A dedicated journalist who covered the world still does … in a way

A rainbow formed in Red Rock Canyon as friends gathered to spread the ashes of a colleague.

A rainbow formed in Red Rock Canyon as friends gathered to spread the ashes of a colleague.

Laura Myers covered the world for The Associated Press and several newspapers, including the Las Vegas newspaper, now a little a bit of her ashes have been spread in far flung reaches of the world.

On Sunday a dozen friends and former co-workers spread the last of those ashes at Red Rock Canyon, where she loved to hike and climb. Ashes also have been spread at Lake Tahoe and in California, I think, and recently Jeff and Jenny Scheid left some along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, which Laura had said she wanted to hike. Myers died of cancer in June of 2015 at the age of 53, before that could happen.

Her obituary by close friend Jane Ann Morrison described her passion:

She lived to work. Though diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in March 2013, she worked steadily until six weeks before her death. Despite excruciating pain, she was a prolific writer, breaking news and crafting stories that were thorough, accurate, clear and fair. She kept her personal political leanings to herself and out of her stories, though activists from each major party often accused her of leaning one way or another.

She was so concerned about not showing or even forming any inkling of bias toward any of the candidates she covered that she told me she refused to vote in any of the races she was covering.

Myers was inducted in the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame a year ago to commemorate her remarkable career, which began in 1984 at the Reno Gazette-Journal:

The Associated Press hired her in 1988, first to cover news in Carson City, then San Francisco-San Jose, Calif., where she covered the Rodney King riots.

She would leave and return to the news cooperative several times over a 20-year career. Her first departure was in 1992, when she joined the Peace Corps in a remote village in Togo, West Africa.

In 1995, the news agency offered her a plum job covering politics, foreign affairs, the military and national security in Washington.

The AP had to wait, though, because Myers had a three-month contract with the American Refugee Committee, managing logistics at a refugee camp in Goma, Zaire, now the Congo.

During the 1990s and 2000s, aside from her day jobs, she worked with Habitat for Humanity in Uganda, Mongolia and New York.

After another stint with AP, in 2007 she worked for Food for All of Washington, distributing food to the needy and the elderly.

As Morrison explained, Laura Myers was a huge movie fan, and it was the movie “The Way” that inspired her desire to trek the Camino de Santiago.

I hired Laura in 2010 to cover the senatorial campaign on the recommendations of two of her friends and former co-workers — Morrison and Laura Wingard.

Laura Myers

Laura Myers

I think I first understood what a talented reporter Laura was when I read her profile of Sharron Angle, then a long-shot but the eventual nominee of the Republican Party to take on Harry Reid in 2010. It was the first time the people of Nevada got an unvarnished glimpse of this hard-driving, tough-talking, and deeply-devout politician.

You can tell the true mettle of a journalist by what she has written.

Myers and friends on a peak at Red Rock

Myers and friends on a peak at Red Rock

The profile was skillfully crafted, using metaphors to paint a word portrait of a many-layered candidate. It was matter of fact, without the judgmental tilting so many liberal journalists resorted to in reporting on Angle as a Bible-thumping, pistol-waving grandma — though Laura conceded later that she was a bit surprised when Angle showed her the pistol she carried in her pickup.

Laura wove anecdotes into political insight. The story was no cream puff though. It noted that four out of 10 voters did not recognize Angle’s name with less than three months until the primary. It quoted one of those ubiquitous experts as saying her chances for the nomination were slim.

In her obituary Morrison quoted then-Deputy Editor James G. Wright, who had worked with Myers in Algeria, as saying,  “Laura was absolutely fearless, and she was one of the smartest and toughest people I’ve ever known. She had a great sense of humor, truly cared about people and was intensely loyal to her friends, but at the same time she was a loner. She made her own way in the world, on her own terms, and she didn’t give a damn if anyone else liked it or not. She embodied the Nevada spirit.”

Hers was an indomitable spirit.

memory

Friends gather to spread ashes.

 

Some things just don’t seem to hold their value — such as induction into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame

Some things just aren’t as significant as they used to be.

I’m sure there was a nice story and photo in the paper back around the turn of the century when Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick was inducted in the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame. That was before electronic archives.

When longtime R-J investigative reporter A.D. Hopkins was inducted into the Hall in 2010 there was a nice writeup in the paper and I penned a column on the topic.

When R-J capital bureau chief Ed Vogel was inducted in 2012 there was a glowing account of his storied career. I mentioned Vogel’s Hall of Fame status in a blog once.

In 2014, the induction of Dave Sanford, whose family ran the Mason Valley News in Yerington for decades, and Brian Greenspun, editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, warranted a sidebar in the paper.

But in 2015 when the late R-J political reporter Laura Myers was inducted the news was fully contained in the third paragraph of a story about the paper’s Nevada Newspaper Association awards. AP carried a short story. I defended Myers’ reputation in a blog earlier this year and remarked on her passing at the time.

On Sunday the paper reported the induction of former, 30-plus-years columnist John L. Smith. The news was contained in the third from last paragraph of an awards story: “John L. Smith, a longtime columnist for the Review-Journal, was inducted to the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame.”

Talk about deflation in value. I wonder why that is.

Smith doing commentary at KNPR

John L. Smith doing commentary at KNPR

 

Laura Myers

Laura Myers

 

Ed Vogel

Ed Vogel

 

A.D. Hopkins

A.D. Hopkins

 

Sherman Frederick

Sherman Frederick

Rhetoric as a mirror

What you say about someone else usually says more about you than about them.

Take the rambling screed by Andrew Kiraly in the current issue of Desert Companion, a slick magazine produced by Nevada Public radio, about the new ownership of the Review-Journal:

“A traumatic legacy of abusive owners, managers and operating philosophies are to blame for the stupid and terrible behavior: out-of-touch editorial screeds that sound like conservative Gilded Age cosplay, or a rightward slant that sometimes skews the front page, or badly concealed revanchist ideological crusades run through its political reportage. (For instance, if you recall the R-J’s coverage of the 2010 Harry Reid-Sharron Angle senate race, you might have received the mistaken impression that Reid was a slavering socialist, and that Angle was something other than a grasping, unhinged demagogue.)”

The parenthetical is the writer’s. Tells more about the viewpoint and political vector of the writer than anything about the actual news coverage of that race, which mostly was from Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame journalist the late-Laura Myers. Any characterization of her coverage as anything but fair is delusional. The columns and editorials are another matter, but that’s not “coverage.”

Illustration accompanying said screed.

 

A good journalist lost too soon

Longtime friends Laura Wingard, Laura Myers and Jane Ann Morrison in 1987 (From R-J website)

We lost another good journalist this week. The Review-Journal’s political reporter, Laura Myers, 53, died Friday of colon cancer, which she had been battling for more than two years.

I hired Laura in 2010 to cover the senatorial campaign on the recommendations of two of her friends and former co-workers — Jane Ann Morrison and Laura Wingard. (Morrison wrote both a news obituary and a column for today’s paper. Both pieces tell a comprehensive story about the heart and soul of a dedicated journalist and humanitarian.)

I think I first understood what a talented reporter Laura was when I read her profile of Sharron Angle, then a long-shot but the eventual nominee of the Republican Party to take on Harry Reid in 2010. It was the first time the people of Nevada got an unvarnished glimpse of this hard-driving, tough-talking, and deeply-devout politician.

You can tell the true mettle of a journalist by what she has written.

The profile was skillfully crafted, using metaphors to paint a word portrait of a many-layered candidate. It was matter of fact, without the judgmental tilting so many liberal journalists resorted to in reporting on Angle as a Bible-thumping, pistol-waving grandma — though Laura conceded later that she was a bit surprised when Angle showed her the pistol she carried in her pickup.

Until I tracked down the story this morning, I had forgotten that it opened with an account of Angle being nearly paralyzed by a tumor on her spine years previously. That was a little unsettling.

Laura wove anecdotes into political insight, such as when she wrote about Angle singing a silly song with her 2½-year-old grandson. The song was from a then-popular cartoon movie “Veggie Pirate.”

Laura wrote:

“We are the pirates who don’t do anything,” the cartoon vegetables sing in nasal tones.
“We just stay home and lie around.
“And if you ask us to do anything.
“We’ll just tell you, we don’t do anything.”

Angle explained that it reminded her of Washington gridlock.

The story was no cream puff though. It noted that four out of 10 voters did not recognize Angle’s name with less than three months until the primary. It quoted one of those ubiquitous experts as saying her chances for the nomination were slim.

The piece ended thusly:

“They are just going at it,” Angle smiles, referring to her top two GOP opponents. They have all but ignored Angle, a tactic they might regret if she overcomes long odds and makes a primary comeback.

The GOP warfare somehow reminds Angle of the book she wrote and self-published called “Prairie Fire.” It centers on the tragic death of a member of her German-speaking immigrant family several generations ago after they moved to South Dakota from Europe following the Civil War.

Those settlers used to live in dugouts, or sod houses, that were essentially buried underground, protecting them from the cold in winter and the heat in summer.

A fire raged across the prairie one day. Most of Angle’s ancestors survived by huddling in the sod house as the blaze overran it. But her great grandmother burned to death while trying to salvage a few pieces of laundry from the clothesline before the fire engulfed the dry grasses.

“The fire got her,” says Angle, whose best hope might be to let the GOP primary flames ravage the exposed competition, leaving her the sole survivor, gathering up enough votes to win.

Frankly, that is a pretty decent metaphor for what happened.

As a political reporter she tried to be as objective as possible — to the point of telling me she refused to cast a ballot in any political race she was covering so her own mind could remain as open as possible.

Journalism and humanity have lost a good one too soon. Over the years cancer has taken and/or crippled too many good people I have known, loved, worked with and admired. Cancer research charities are good ways to remember and pay tribute to those we’ve lost in hopes that in the future good people can stay with us longer.

Sharron Angle with her grandson. (R-J photo)

 

 

 

Reid has a history of making baseless allegations

Though Harry Reid admits he lied in 2012 when he said Mitt Romney had not paid IRS taxes in 10 years, he is completely unrepentant.

“I have no repentance, because it was an issue that was important,” Reid is quoted as saying. “This has been an issue of mine for a long time.”

In another interview, he quipped, “Romney didn’t win, did he?”

Harry Reid speaking at luncheon in Las Vegas this past week. (R-J photo)

Yes, it has been an issue of his for a long time, though Reid refuses to release any of his tax returns, saying his annual financial disclosures in Congress are sufficient, though those forms only report income and investments in broad ranges. His 2014 disclosure form places his net worth at between $2.9 million and $6.7 million.

Reid did release his IRS returns once and demanded that his opponent and his family do the same. That was in 1974 when he ran against Paul Laxalt for the Senate and lost by 611 votes.

“Any man or woman who will not be completely candid about his or her finances does not deserve to be in public office,” Reid said, according to an Associated Press report.

According to a 2012 Review-Journal account by Laura Myers at the time Reid was saying Romney paid no taxes, in the 1974 race Reid questioned how former Gov. Laxalt could pay $7.5 million for the Ormsby House hotel-casino in Carson City and questioned Laxalt’s ties to Howard Hughes who was buying casinos on the Strip in Las Vegas and the land that is now Summerlin.

Laxalt complied. It turned out he was worth about $200,000, excluding the hotel, and Reid was worth about $300,000.

It also turned out Laxalt’s sister was a nun who had taken a vow of poverty, and Reid later admitted that made him look bad.

That appears to be his only regret, that it made him look bad.

Considering Reid’s recent injuries, which he said occurred when an elastic exercise band broke and sent him tumbling into a cabinet in his Henderson home, and his decision to not seek re-election, the ending on a 2014 story about Reid’s history of shenanigans seems rather prophetic:

“Reid, who will turn 75 in December, plans to run for reelection in 2016. His reelection is assured, thanks for his extensive and powerfully entrenched political machine. After that, whether he is removed from the Senate on a gurney or in handcuffs remains to be seen.”

 

 

Las Vegas newspaper caves in to the politically correct crowd and uses ‘undocumented’ instead of ‘illegal’

After seeing those double-barrel op-eds in the Las Vegas Review-Journal a couple of weeks ago by Fatma Marouf and Patricia Vázquez, saying the use of the term “illegal” was dehumanizing and inaccurate, I knew it was merely a matter of time before the paper’s current management would bend under pressure and change how it labels those in the country illegally.

Jump page for story that accedes to demands to use the term ‘undocumented’ for illegal immigrants.

As editor of the paper for more than two decades, I resisted the constant pleas from the politically correct types to drop the Associated Press style “illegal immigrant” in favor of “undocumented” immigrant or worker. The latter term is simply imprecise and misleading, suggesting misplaced paperwork instead of willful defiance of the country’s immigration law.

Today the PC crowd won. In Laura Myers’ story on the attorney general speaking at La Raza here, she twice uses the term illegal immigrants but also uses the terms “undocumented” immigrants, “disenfranchised” immigrants, “young” immigrants and just plain immigrants.

On the other hand, Glenn Cook’s column uses the term “illegal immigrant” and Charles Krauthammer uses the AP frowned-upon term “illegal alien.” So, there doesn’t appear to be a blanket ban, yet.

For years the AP Stylebook has stated: “illegal immigrant Used to describe those who have entered the country illegally, it is the preferred term, rather than illegal alien or undocumented worker. Do not use the shortened term illegals.”

Late this past year the AP weakened but did not knuckle under entriely by adding this language: “Acceptable variations include living in the country without legal permission. Use of these terms, as with any terms implying illegalities, must be based on reliable information about a person’s true status.”

In her op-ed in the R-J, Marouf argued, “Calling these individuals ‘illegal’ before an immigration judge has had the opportunity to examine their cases is like calling someone charged with a crime a ‘criminal’ before the outcome of the trial.”

A certain blogger I know blew major holes in that bogus argument with this rather amusing hypothetical:

Imagine that an FBI agent appears before Congress to report on an increase in bank robberies and some suggested changes to more easily apprehend the culprits.

“Last year we had to deal with 6,000 bank robberies in America,” the agent begins. “The bank robbers typically …

“Wait,” a congresscritter interrupts him. “Our country has a principle of respecting the presumption of innocence as a fundamental right. I cannot allow you to carelessly wield the word ‘bank robber,’ effectively passing sentence on the person before a judge has done so. After all, some of these people may have just gotten confused, tried to withdraw money in excess of their current account balance. So please let’s not demonize this entire class of people. Instead, in your testimony, I’d like you to refer only to ‘persons who withdrew cash from our banks in a context in which their account balance sufficiency was unknown or unclear.’ Could you do that for me, please, Agent Jones?”

Would this facilitate a clear and coherent discussion of possible means of reversing a growth in bank robberies? Of course not. Such a nonsense formulation could be designed only to CRIPPLE such a discussion.

If you think that one is ludicrous, just read this blogger’s depiction of Agent Jones trying to testify about pedophiles … or “youth romance mentors.”

This blogger recognizes the Orwellian concept: He who controls the language controls the debate.

By the by, gentle reader, both Cook and Krauthammer do an excellent job of following up on a previous posting here about the Imperial President issuing edicts instead of following the law.

Krauthammer is shocked into the use of an exclamation point:

Consider this breathtaking cascade: An administration violates its constitutional duty to execute the law by deliberately refusing to enforce it. It then characterizes its non-enforcement as simply establishing priorities. It then tries to strike down a state law on immigration on the grounds that it contradicts federal law — by actually trying to enforce it!

Cook then reveals what Obama did after the Supreme Court upheld a major portion of Arizona’s immigration law:

He announced federal authorities would not respond to calls to verify the immigration status of anyone detained by Arizona police — in violation of federal law — unless they’re violent offenders, fugitives or people who’ve been deported previously. Obama then terminated every 287(g) partnership in the state. The agreements allow local police to verify the immigration status of suspects in custody. Those 287(g) partnerships remain in force in more than 30 other states, including Nevada.

Talk about arbitrary and extralegal. Or are we allowed to talk about that? It might offend someone to use accurate and precise language.