Monday, October 4, 2010

The RJ, The Sun and The Angle Tape

Today may very well be the day that the Review-Journal's credibility in covering the Harry Reid-Sharron Angle race evaporates once and for all. As of now, there is still nothing anywhere on the R-J's website about the secret tape that the Sun's Jon Ralston landed and posted of a private meeting between GOP hopeful Sharron Angle and Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian. She had wanted to get Ashjian out of the race, concerned he could split conservative votes and cost her the race.

It's not even that the tape is all that shocking. It certainly gives the Reid folks plenty to work with, what with her hypocritically offering Ashjian to drink of her "juice" in the form of access to Sens. Jim DeMint, Mitch McConnell and Tom Coburn after beating up on Reid for all his backroom dealings. But while some are fascinated by the awkwardness that comes with Angle having scathed the Republican establishment in advance of addressing the Republican establishment on Wednesday, that's nothing new. Recall any number of interviews in which she's said the same thing, not to mention the secret tape I received and posted in August in which she also rambled on about resisting Washington's effort to co-opt her. Attacking current and recent Republicans is part of her schtick and ultimately bolsters her credibility since, even in private, she is truly dismayed by GOP spending over the past 20 years.

Yet for the Review-Journal to ignore the new tape altogether is simply journalistic malpractice. They didn't need to get something in this morning's paper -- the Sun didn't either, in fact -- but they have a website, however ridiculously arranged, and could have blogged something last night or at least by 2 p.m.4 p.m. TODAY. Has the Review-Journal simply given up on trying to cover this race as exhaustively as the public deserves and expects?

Maybe it's the childish notion that if Ralston had it the R-J can't touch it? That's certainly a game Ralston plays occasionally, but Ralston is a sole operator who has the prerogative to pick favorites. The R-J, on the other hand, is the state's largest full-service newspaper, and the paper of record must reflect that this tape has emerged and will be -- fair or not -- a potent political weapon in the weeks to come.

As blog readers know, I don't take quite the same view of the R-J as Ralston. To Jon, the paper could never and will never do anything right. I cringed last week when Ralston ranted about some cousin of the R-J-owning Stephens family who gave money to Republicans as more proof that the paper is thoroughly corrupted. Both of Ralston's bosses, KSNV owner Jim Rogers and the Greenspuns, have given and raised significantly more money to/for Democratic groups and candidates and have also made their views of the candidates exceedingly public to no criticism from Ralston. (The Greenspuns have given more than $370,000 and the Rogers family more than $200,000 to federal candidates since the 2006 cycle, almost all of it to Democrats. Frederick? $0 to anyone.)

So I disagree with Jon's overall write-off of the newspaper itself. Both publications have serious flaws and challenges, and even a recent Los Angeles Times commentary that Ralston routinely references as skewering the R-J for partisanship also contained these lines:
  • The liberal Las Vegas Sun persistently finds bright spots for Reid...
  • The paper (delivered inside the R-J, in a novel arrangement) sometimes seems to treat Reid as a Great Man of the Senate...
  • Sun staffers winced in February when Greenspun wanted to put on the front page an editorial praising Reid...
  • the Sun favors Reid
So Nevadans have it rough finding a media source that comes close to providing even a perception of earnest objectivity or fairness. And I'll continue to argue that overall the R-J does a fairly good job of covering the general news and a very fair job of presenting national and international news stories. Also, it's website is inane.

What I probably can never do again, however, is praise the R-J for its coverage of the most important state election in Nevada history. I don't know if it's partisanship, jealousy, laziness or incompetence that has the Review-Journal ignoring the Angle tape. And I don't care. It shouldn't matter. It's a disgrace any which way.


mike_ch said...

The reason anyone traditionally owned a paper or a station was to put their POV across in the editorial. The question is the quality of the front page journalism.

The Sun's opinion page is a Reid Newsletter, but it's news content, on the odd day after the "two papers in one" deal that the Sun actually has news to speak of, has been pretty good.

What you're talking about with the RJ is a failure of the front-page level content, which is pretty unforgivable.