Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More Crippling Departures At LV Sun

The utter deconstruction of the momentarily Pulitzer-caliber reporting staff of the Las Vegas Sun continues in earnest this week with another batch of crucial departures:

* Michael Mishak, the sole Vegas-based political writer left in the stable, is off to Sacramento to the L.A. Times' California statehouse bureau. Mishak was supposed to head to Washington D.C. to take over the paper's capital bureau for Lisa Mascaro, who left last month for the Times' D.C. bureau. With Mascaro and Mishak gone as well as Patrick Coolican (off to the L.A. Weekly after the June 8 primary), that leaves just David McGrath Schwartz in Carson City and nobody in Vegas with any history to cover the critical Reid-v-Whoever race.

* Alex Richards, the paper's key computer-assisted reporting expert, is off to the Chronicle of Higher Education very soon. That means bye-bye to substantive data analysis for a while.

* Stephanie Tavares, an environment reporter, is off to law school in Vermont. Her husband, the extremely amusing Brendan Buhler, was one of the 37 who lost their jobs in the Greenspun Media's Great Purge.

* Joe Brown, formerly a culture writer for the Sun who moved to be a writer/editor at the Las Vegas Weekly amid the Great Purge, is leaving the magazine and the city.

There are two ways to look at this. First, the past year has seen the largest en masse elevation of Vegas journalists to important national publications in the shortest period of time I've ever seen. It's a testament to what the Sun has been, at least for the past several years, that these opportunities are coming to these young, hungry journalists. Now's the time to snap up some new whippersnappers with potential and do it all again, to see if lightning can strike twice.

But the timing just could not be worse. The entire political team vanishing in arguably the most important political year in Nevada history? Add education scribe Emily Richmond's departure for eight months or so to Michigan for a fellowship starting in August and they're also without their ace heading into two other critical events, the selection of a new superintendent and the fiscal bloodbath that will be the state's 2011 Legislative session.

It's an honor that we've had reporters serving this city who get to bounce on to such cool stuff, but for them all to be doing so at the same time leaves the stable depleted. The R-J's political staff does their jobs well, but what I've enjoyed in recent years about the two newspapers is that the Sun can cede some of the day-to-day to the R-J and yield some insightful yarns and sophisticated analysis. It's hard to imagine who's going to be providing that analysis now.


Anonymous said...

Three things:

One, how can you possibly have missed the news -- reported publicly in several places -- that Reno Gazette-Journal reporter Anjeanette Damon will be joining the Sun's staff? Do you not read?

Two, the Las Vegas Review-Journal's political staff most assuredly does not do their jobs well. The pro-Lowden bias in that paper's news coverage is appalling. That's what makes the Sun and its work so important, and what makes the loss of Coolican, Mishak and Mascaro so debilitating to Las Vegas.

Three, did you forget the Sun has Jon Ralston, the foremost political analyst in the state, on its team? He'll probably continue to "provide the analysis" for which he's so well known.


Three things:

(1) You can't read every last thing that exists. Proof: You took three days to come to this post. But I read and listen to more than you and certainly more than most journalists I know.

(2) Your own political bias is showing bright and strong. Blah blah blah, bias bias bias, blah blah blah. Tell is to Neff.

(3) Ralston and I have had this discussion privately and he does not wish to shoulder the burden of the Sun's political reporting staff. He writes a column a couple times a week for the Sun, otherwise the majority of his work is on TV and in the Flash. The kinds of pieces that Coolican, Mishak and Mascaro have done are not what Ralston does for the Sun; he doesn't dwell for 2,000 words on a topic, grab varied sources for a piece, etc. It's not his function.

What else ya got, anonymous coward?

Anonymous said...

Awwww, did wittle Stevie get his wittle feelings hurt? So sorry to ruffle feathers, but since you seem to tell other reporters how to do their jobs all the time, I thought you might like a taste of that medicine yourself.

Actually, I spotted that error right away, but it took three days for me to decide whether it was worth writing it to correct. And the thought picture of you angrily pounding on your keyboard tells me it was.

You claim in a follow-up that you knew about Damon, but didn't write it because you couldn't confirm? I smell bull****. Why wouldn't you have said that right away, if that were so? Who cares where she works, the point is, she's on the team.

But seriously, for a second: You don't think the R-J has been even in the slightest slanted toward Lowden? Even a little bit? And that doesn't concern you, as a self-appointed media critic, which we actually need around here because nobody else does that? C'mon, Steve. Ask your friend Ralston about the R-J political team's performance and see what he says.

Your points about Ralston not providing in-depth analysis in the paper are well taken. And it's true that there will be nobody in Las Vegas for the Sun, which is a problem. On those things, I concede to you.