitrust laws while preserving what the law saw as “a newspaper press editorially and reportorially independent and competitive …” by keeping a failing newspaper from going out of business.

At first the failing paper was printed in the afternoon, but later it was converted into a 6- to 10-page insert when the so-called joint operating agreement (JOA) was renegotiated and the contract extended to 2040. The insert’s owner was to receive a share of the morning paper’s profits, which apparently have been near zero of late.

For the past two years the two have been fighting it out in the courts with the morning paper saying the insert has failed to live up to the intention of the Newspaper Preservation Act and the JOA should be terminated. A morning paper editorial explained its suit by saying, “We are asking a court to rule that the Sun has not met a contractual obligation to produce a high-quality metropolitan print newspaper.”

The editorial went on to charge:

The Sun would be free to have someone else print, sell and distribute their newspaper, if they wish. The Sun has a website loaded with breaking news and timely features, as well as sister publications that are filled with content produced by Sun staff. The vast majority of this content never appears in the printed Sun edition, anyway.

And that’s a major reason why we’re bringing this court action. In our opinion, the Sun’s print edition is a stale combination of dated wire service stories and columns packaged around a couple of staff reports and photos that are sometimes a week old.

The insert countered with an editorial under the headline: “The Sun refuses to kneel before Sheldon Adelson — and you should too.” It declared, “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.” Casino owner Adelson’s family bought the morning paper in late 2015.

Coverage of this internecine conflict is as “competitive” as the two papers have gotten in years.

According to Wikipedia, there are only five JOAs left, while two dozen JOAs have been terminated.

Morning newspaper file pix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial: Bill language should not allow water grab

A growing number of public and private entities are joining a concerted effort to make sure a bill pending before Congress does not inadvertently create a means for Clark County to tap rural groundwater, though Clark County officials protest that is not the intent of the proposal.

According to Great Basin Water Network (GBWN) — a coalition of conservationists, rural officials, tribes and agricultural interests — there are fears that the wording in the proposed Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act, whether intentional or not, could skirt a federal judge’s ruling blocking a proposed 300-mile right-of-way for a network of water pipelines.

The bulk of the bill, not yet introduced in Congress, proposes freeing up more than 40,000 acres of public land in Clark County for economic development, but two sections at the end of the 21-page bill call for the Interior Department to give the Southern Nevada Water Authority rights-of-way for an electric power line that “shall be subject only to the terms, conditions and stipulations identified in the existing rights-of-way, and shall not be subject to further administrative or judicial review. The right-of-way shall be granted in perpetuity and shall not require the payment of rental fees.” Opponents fear that a right-of-way for a power line could just as easily be used for pipelines.

Two years ago a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) could grant the water agency right-of-way for its network of pipelines to take groundwater beneath White Pine, Lincoln and Nye counties, but first it had to come up with plans to mitigate the potential loss of wildlife habitat due to a draw down of the water table, as is required by the CleanWater Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

That might prove to be impossible, since federal studies show the interconnected aquifers are already at equilibrium — meaning water that is now being drawn from the aquifers is being replaced gallon for gallon annually with no leeway for additional withdrawal. The water agency proposes to withdraw 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year. The project is projected to cost more than $15 billion and could triple water rates in Clark County.

This past week more than a dozen entities joined in opposition to Congress approving the right-of-way proposal. These include several Nevada and Utah counties, three Indian tribes and a number of environmental groups.

“What Clark County is proposing is a pro-pipeline bill,” said Kyle Roerink, executive director of the GBWN. “Elected officials, attorneys, and non-profit organizations that span Nevada, Utah and the region all agree: The SNWA wants the congressional delegation to carry its water by surreptitiously advancing a project that has consistently lost in federal and state courts. The Nevada delegation deserves better than sneaky end-runs masked as technicalities. For now, the name of the bill should be the Great Basin Water Grab Act of 2019.”

A resolution passed by the Duckwater Shosone Tribe warned, “Science has shown that the pipeline would ultimately destroy Bashsahwahbee, killing off Swamp Cedars and drying up the Sacred Water Valley’s springs and aquifers that plant and wildlife currently depend upon.”

A spokesman for the water authority told the Las Vegas newspapers there is no intention to use the right-of-way for anything other than power lines. Though he thought the language was sufficiently clear, he said it has been modified recently. Another official offered that it might be further altered to allay concerns.

Clark County could use the economic development. Changing the language in the bill should satisfy the opposition.

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.

Nevada State Sen. Pete Goicoechea and Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, discuss efforts by Clark County to tap rural groundwater. (Pix by Roger Moellendorf)

 

Newspaper spat: Tit for tat

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.

 

 

 

 

Morning paper seeks to jettison insert

Who didn’t see this coming?

According to a front page editorial in the Las Vegas newspaper, the paper has filed litigation seeking to terminate the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) under which the Las Vegas Sun is printed as a separate 6- to 10-page section in the morning newspaper.

The editorial says the contract — which when first signed in 1989 had the Sun printed by the Review-Journal as an afternoon newspaper but was revised in 2005 to make the Sun an insert — obligates the two newspapers to “preserve the high standards of newspaper quality … consistent with United States metropolitan daily newspapers.” Instead, the editorial correctly describes the Sun’s print edition as a “stale combination of dated wire service stories and columns packaged around a couple of staff reports and photos that are sometimes a week old.”

The current JOA doesn’t expire for 20 years.

The problem is not so much quality as cost. Newsprint is not cheap and recent tariffs have made it more costly.

Back in 2013 the Sun’s putative editor Brian Greenspun filed an affidavit in court saying that in 2008, when the recession hit, the Sun’s share of profits from the R-J fell 90 percent to a meager $1.3 million a year.

In January 2018 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.

The R-J editorial accuses the Sun of neglecting its responsibility to produce a quality newspaper section. The Sun has been phoning it in for years.

The Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 reads in part:

In the public interest of maintaining a newspaper press editorially and reportorially independent and competitive in all parts of the United States, it is hereby declared to be the public policy of the United States to preserve the publication of newspapers in any city, community, or metropolitan area where a joint operating arrangement has been heretofore entered into because of economic distress or is hereafter effected in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

One question though: Where is the news story about the litigation?

R-J photo

Watch the morning newspaper disappear before your very eyes

The big squeeze is on at the morning newspaper here in town.

Today the paper not only dropped the TV page, which it had warned was coming, but it also dropped the entire Health section, instead slapping a page on the back of the B section. Today’s paper is 34 pages compared to 38 pages a week ago.

A little note on the cover of the paper explains this, in case you also missed it. The note says the Variety page, which includes crossword puzzles and advice columns, will be in the B sections now Monday through Saturday. Hmmmm. We wonder if that means the Tuesday and Thursday Life sections and the Wednesday Taste section will be disappearing, too. But it would be difficult to move those to the back of the B section, since that is where the former Business section was relegated to sometime ago.

A year ago the Sunday Viewpoints opinion section shrunk from six to four pages.

By the way, that warning about the TV page disappearing also noted that an eight-page edition of TV schedules will be included in Sunday Review-Journal editions sold at newsstands, but not included in the papers delivered to homes of people who, you know, actually still are willing to pay for subscriptions to the ever shrinking newspaper.

But don’t worry, that delightful 8-page section called the Sun, with its single local story and the occasional locally written, uber-liberal editorial, will still be there. The contract doesn’t expire until 2040.

This past year tariffs on Canadian newsprint caused the price to increase 30 to 35 percent.

All the news that’s fit to … not print?

On Friday afternoon the Review-Journal published online an article about a massive wind farm proposed for the Nevada-California border being rejected by the BLM.

The article has yet to appear in print. Not Saturday. Not Sunday.

Isn’t that something the Sun does all the time? Is the R-J becoming more like the Sun? Heaven forbid!

A sign marks the state border near where 220 wind turbines were proposed for construction. (R-J pix)

 

 

Sun takes cheap shot at owner of newspaper into which it is inserted

We do believe the Jewish owner of the Sun insert in the morning newspaper just called out the Jewish owner of that morning newspaper.

In an editorial about a spike in hate crimes for which it blames President Trump the Sun alleges:

For one, Trump’s Jewish financial backers must take responsibility for the president giving aid, comfort and recruiting material to white supremacists.

In backing Trump and his agenda, these donors are helping anti-Semitism thrive in America and putting Jews increasingly at risk by figuratively providing matches to light the torches of extremists.

Trump’s Jewish backers are engaging in self-interested, history-denying behavior — you’d have to imagine the NAACP funding the Ku Klux Klan to find something as perversely self-destructive.

The owner of the morning paper is the family of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who have given $113 million to GOP causes this election year. Trump is giving Miriam the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday.

The Sun — which is owned by the family of Brian Greenspun, who is CEO, publisher and editor — editorially links Trump’s so-called embrace of nationalism with “white supremacy” and sees a causality link between that and a rise in hate crimes, especially anti-Semitic ones, such as the mass shooting at a synagogue in the Pittsburgh area.

It further pokes Adelson in the eye by saying, “Americans won’t stand for this corrosion of our values, as they showed during this year’s midterm referendum on Trump. That was particularly true in Nevada, where candidates who aligned themselves with Trump got destroyed in the balloting in favor of those calling for an end to the administration’s divisive politics.”

Adelson’s morning newspaper editorially endorsed virtually every one of those losing candidates and Adelson generously contributed to many of them.

The Sun is inserted into the morning paper under a joint operating agreement (JOA) that began in 1990 and runs through 2040. The Newspaper Preservation Act allows competing newspapers to skirt anti-trust law and combine operations if one of them is about to go out of business, which the Sun was at the time.

The Sun in the past has sued the morning paper disputing the amount of money it received under the agreement. That went to private arbitration. In January the Sun started charging for access to online content, saying it was no longer getting a share of profits from the JOA because there are no profits.

We wonder how much longer this pissing match can continue.