Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RJ Publisher Hates The Media!!!

Sherm, man. I've tried. I really, really have tried. I've done more than anyone in this state to evaluate your reporters' work as separate from your advocacy, to allow you your opinions, to acknowledge that your counterparts at the Las Vegas Sun are at least equally tainted in their strident, overt political views on the Reid-Angle race and how it impacts their coverage.

But last night, you truly and spectacularly hit a new low. I am in awe of you, and in the worst possible way.

In Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick's latest blog post, he celebrates (!) the fact that Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle faked out the media. He thinks it's cool, clever and amusing that a woman who would represent the state in the most powerful deliberative body on Earth is so afraid of answering questions from reporters that she deploys a decoy to throw them off her trail.

If Sherm Frederick were any old Republican political hack -- and, frankly, he may very well be -- maybe I'd get this. But he is the publisher of the state's largest newspaper. His most important "political position" ought to be in the service of ensuring his reporters can do their jobs, that his publication be as unfettered as possible in the pursuit of getting information and providing it to the public. He ought to be viscerally offended by the behavior of someone like Angle at this stage of this important historic moment.

Instead, we have a major newspaper publisher who thinks it's a riot when a candidate who has been shown to have lied incessantly and repeatedly is so uncertain of her ability to talk to the media that she resorts to juvenile trickery. We have a major newspaper publisher who parrots the Rush Limbaugh-Sarah Palin line about a "compliant press" when he knows they're just trying to get a woman on the verge of immense power to subject herself to the same scrutiny and rigors that politicians have always expected and the public demands and needs. What would he, as a publisher and lifelong newspaperman, have the state's journalists do, sit home until next week and then dutifully report the outcome? Angle didn't even have the guts to speak to HIS reporters since her primary victory; is he saying his own reporters are "compliant" and unworthy of her attention?

Frederick is welcome to support Angle. That's his choice. But his top job is running a news operation and ensuring its legitimacy and viability. Is it really unreasonable for journalists to want to speak to the focal point of the most significant news story of the year as that story is about to climax? That's compliance?

No, Sherm. That's their jobs. And you just sold out yours for a cheap political attack.


E C Gladstone said...

All publishers have contempt for their content providers (i.e. Editorial Department). Typically it comes in the benign form of underpayment. Most of them would be thrilled if they could sell a paper full of nothing but their ads.
Frederick is just being more overt about his feelings. Don't like it? Read another Las Vegas newspaper. Oh, wait...

Anonymous said...

I think Angle may have granted interviews to the Review-Journal since the primary (she did that editorial board, too). But that doesn't in any way counter your point, which is absolutely right on.


Anon - I really don't think so. Laura Myers' profile of Angle last week clearly referenced the quotes as having come from interviews last spring during the primary race.

Eric - I have to disagree. Most publishers I've ever met have been strident first-amendment advocates. Some may kowtow to huge advertisers, but they normally advocate access to political leaders for sure.

Jim Bell said...

As a retired news reporter - 45 years in the radio news business - 20 of them in public radio - I've always been amused by the high and mighty self important attitudes of so many people in the reporting business, especially print reporters.

I hate to be the one to break this to my fellow ink stained wretches, but politicians are under no obligation to even give us the time of day. They don't have to talk with us if they don't want to, no matter how much we huff and puff about it.

Whether that's smart of them or not will be revealed in the fullness of time, but before you say it's a dumb thing to do consider this.

Here in Texas the incumbent Republican governor - Rick Perry - has completely ignored the state's newspapers in his re-election campaign. He gives them no interviews and says he couldn't care less about their endorsements. He's also ignored his opponent's calls for televised debates. And you know what? He's leading in all the polls.

So, you tell me how dumb that tactic is.

My fellow journalists. We ain't nearly as important to the political process as some of us think we are. It's a brave new world out there, with a universe of new ways to disseminate information, and newspapers are falling far behind. It's also clear - to me at least - that politicians get more aware of that fact every day. Maybe someone has sent Sharron Angle a copy of Perry's play-book.

NYT scribe said...

Jim: that's one opinion and that's fine. But someone who runs a major newspaper ought to feel that the work that his journalists do is important and relevant. When a publisher thinks lying and faking out journalists is funny and praiseworthy, then maybe he's in the wrong business?