Monday, November 24, 2008

R-J, Meet The Woodshed

Talk about being dragged kicking and screaming into the new millenium! This weekend's Review-Journals offered up several examples of what sort of neanderthal dimwits are running the Bonanza Road asylum.

First, there was this very weird column by my good pal Norm, who deserves huge raves and plaudits for his fascinating, lengthy piece about the wayward drug-dealing cowboy who fled the MGM Grand fire in 1980 by climbing down a rope. That was terrific. Read it.

His Friday column, however, was an inadvertent scream. It appears he was forced into promoting the big "get" of the R-J's Internet, uh, empire, a folksy weatherman named Nate Tannenbaum who has a hard time keeping his on-air job in the local market.

Wroth Norm: "It's the vision of Review-Journal publisher Sherman Frederick, who wants to tap the full potential of the Internet."

That's a joke, right? Sherm and "vision" in the same sentence? You're funning us, yeah?

But, no. Frederick is quite proud of his dream for the R-J site which is to put Nate Tannenbaum on everybody's smart phones rehashing, no doubt, that day's newspaper or something.

Let's review here. The Sun's version of investing in its online properties includes poaching industry visionaries from the Washington Post and Newsweek. The R-J's idea is hiring the castoffs of the local TV business and behaving as though his move into the online space is career innovation rather than career desperation. "This is a whole new world for me," Tannenbaum told Norm.

Why? I mean, why him? The Internet's not new. There are lots of smart people in Vegas and elsewhere with years of experience doing that which Sherm has recently developed "visions." Why turn to someone who thinks it's all one great big ol' wacky adventure? Tannenbaum appeals to a much older demo than the folks who would want an R-J newscast on their smart phones. Channel 8, sadly, just shed several excellent people with actual journalistic credentials beyond predicting the weather in a city where the weather never even changes.

Why? Oh, I know! What's it that Tweetie Bird sings? Cheep, cheep, cheep.
And through it all, Sherm Frederick fancies himself as a genius. Hooray for Sherm!

But as silly as this roll out and staffing choice may be, it's still a good idea to expand the video presence, so I hope they succeed with it. Somehow, though, I get the sense that Sherm's underling, Editor Thomas Mitchell, doesn't. He used his Sunday column, for instance, urinated all over the whole newfangled Webby thingie.

I didn't think there were big-city newspaper editors this contemptuous of New Media anymore. Here's how this gem starts:

I, along with several other Review-Journal scriveners, recently joined the lowing herds browsing the ether -- otherwise known as bloggers, those free-range creatures who mostly chew up the intellectual property of others and spit out their cuds online.

You can find our blogs at the newspaper's Web site,, along with some actual news.

Yikes, huh? Mitchell seems not to notice that his opinion pages have been filled for decades by people who feed off the reporting work of others and put their interpretations on it. So it's OK for a select few people he personally sanctions to do so, but that's it! Everyone else is a thoughtless, ill-tempered hack.

Even if that was all there was to blogging, he's ignored the fact that blogging can be thought-provoking and informative, can give a far longer and robust life to the very articles he publishes, can do what newspapers once held to be their credo, provide voice for the voiceless. Mitchell much prefers those voices to go through him, which is to say he prefers to give voice almost exclusively in Las Vegas to reactionary wingnuts whose views are so extreme, inflexible and venom-laden that they're irrelevant to sensible debate and... HOLY CRAP! Mitchell was an early adapter to the types sometimes found online, if not the medium itself! Mea culpa!

What's more, bloggers -- including some at the R-J -- break news all the time. I've done so repeatedly in this space and on the blogs of The New York Times and others when I'm so employed to do so. Even better, I find it far more likely that a print news reporter will fail to provide proper credit for the origin of my work than a fellow blogger and that a print editorial writer won't offer up any source material at all to support his/her arguments.

Mitchell also intones, before chewing on the intellectual property of George Orwell and spitting out a worthless cud: "For all of you who write blogs, which seems like everyone, and for all of you who read blogs, which seems like no one..."

That's interesting because Blogger and Wordpress, which power thousands of blogs, are the 12th and 21st most-visited sites in America, according to The New York Times chimes in at 23rd as the top site for a print news publication. The Huffington Post, the first blog to appear on the list, is 97th. Somebody's reading them.

But what's more jarring is the overall purpose of the column: "Hey! We're blogging! We're now in the cesspool! Like you! Come visit us!"

I've got to go create some intellectual property that I relish the prospect of others chewing upon, but just one more little thing. This, from the print edition... just ugly. TinyUrl.Com. Try it.


Anonymous said...

nicely put as always. these people are so clueless. Nate Tanenbaum on a smartphone? What a bunch of idiots.

R-J Guy said...

BRUTAL!!! Iguess this refutes those who thought u were in sherm's corner after you defended him recently...

Jack in NYC said...

the guy peeing image is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I think Mitchell is confusing Bloggers with the racist morons who post comments on the stories on the R-J website. If you use that as a point of reference, than Bloggers would be considered sub-humanoid.

Jeff in OKC

Idiotboy said...

Thank you for posting that graph, Steve. It gave me my heartiest guffaw in over a week. That's what happens when you (read: Stephens Media) treat your own Web site with contempt.

David McKee

gregoryzephyr said...

Another thing I wonder is why in the world the RJ puts its columnists/bloggers pictures on the home page? I might understand Norm but the rest aren't exactly famous. Does a picture of Doug Elfman really attract so many more readers? If they had a separate "columnists" page like does, it would be okay. But, so much real estate on the home page for thumbnail pics is very odd. Give the columnists a headline and save the pics for something that is actually news. also is doing a nice job integrating pics, news, columnists, and multimedia. The RJ home page is looking a lot like my 16 year old niece's Myspace page, except her friends are cuter.

Anonymous said...

You've hit on a couple of good examples of why the R-J will always be bad: It's leadership has no vision. Mitchell no more understands blogs than George Bush understands science. Sherm tends to put stock in people he thinks are "stars" who are totally not. And what do you get? A below-average newspaper that sometimes reads like a high-school journal.

Las Vegas has deserved better for a long, long time. But it won't get a better paper until we get regime change at the top, and Sherm and Mitchell retire. Until then, expect more of the same.

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