A little difference of opinions over covering the news

On his contribution-financed news website, The Nevada Independent, editor Jon Ralston posted a commentary, under the headline “Cutting off The Indy spites the public we serve,” this week complaining about public officials refusing to talk to his reporters — specifically state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller.

The piece quoted a Roberson aide as texting a reporter: “Senator Roberson only provides commentary to reputable news outlets. He does not consider The Nevada Independent as such.”

At one point Ralston suggested that elected officials refusing to talk to certain reporters was tantamount to violating public records laws.

He proclaimed:

“This is not about me or our team of journalists whining about access. This is about public officials, staffers, and agencies depriving the public of important information, context and nuance. They are not hurting me or The Indy. They are sullying the civic fabric by preventing access to information that drives essential public dialogue.

“Finally, a word on a laughable claim. Roberson, Laxalt and Heller have whispered that I am a Democratic partisan. Not only is that not so, but it is low to insinuate and patently false to say that any of our news stories have a partisan slant. Indeed, anyone who knows any of our reporters knows none of them would stand for me trying to inject my bias into their stories, even if I tried, which I never have and never would.”

 

In the online-no-love-lost-between-rivals there came a couple of rejoinders.

Victor Joecks, a conservative Review-Journal columnist, responded on Twitter with this critique: “Free advice: Conflating a govt official not responding to a reporter’s request for comment with a govt official not answering a public information request is one of the reasons folks think you’re a hack and just out to smear them.”

But conservative blogger Chuck Muth unleashed a 1,200-word diatribe that had to leave a welt.

Muth pointed that two days earlier Ralston had penned a screed in which he outlined the standards The Nevada Independent would use to cover elections. Ralston said that “there is no public benefit in covering candidates who have clearly demonstrated they are unfit for public office or who have zero chance of getting elected no matter what coverage they get.”

To which Muth replied, “In short, Blogger Jon will subjectively decide who is a credible candidate worthy of attention and who isn’t.”

Muth twisted the knife:

It seems a number of candidates and elected officials don’t consider the Ralston Rag to be a credible news organization and have been refusing to give his newsblog the time of day.

Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson is quoted as saying he only “provides commentary to reputable news outlets” and “does not consider The Nevada Independent as such.”

In other words, Roberson is treating Ralston the exact same way Ralston, just two days earlier, announced he’ll be treating certain candidates based on credibility.  Shoe on the other foot.  Sauce for the goose.

Ralston went on to spew forth his venom at Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller for also blowing off interview requests from the Ralston Rag, whining that such blacklisting “is not just puerile (Jon loves to use fancy words to appear smarter than everyone else); it’s unethical and unconscionable.”

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Don’t abandon the faithful in a futile bid for a younger audience

Perhaps there is a metaphor in here somewhere for newspapers in general and the new publisher of the Las Vegas newspaper in particular.

We just returned from the 57th annual Monterey Jazz Festival. The program has a feature story titled “Big House With Many Rooms” that carried the subhed: “Rebuilding jazz for a new century.”

The article talked about the younger generation of musicians and the evolution of the century-old genre called jazz. It prominently featured Saturday night’s big attraction in the main arena: The Roots. The Roots weren’t jazz, they weren’t music, they were rap. We walked out near the end of the first “song” and listened to a piano driven quartet in one of the side venues. We feared that would be the case but gave the band a chance.

The Roots

We also walked out of two of the arena acts on Friday night — left the Robert Glasper Experiment when the singer’s voice came screeching from some sort of synthesizer and fled the venerable Herbie Hancock when the only sounds coming from his keyboards were as melodic as a cat with its tail caught in the wringer.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with experimentation and innovation — that is how jazz got its name. But it still should be music. You don’t one day decide to publish the newspaper in pig latin.

We loved the off-beat, belted-out blues of Davina and the Vagabonds and were sorry we only got to hear a couple of tunes from Red Baraat, a group from the Indian province of Brooklyn whose leader, Sunny Jain, encouraged the audience to do a Punjabi fist jab to the beat of their music. Also enjoyed Australian singer-pianist Sarah McKenzie on the Garden stage, as well as SambaDa’s Brazilian tunes.

Booker T. Jones of Booker T. and the MGs fame was still innovating but playing actual musical notes.

Jon Batiste & Stay Human rocked the arena with New Orleans-style stage antics and a parade around the arena while playing the melodica.

Marcus Miller’s band played a tune called Blast, which was influenced by a recent trip to Istanbul. (Sorry, Marcus, Dave Brubeck did that 50 years ago.)

Michael Feinstein closed out the festival on Sunday in the arena with “The Sinatra Project” — not imitating Sinatra but singing and playing Ol’ Blue Eyes his way. He did a Cole Porter tune that Sinatra never performed during his collaboration with Nelson Riddle in the Riddle style. Speaking of the next generation, Feinstein was backed by the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, made up of high school musicians.

Newspapers are running celebrity gossip, social media rip-offs and lengthy features about youth trends, fashion and so-called music. At least the Las Vegas newspaper has nearly given up on blogs. Haven’t received a “Columns and Blogs” email notice since Aug. 15.

When you go seeking a new, younger audience, be careful to not alienate the faithful.

Jon Batiste & Stay Human

Jon Batiste & Stay Human

Here are a few bootleg videos grabbed off YouTube:

Booker T. without the MGs:

Davina and the Vagabonds:

Red Baraat:

SambaDa:

Charles Lloyd:

Jon Batiste & Stay Human (that’s us in the stands at the back of the arena behind the guy in the red shirt):

Michael Feinstein: