Wednesday, December 22, 2010

R-J Publisher On KNPR, Two Weeks Late

Just as Miles and I were tearing out of Vegas for our NYC sojourn earlier this month, newly installed R-J publisher Bob Brown appeared on KNPR's State of Nevada. I caught up on that today while baking my special brownies for Miles' KSNV potluck tomorrow.

I continue to be accosted by various quarters as "rumor-mongering" for my coverage of the wholesale replacement of the entire upper management of the Review-Journal as having been a result of the disastrous jeremiad against Sen. Harry Reid by ex-publisher Sherm Frederick and editor Thomas Mitchell.

But a few crucial moments on that show can be seen as evidence I was correct:

* Brown said his selection as R-J publisher was very sudden and unexpected, that he took a couple of minutes to deliberate, if that. So the idea that an orderly succession was planned for a long time is hereby debunked. This actually surprises me; I was willing to believe that Frederick stepped aside willingly and had planned on it for at least a little while. Evidently not.

* Brown said the first person to call to congratulate him was . . . Sen. Harry Reid. Now you would think it would be -- assuming this all was friendly -- Sherm Frederick, his allegedly voluntarily departing predecessor. Or maybe some of the many gaming execs he knows from his years as the ad director. But, no, somehow word got to Reid first and Reid was on the phone with Brown asap. Hmm.

* Brown repeatedly rebuffed the notion that the R-J or Stephens Media were in any sort of financial trouble. It's no crime to acknowledge that these are challenging days for the newspaper industry, but Brown seems to be describing the local newspaper as actually being in very good health. That means that the change of chiefs was not related to revenues or circulation.

* Brown agreed with the SON host that the paper found itself in an awkward and untenable position during the Reid-Angle race and spoke about the importance of earning a better reputation and credibility with the local public.

Brown didn't so much throw Frederick under the bus as lay him gently on the median of a busy thoroughfare and wave buh-bye. His unwillingness to heartily defend the prior leadership was refreshing.

Also refreshing was Brown's stated insistence on letting the news side do its work. While I had worried that his history as an ad guy with no journalistic background could portend a publisher willing to compromise with advertisers at the expense of his reporters, I had forgotten that he's certainly been on the receiving end of countless angry calls about coverage from local companies who buy space in the papers. He has had practice dealing with these matters, so we ought to give him a chance.

The only trouble spot I heard in the KNPR chat was Brown's comment that the R-J's website is great. It's not. It's a train wreck. Hopefully he was just being polite and knows how badly it needs to be overhauled.

All in all, I'm encouraged by this interview. Also, I'm validated by it. That's always fun.


Anonymous said...

According to a Stephens source who's no fan of the Frederick/Mitchell regime, R-J subscriptions just rose by approximately 2,000. This was apparently accomplished by more vigorously mining readership data that was sitting around, gathering dust under Sherm. So it sounds like Brown is "putting some stick about," as the British say.

David McKee