Another change of pace and face at the Las Vegas newspaper

In politics it’s called “the optics.” No matter what you say or do, it also matters how it looks.

With today’s farewell column by Jane Ann Morrison — she’s being switched in the “reorganization” from general interest news columnist to covering city hall, she says — the visible staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal is visibly bereft of distaff faces and voices.

Jane Ann Morrison's farewell column.

Jane Ann Morrison’s farewell column.

City editor Mary Hynes was let go some time ago and more recently newsdesk editor Mary Greeley was shown the door, along with many others, now Jane Ann’s auburn locks are being removed from sight. Yes, I remember when she announced “my column would discuss my first time … coloring my hair.” And, yes, to my masculine amazement it generated considerable attention and general amusement among the paper’s readers — male and female. It was a topic that would have never crossed my mind.

The only female face to be seen in the “reorganization” or cronyization is someone named Blue Ash, who was named publisher of Luxury magazine, a niche pub that tilts heavily to the female demographic. Ash was the division sales manager at the magazine and there was no publisher. So, basically she got a new title.

I did not cockroach* Jane Ann’s farewell column so she could move on with her own words out first.

She hit the high points in this last column from her 10 years of alternately sharing the Nevada section cover with John L. Smith. We disagreed on whether judges should be appointed instead of elected. We agreed on giving patients easier access to doctor’s backgrounds and malpractice history. Her pieces on the hoarder were disturbing but accomplished some good for the hoarder and his neighbors — something journalists strive for: making a difference.

As she herself pointed out, (“I was loved and loathed, depending on the reader’s point of view, because I was paid to have an opinion. Now I’ll be paid to be fair and accurate.”) she’ll have a hard time walking up to the mayor, whose state of the city speech she largely panned, and saying: “Hello, I’m here to be an objective reporter. Pay no attention to all those opinions and comments behind the curtain of ancient history.” Jane Ann can do it, but it’ll be a whiplash transition.

I guess that promise in that editorial “to keep popular columns in familiar places” didn’t apply to the news section.

At least, unlike so many others with decades of experience as reporters and editors at the Review-Journal, she has a job for now. But she and all those who remain will have to remember to keep dodging the wrecking ball and hope the boss doesn’t have some crony from L.A. or Denver who wants your job. Good luck, Jane Ann. Keep your head down.

*Cockroach: A old Texas journalism term that describes what happens when someone finds out a competitor is working on a story and decides to jump out in front with a half-assed, half-reported piece that taints the value of the competitor’s scoop. So named because what a cockroach doesn’t eat, it wallows around in and spoils for everyone else.

Local newspaper promises more while laying off experienced editors

Editorial in today's R-J.

Editorial in today’s R-J.

Could the management at the Las Vegas Review-Journal be any more boorish and insensitive?

On the morning after laying off at least a baker’s dozen of long-time, loyal employees — with the word being that there are still more to come — the editorial page trumpets that the newspaper will be adding more coverage and more journalists. It is long on generalities and short on specifics.

“We’ll have more reporters on the street covering things people care most about, the editorial says. “We’ll provide more expertise and more hard-hitting content by going in-depth in some areas while adopting a more efficient production process.”

By “efficient production process” they must mean less editing and fewer people in production. I got word this morning that four people in production and advertising and the newsside, all with several decades at the paper, were let go today. Two sources confirm the newsside person was Lynn Benson.

Atop page 3A on Wednesday was contact information for Deputy Editor Mary Greeley, the long-time head of the newsdesk, where copy is edited, laid out and headlines written. Today her name is gone, as is she and several experienced editors. The editorial makes no mention of this, nor the fact that the top newsroom management is now all male.

Among the few specifics: “Education: The Review-Journal now has two reporters assigned to this important beat.” Well, the paper used to have someone covering K-12 and someone covering higher ed as full-time beats, with general assignment reporters filling in as needed. Old is new again.

The only specific “addition” was a third court reporter. There was no promise of an additional warm body, just a person with that assignment, and perhaps a few others.

“One reporter will be assigned to a consolidated beat, which will include McCarran International Airport, issues related to taxis, the Regional Transportation Commission and Nevada Department of Transportation. The reporter on this beat also will write the Review-Journal’s popular Road Warrior commuter Q&A column,” the editorial says. One person, more hats? Actually, I think all those were part of that beat already, except McCarran.

As for the editorial page: “The plan is to make better use of space on our daily opinion page to include more perspectives.” Your guess is as good as mine as to what that means. Fewer pages, perhaps?

“We’ll have plenty of syndicated and locally written columns, and we know our print readers love editorial cartoons because we heard as much when we briefly cut back on their use,” the paper says, though they fail to mention they just laid off talented illustrator Dave Stroud or that the pervious, now ousted, “new management” canned veteran cartoonist Jim Day. Back to the future? If the readers like cartoons, wouldn’t they love local ones?

There will be no more Taste section on Wednesdays, which means they’ve thrown in the towel on ever attracting grocery store ads on that day, which was once the nationwide newspaper standard.

Reportedly the staff of the business section is panicking today, because the editorial made no mention of that section.

“We are increasing the number of journalists covering Southern Nevada,” the last graph promises. Names and numbers, please. I’ll believe it when I see it.

If they plan to save all this money with fewer editors and “more” reporters, I have one word for them: libel.

I can’t count the number of times over my too many decades as a harried editor that some savvy copy editor or news desk editor held up a hand and said: “You better take a look at this. It might get us sued.”

“We’ll provide more expertise …” they say, while jettisoning decades of that vaunted expertise.

I spoke to still another person last night who recently stopped taking the print version of the newspaper. This person is heavily involved in politics and community matters. He said he missed the comics but reads what he needs online.

As for that editorial, don’t piss on my boots and tell me it’s raining, Boss Moss. That editorial adds insult to injury.

Editorial board circa 1997

Editorial cartoon by Jim Day circa 1997 that I have hanging on the wall. It depicts the editorial board of the R-J at that time. None remains.