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.
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.