This is the way the Sun will set, not with a beautiful sunset but a lawsuit

I expected August would be the drop dead date for the Sun, but I did not anticipate the Greenspun family would erupt into open litigation. Maybe I should have.

Brain Greenspun, sans socks, as usual.

There is no way either the Sun or the Review-Journal can continue to bleed newsprint for a worthless section that runs six to 10 pages a day with no advertising whatsoever and is mostly syndicate material and all the local copy has been posted online days before.

Howard Stutz’s story says Brian Greenspun, putative editor of the Sun, is suing to stop the termination of the joint operating agreement that has kept the Sun going since 1989 — even though his sisters, Susan Greenspun Fine and Janie Greenspun Gale, along with his brother Danny Greenspun voted to do just that. The suit claims ending the JOA would violate federal antitrust laws. Sorry, that argument has been tried in a number of cities with JOAs and failed.

Goodbye, Sun. Hello, monopoly R-J — at least temporarily.

What if you printed a bunch of newspapers and nobody read them?

According to a Scarborough Research report, as reported by Ad Age, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has one of the lowest readership levels in the country, with only 24 percent of adults reading the printed paper and only 8 percent reading a newspaper website, which I presume includes the Las Vegas Sun’s site.

Top newspaper readership approached 50 percent in their market areas.

This is odd since the R-J seems to be printing a lot more papers, which apparently under the current circulation counting rules includes a lot of neighborhood sections and free sampling.

In 2009 the R-J was 57th in circulation in the country, with 165,010 daily and 189,442 on Sundays. Now it is 23rd in circulation, with 252,047 daily and 194,057 on Sundays.

There seems to be a dichotomy. The more they print, the less it is read. Is someone cooking the books?

Readership graphic from Ad Age. Some map figures don’t match the text.

When newspapers compete, someone can get ‘cockroached’

R-J front page photo today.

We used to call it cockroaching.

When you got wind that a news media competitor was working on a juicy story, you’d jump in with whatever scrap of information, rumor or speculation you could muster to keep that competitor from the satisfaction of a scoop. It was called cockroaching because, whatever a cockroach doesn’t eat, it crawls around in and messes it up for everyone else.

Is that what happened today?

Sun photo from website.

On the front page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal is a photograph of an Air Force captain being reunited with his two daughters on the Strip in front of the TI after a year’s tour of duty in Afghanistan. Cute photo with only a brief caption. Did not tell me where the family lives or any explanation as to why the reunion was on the Strip. Though the photo was on the front page of the R-J on Thursday, the photo was taken Tuesday. Not very timely. Not very informative.

Then, I noticed atop that page the skybox refer, as it is called, under the Las Vegas Sun logo that reads: “TI pirate loot includes a surprise for Nevada family.”sunreferjpg

No one on the R-J newsdesk is supposed to see that refer, which is handled in the production department. The refer is to the cover of the Sun section where one finds a large photo and feature story about the reunion of the captain and his family, which was posted online Tuesday evening. The story never says where the family has been living, only that the captain will be stationed at Nellis Air Force Base.

From photos posted online, it appears the photogs for each paper were standing practically side by side.

The Sun posted the story first. Is that why the R-J carries only a photo and no story? But the R-J had the photo out on the front page, before one gets to the Sun section.

I know this is terribly insiderish and an entirely trivial pursuit, but: Who was cockroaching whom?

Now the Democrats want to compromise?

All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.
Edmund Burke

So, no Republicans showed up at state Sen. Justin Jones’ office to talk compromise about finding ways to fund public education.

Now the Democrats know what it is like to be a wallflower at the legislative dance.

Justin Jones (AP photo)

According to Ed Vogel’s story in the Review-Journal, Jones asked Republicans to meet and work on a compromise, because on Tuesday state Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, threw in the towel on efforts to raise taxes $300 million for education.

The question is: Where were the compromising Democrats when Republicans offered proposals that would slash wasteful spending and possibly free up existing revenue to fund education?

The answer: AWOL.

Republicans couldn’t even get bills to repeal at least part of the prevailing wage law and reform public employee pensions and collective bargaining out of committee. Most proposals didn’t even have a hearing. Repealing the prevailing wage law alone could save state and local governments $500 million a year on the costs of public works projects.

“On prevailing wages and PERS, it’s hard to compromise,” the Reno newspaper quoted state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, as saying earlier,  “And as far as construction defects, we have offered compromises that they don’t want.”

He said these issues were brought up in the past and got nowhere, so why should Democrats bother to deal with them?

Perhaps, because you need at least four votes to reach the two-thirds majority to raise taxes. Reforms and repeals require only a simple majority. Is no Democrat willing to compromise and risk the ballot box ire of the unions?

The answer: Apparently is no.

R-J and Sun appear to be polar opposites in pursuit of online readers

Promoting a column instead of a blog, and an old one at that.

Promoting a column instead of a blog, and an old one at that.

I reported a couple of weeks ago about how the Review-Journal may have revamped their web pages but have been remiss by not changing the template for the printed pages even though they are used to promote things that no longer exist.

On Page 3A there is a standing item called Blogs@, though there are darned few blogs to promote and some days none. When I first pointed this out, the refer was to a column by Steve Sebelius, not a blog. Today’s item featured there is also a column, this one by Deborah Wall, which first appeared in the View sections on April 30.

I think the last blogger on the paper’s website is Sherman Frederick. He posted one this morning but none yesterday. So someone had to scramble to find something to fill the void. Blank space and dead air are not tolerated.

It appears the R-J and the Sun are polar opposites. The Sun puts everything online days before it appears in print, while the R-J promotes in print things that were online weeks ago. Or maybe they are the same.


Saga of the ever shrinking newspaper staff conintues

The decimation continues.

I don’t know yet what happened, and I’m sure there someone had to sign a piece of paper agreeing not to discuss it in return for a modest departing gift, but just let the editorial page masthead of the Tuesday and Wednesday Las Vegas Review-Journal report the news:




Vin was at the paper nearly as long as I was. I hired him about 20 years ago, I think. The job interview was at the Main Street Station. We recognized each other by mustaches — mine a handlebar, his a Fu Manchu.

Vin Suprynowicz, a “few” years ago

The only editorial writer the paper now has is Glenn Cook.

The paper will never be the same. No one had as keen a knowledge of libertarian philosophy, Nevada politics, history, literature, the Constitution and the founding documents as Vin. No one had as sensitive a bullshit meter as Vin.

His departure, in light of new make-no-waves management, was inevitable.

Best luck, Vin. Put me down as a reference.

Meanwhile, go to his website and buy a couple of his books. They are well worth the money and are provocative reading.

History might offer some lessons on tampering with the definition of marriage

While the U.S. Supreme is pondering two court cases that might make anything the Nevada Legislature does on the topic of gay marriage moot, nonetheless our lawmakers are plunging ahead in an attempt to overturn the state’s constitutional ban enacted by the voters in 2000 and 2002.

As a born-again libertarian, I care not what people do behind closed doors and don’t think they should be discriminated against for doing so. As a lifelong writer and editor, I have qualms about changing the definition of words. It is a qualm I share with George Orwell who said those who control words control thoughts.

In front of the Supreme Court building. (Reuters photo)

But there is also a certain historical aspect to the discussion of this topic that is largely overlooked. I was reminded of this today by a paragraph in a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial calling for the repeal of the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

“Yes, we might wish to return to a day when the sacrament of marriage was an entirely religious matter, not regulated by the state,” the editorialist remarked. “In fact, it must be reiterated at every stage that government has no power to require any church or religious organization to recognize, endorse, or financially support same-sex marriage, or anything else abhorrent to its teachings.”

But if the Catholic Church’s ancillary institutions may not “discriminate” by refusing to provide free contraceptives to all insured employees, how long before …?

Now the history lesson:  In 1882, the Edmunds Act outlawed polygamy. Any Mormon who continued to practice polygamy was stripped of the right to vote or hold public office. As many as 1,300 were jailed.

At least polygamy had a long history of acceptance, one of Biblical proportions.

Might churches that “discriminate” against the civil rights of homosexuals to marry have their tax exemptions denied and building permits rejected?

Those who control the words will eventually try to control the thoughts.

Editorial praises common sense approach to saving sage grouse

Sage grouse

The Review-Journal had a very good, common sense editorial in today’s paper about how to prevent the sage grouse from being listed as threatened or endangered by the feds.

Elko County has given the go-ahead to a pilot project at a 15,000-acre ranch in which wildfire fuel will be reduced by using cattle to graze the range and ravens will be killed with poisoned eggs, the editorial recounts, though it doesn’t appear the news columns of the paper even carried a mention of this project.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, though I’ve tried, as you can read here, here, here, here and here.

Does news story leave wrong impression about source of pollutants at power plant?

According to accounts in the online Las Vegas Review-Journal that are being updated throughout the day, the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians have released documents showing five years of air monitoring data from the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant “likely had been faked by a contractor hired by the utility to monitor for dust pollution around the plant.”

The first paragraph of the story reports that residents of the nearby Moapa Indian Reservation have complained for years that smoke and blowing coal ash from the NV Energy power plant are making them ill.

The Reid Gardner Generating Station is shown in July 2004 filed photo by R-J photog Gary Thompson.

The story quotes tribal Chairman William Anderson as saying in a written statement: “So many days when coal dust and ash has whipped into homes in our community it turns out NV Energy wasn’t even measuring the pollution, so we have no gauge on the extent of the threat families here have been exposed to.”

NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira issued a statement that included this: “It is essential to note that the data in question is utilized for air shed modeling and is not relied upon for compliance purposes.”

Wait a minute, that sounds like the data in question was about dust kicked up in the air at the plant and surrounding farming activities and not coming from the smokestack at all.

In fact when the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection released a statement about the R-J story, it noted that the false reports were about meteorological and ambient air quality monitoring for large particulates called PM10.

NDEP went on to add: “Stack emissions monitoring was conducted as required on a continuous basis on all four units between 2006 and 2010. Based on this direct and continuous measurement of emissions and process parameters, as required in the Air Quality permit, the facility is in compliance with all state and federal air quality standards and permit limitations and conditions.”

Just to be sure, I asked an NV Energy spokesman whether dust in question might include coal dust from stockpiles on the ground or from coal being moved via conveyor belts. He replied that in theory it could be, but that the distance between the monitoring station and the coal piles makes it very unlikely.

Apparently, the dust in the air is no different from that kicked up at any outdoor work site — construction, warehouse, solar panels, plowing fields, etc. The fact that it is a coal-fired power plant may be of no relevance.

But you can count on Harry Reid to try to make hay out of this dust in the wind.

Taking a jaundiced view of those rosy employment figures

Review-Journal's gleeful headline today

Review-Journal’s gleeful headline today

You could almost see the AP reporter rubbing his hands in glee as he wrote: “The American job market isn’t just growing. It’s accelerating.”

That was the lede (typesetter jargon for the first paragraph) on the banner story in the Las Vegas newspaper today. It also appeared on The Washington Post website and in countless newspapers across the country.

“Employers added 236,000 jobs in February and drove down the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent, its lowest level in more than four years,” the writer informs.

Mixing stats is almost as bad as mixing metaphors, but everyone does it. I know I have.

You see, the jobs figure of 236,000 is from a Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey of businesses and government agencies at more than half a million worksites. But you can’t calculate an unemployment with payroll figures. For that the BLS surveys about 60,000 households to find the population, labor force, employed, unemployed and those not in the labor force at all to come up with the 7.7 percent unemployment rate. A quick guide to this is available online. Both figures are seasonally adjusted.

Jobs growth vs. those not in the labor force. (IBD graphic)

The figures never jibe. The household survey shows an increase of only 170,000 more employed from January to February, not 236,000.

More telling is that the household survey found that from January to February there were 296,000 more people saying they were not in the labor force, though the population grew by 165,000. The labor force itself fell by 130,000.

In the past year 1.7 million have fallen from the labor force, even though the population grew by 2.4 million.

Bottom line: If those 1.7 million had said they were looking for work, the unemployment rate would be 8.8 percent.

Rub your hands with glee over that, Mr. AP writer.

Investor’s Business Daily’s lede editorial today reports “just 58.6% of Americans work today, down from 60.6% when Obama took office. The average over the previous two decades was 63%,” and “the economy is still 3 million jobs below its previous peak. When you factor in population growth, the jobs deficit is more like 10 million.”

Household survey data from BLS

Household survey data from BLS

Seasonally adjusted BLS household data

Seasonally adjusted BLS household data