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.


The Sun’ll come out tomorrow … oh well

I guess I lost that bet.

Since there was no farewell edition today, the last day of the year and the targeted last edition of the Las Vegas Sun under a proposed dissolution of the joint operating agreement with the Review-Journal, I suppose the Sun will be printed tomorrow.

I’m told the ending of the JOA was being pushed by former Stephens Media CEO Mike Ferguson, and when he was ousted the new boss is in no hurry to finish off the Sun. There has been no new activity in the litigation that Brian Greenspun launched to prevent the shutdown. There was supposed to be meeting of the parties a couple of weeks ago, but nothing has been since reported or filed.

But it is only a matter of time.

Today's Las  Vegas Sun

Today’s Las Vegas Sun

Las Vegas newspaper: Live by the coup, die by the coup

The CEO of Stephens Media, owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “stepped down” today to be replaced by a former Denver publisher.

Mike Ferguson

Stepped down” is the wording used when former CEO and publisher Sherman Frederick was replaced by Mike Ferguson as CEO and Bob Brown as publisher about a week after Harry Reid was re-elected in 2010. Frederick stayed on as a consultant, weekly columnist and nearly its sole remaining blogger.

That was the same day it was reported that I “would be stepping down” from editor to senior opinion editor, which lasted about six months. Several other top newspaper executives “stepped down” that day, too.

Mike Hengel, who had worked with Ferguson at another paper, was named editor. I wonder if he hears footsteps tonight.

The R-J is reporting that Ed Moss, formerly CEO and president of the Denver Post will replace Ferguson. Moss left the Post in March after only a year at the paper, reportedly to recuperate from injuries in a fall. Previously, he was publisher of the San Diego Union-Tribune and other California papers. He also was publisher at papers in Ohio, Michigan and Louisiana

Ed Moss

Warren Stephens, chairman of the board of Stephens Media, made the announcement, as he did when Frederick “stepped down.”

In 2009, when Moss left the Los Angeles Daily News to become publisher in San Diego, Ron Kaye, the former editor of the Daily News, penned a scathing blog about Moss, saying among other less than flattering things:

“Sending Moss to fix a struggling paper is like sending a mortician to treat an ailing patient. He will do the only thing he knows how to do: Cut, and cut, and cut some more: When he’s done with his handiwork, the U-T will be ready for embalming and burial much like the Daily News is

“Moss arrived at the Daily News nearly two years ago when it still had fight in it and immediately was dubbed “Little Napoleon” for his short stature, imperious manner and inability to engage in any kind of intelligent discussion of strategies that might save the paper.

“He’s a man who speaks in vapid cliches and offers no leadership.”

Kaye said Moss seldom entered the newsroom.

The R-J announcement also mentioned the letter of intent that had been signed by Ferguson and Paul Hamilton, president of the Las Vegas Sun and the Greenspun Corp., to dissolve the joint operating agreement under which the R-J prints and distributes the Sun as a section in the paper. “Both parties have said they expect the dissolution agreement to be finalized by the end of the year,” the story said, without mentioning Brian Greenspun’s futile efforts to derail the agreement in court, even though it was agreed to by his three siblings.

The newspaper’s circulation has been eroding, its website is a jumbled mess and search engine optimization is nonexistent — the paper’s stories are the last to be returned, if at all, in a keyword search.

Can’t say I’m surprised by the turn of events. Keep your heads down, R-J staffers. If Kaye is right, the bleeding will continue.

Newspaper exec talks to WSJ but not his own paper

The CEO of Stephens Media wouldn’t give his own newspaper a quote about attempts to dissolve the JOA, but he gives one to The Wall Street Journal. Riding for the brand? Not.

“To say that we are attempting to monopolize anything is utterly ridiculous considering the plethora of news and advertising sources available to Las Vegas residents and the realities of the modern media marketplace,” WSJ this afternoon quotes Mike Ferguson, CEO of Stephens Media. “We will vigorously contest the unfounded allegations in this action, and are confident that the courts will agree. We intend to seek reimbursement of our attorneys’ fees for this meritless action.”

And just what is the real circulation figure now? Do they still have that reader board in the lunchroom ticking down the numbers?

WSJ says the Sun board of directors voted for noncompete clause, but I think they may be assuming something.

WSJ quotes Leif Reid as saying, “The Supreme Court said in the Associated Press case that freedom to publish is guaranteed by the Constitution, but that freedom to combine to keep others from publishing is not. We believe that the Review Journal’s effort to eliminate its competition through this illegal and anticompetitive transaction will be stopped by the courts.”



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.