With Reid, the quality of mercy and memory sometimes seems a bit strained

Harry Reid and Bob Brown at Chamber of Commerce meeting in 2009.

I was wondering how the Review-Journal would handle the rich irony of Harry Reid nominating former R-J publisher Bob Brown, president of the Opportunity Village Foundation, to the National Council on Disability.

To my surprise the paper didn’t shirk.

“Brown is former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, whose editorial board frequently clashes with Reid and advocated against his re-election in 2010,” the R-J reported today. “After shaking his hand at a chamber event in 2009, Reid told Brown: ‘I hope you go out of business.’”

Brown was the paper’s advertising director at the time.

The account didn’t go into the details, such the fact Brown was named publisher less than a week after Reid was re-elected in November 2010. He replaced Sherman Frederick as publisher and Mike Ferguson took the other half of Frederick’s job as CEO of Stephens Media, the paper’s owners.

Both Brown and Ferguson were ousted from their jobs three years later, while Frederick remains a consultant, columnist and occasional blogger for the newspaper.

Frederick took considerable umbrage with Reid when he made that g0-out-of-business remark.

Frederick blogged:

“Such behavior cannot go unchallenged.

“You could call Reid’s remark ugly and be right. It certainly was boorish. Asinine? That goes without saying.

“But to fully capture the magnitude of Reid’s remark (and to stop him from doing the same thing to others) it must be called what it was — a full-on threat perpetrated by a bully who has forgotten that he was elected to office to protect Nevadans, not sound like he’s shaking them down.

“No citizen should expect this kind of behavior from a U.S. senator. It is certainly not becoming of a man who is the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. And it absolutely is not what anyone would expect from a man who now asks Nevadans to send him back to the Senate for a fifth term.

“If he thinks he can push the state’s largest newspaper around by exacting some kind of economic punishment in retaliation for not seeing eye to eye with him on matters of politics, I can only imagine how he pressures businesses and individuals who don’t have the wherewithal of the Review-Journal.

“For the sake of all who live and work in Nevada, we can’t let this bully behavior pass without calling out Sen. Reid. If he’ll try it with the Review-Journal, you can bet that he’s tried it with others. So today, we serve notice on Sen. Reid that this creepy tactic will not be tolerated.

“We won’t allow you to bully us. And if you try it with anyone else, count on going through us first.”

Though there were never any details that came my way, there were widespread rumors that Reid or one of his minions had in fact given a veiled threat to the owner of the newspaper chain.

I, on the other hand, shrugged off Reid’s remark and called it a ringing endorsement of the paper by Reid.

I invited the senator to drop by for an editorial board meeting:

“Thanks for the endorsement, Harry. Now, how about dropping by for an editorial board meeting to discuss health care reform and cap and trade? A little exposure to some libertarians might do you good. If you can eat jack rabbit stew, you can surely gnaw on a couple of sinewy editorialists.”

The rest is history.


News media adage: If it bleeds it ledes …

The Las Vegas newspaper sends out periodic emails to those who subscribe, describing the latest news posted on the paper’s web site.

It seems most of the headlines that warrant top play are about some sort of carnage.



Newspaper’s future?: You can’t be seen as biased if you offer no opinions

No editorial on governor's speech.

Portents of things to come at the surviving Las Vegas newspaper?

While the effort to eliminate the Sun as an insert in the Review-Journal is wending through the federal court to an inevitable conclusion, an interesting development in Philadelphia may foretell the future.

On Sept. 9, the Inquirer cut its opinion pages from two a day to one, reports Citypaper. One of the paper’s two editorial writers will be reassigned.

The reason given by management is that a recent survey found readers think the paper is biased. Thus the remedy was to cut opinion. You can’t be seen as biased if you express no opinions.

But the Citypaper quoted a newsroom source as saying, “I have heard from a number of credible places that there was a desire to eliminate the entire opinion section — all of the opinion pages —going back quite a while.”

Now, where have I heard that before?

Oh yes, when the new publisher, Bob Brown, took over at the R-J, he was asked during a meeting with newsroom staffers if there was something in the paper he would like to eliminate. He promptly replied: opinion.

They first fired the cartoonist. Then they agreed to let go the senior opinion editor. Then they let go the editorial page editor, followed by the assistant editorial page editor who was also a noted libertarian-leaning columnist with a considerable following. The paper is down to two people running the opinion pages.

Once the Sun is removed, what next will fall?

Mark my word. Just as I predicted the elimination of the Sun …

There can be consequences when newspapers print fiction, though not always

Most journalists know the moral of the story about Mitch Albom’s fictitious column.

Mitch Albom

In April 2005, the Detroit Free Press’ star sports columnist wrote in a Sunday column about how two former Michigan State basketball players, both then in the NBA, attended a Final Four semifinal game on Saturday night and wore Michigan State green to show their support.

But the column ran in a section of the paper that was printed before the game started, and the two NBA alums were no-shows.

For writing fiction in the guise of  journalism, Albom was suspended without pay for several weeks and four other staffers were “disciplined.”

In a front page letter to readers publisher and editor Carole Leigh Hutton apologized for the fabrication.

In a column Albom apologized too, “Perhaps it seems as a small detail to you … but details are the backbone of journalism, and planning to be somewhere is not the same as being there.”

I said most journalists know the moral of the story, but no all.

Publisher's column sig

Publisher’s column sig

In today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, publisher Bob Brown prints a homily under the headline: “We all share responsibility to spread Easter good will.”

In the column he writes: “But as I sit here in St. Anthony’s Church this morning, looking around at the bright young faces, dressed in their finest clothes, I am reminded of a simple truth: The message that ‘God is love’ transcends all conflict.”

Of course, the presses rolled long before the earliest of Easter Sunday services. And he may well have been in amen corner this morning while most people were reading the column and there may well have been “bright young faces, dressed in their finest clothes” along with the rest of their bodies, but he committed the sin of Mitch Albom.

I doubt the publisher will be suspended, like Albom was, for this journalistic transgression. Nor do I expect a front page apology. After all is was a “small detail.”

Shake-up at Review-Journal has almost shaken out

Thus far it appears the only one of the seven top editors at the Review-Journal to apply for one of the two positions that are open to them is Business Editor Jim Wright, which fits with the consensus that he has a lock to land the city desk/business editor position. Wright was an assistant city editor until April 2011, when he was named to replace summarily ousted Business Editor Michael Hiesiger.

Jim Wright, R-J business editor only one so far to apply for available openings.

I’m told City Editor Mary Hynes and Editorial Page Editor John Kerr, who are married and have a high school-age daughter, a senior I think, have not said what their intentions are, but that Managing Editor Charles Zobell, Features Editor Frank Fertado, Sports Editor Joe Hawk and Art Director Ched Whitney have opted to take the offered buyout, which includes for most 16 weeks of salary and some company-paid period for health insurance. Anyone who applies for the two openings and fails to be hired loses the buyout and is given a much smaller severance.

(Sounds like the decision has already been made and they are just giving hints and covering their assets on a legal basis. I’m not sure how much Mary Hausch won in her suit when I was hired to replace her as managing editor in 1989.)

Today may be the deadline for Hynes and Kerr to state their choice.

A dark horse candidate for the other opening — in the consolidation of seven jobs into two — is Assistant City Editor Mark Whittington for the sports/features editor job. That is strictly scuttlebutt from a few sources.

Keep an eye on this web page and see if they remember to update it.

I invite anyone with further information to email from a non-R-J address: thomasmnv@yahoo.com.