A newspaper is a newspaper. Newsprint is newsprint. An opinion is an opinion.
But apparently some people are aghast that a newspaper would use its newsprint to convey opposition to ballot Question 3 in both an editorial and a series of in-house advertisements.
Online journalism critic Jim Romenesko noted in his blog that the Las Vegas Review-Journal is running so-called house ads that opposed the margin tax or The Education Initiative. He quotes a defrocked newspaper columnist as saying, “I’m sure this will be disclosed in all news stories from now on, right?”
Just as all news stories will disclose that the paper editorially opposed the ballot measure in a Sept. 28 editorial, though its political columnist endorsed the measure a couple of days later? That would take a lot of explaining. The disclaimer about the editorial, the column and the ad would be longer than any story.
The local pundit has since asked whether the newspaper will register with the Secretary of State as a political action committee and disclose expenditures because state law defines a “Committee for political action” as a group “Which does not have as its primary purpose affecting the outcome of any primary election, general election, special election or any question on the ballot, but for the purpose of affecting the outcome of any election or question on the ballot receives contributions in excess of $5,000 in a calendar year or makes expenditures in excess of $5,000 in a calendar year.”
What difference does it make in what form the opinion appears? It takes the same amount of newsprint, which is going out the door and onto the driveway anyway. What cost?
But there is a section of the law that reads:
NRS 294A.370 Media to make certain information available.
1. A newspaper, radio broadcasting station, outdoor advertising company, television broadcasting station, direct mail advertising company, printer or other person or group of persons which accepts, broadcasts, disseminates, prints or publishes:
(a) Advertising for or against any candidate or a group of such candidates;
(b) Political advertising for any person other than a candidate; or
(c) Advertising for the passage or defeat of a question or group of questions on the ballot, shall, during the period beginning at least 10 days before each primary election or general election and ending at least 30 days after the election, make available for inspection information setting forth the cost of all such advertisements accepted and broadcast, disseminated or published. The person or entity shall make the information available at any reasonable time and not later than 3 days after it has received a request for such information.
2. For purposes of this section, the necessary cost information is made available if a copy of each bill, receipt or other evidence of payment made out for any such advertising is kept in a record or file, separate from the other business records of the enterprise and arranged alphabetically by name of the candidate or the person or group which requested the advertisement, at the principal place of business of the enterprise.
But I doubt the newspaper will bill itself for those house ads.
Never mind that much of the law is clearly an abridging of free speech and press anyway.
That hasn’t stopped the current Secretary of State Ross Miller from pursuing legal action against people for expressing their opinions in public.
By the way, the URL in the ad VoteNoQ3.com is a link the paper’s editorial on the topic.