Saturday, November 6, 2010

Memo To Sherm: YOU Are The Ankle-Biter

Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick continues his bizarre, classless and graceless reaction to Harry Reid's victory in the mid-term and Jon Ralston's dead-on analysis of the polling data and pre-election prediction by trying to defend his pollsters after they missed the mark in spectacular ways on every major race.

Two pieces of his latest depressingly delusional defense point the way towards the problem with Sherm and editor Thomas Mitchell's entire stewardship of the Review-Journal. First, there's this:

Here's the New York Times' ranking of the accuracy of national polling firms. Halfway down the link you will see a chart. The R-J pollster, Mason Dixon, is in the middle of the pack.

There you have it, folks: The R-J is satisfied not just with being wrong but with being average. And that's with everything. Sherm's A-OK with getting by on the bare minimum of overworked reporters, with a functional but challenging website, with only a few stand-out writers, with middling, flat circulation. And now, Sherm is admitting, "middle of the pack" is something to brag about even as it has now shown that readers will be misinformed.

What's even sadder? If you look at the list he references, he doesn't even read it right. Their firm, Mason-Dixon, is at the BOTTOM of the pack. They're fifth of eight firms in accuracy, but two firms below M-D are tied in their inaccuracy, so really it's fifth out of seven scores. Also, M-D was off by an average of 4.6 points, and the No. 4 firm missed by 3.8 percent, a large gap that puts M-D in a red zone of inaccuracy because most polls offer a +/-4 margin of error. The results were outside the poll's margin. And in the case of the Titus-Heck race for Congress, Sherm's pollster had Heck winning by a blowout of 10 when he actually won by less than a point.

And then there's this gem from Sherm:

We're the big boys on the block. We're used to ankle-biters like the Jon "I-AM-A-GENIUS!" Ralston & crew who try to elevate themselves by taunting No. 1.

Except that they're NOT. They ceded that pole position long ago by aspiring to be nothing more than average. Their penetration of this market is less than the major papers in similar-sized cities and Web users flock in droves to the Sun's website long before they go to the R-J's for political news. Their longstanding practice of refusing to link out to other sites -- finally reversed -- and, of course, the horrid publicity from the Righthaven efforts to enforce copyrights have dramatically reduced the interest of others to link to them. In numerous ways, the R-J has removed itself from the legitimate conversation.

People baffle as to how I don't see the alleged right-wing bias in the news pages. But I don't because I know how newsrooms work and what really leads to lackluster journalism. In the R-J's case, the problem is far, far more that they still believe they are living in a different, much lazier and entitled media era, one that flows from a belief that there's such a thing as a "big boy." The R-J peeps think they can keep a Web audience without constantly updating information because they pine for the days when they could make everyone wait until sunrise for whatever they had to say. Their reporters don't blog in any consistent way that would develop a following, they think that if they ignore a hot story the Sun or Ralston or I have that it won't be a part of the news cycle, and they think that acknowledging competition is a weakness rather than a show of confidence.

All of this leaves the Review-Journal as the ankle-biter and, fittingly, completely unaware of same. They're not the big boys in any respect. Numbers alone, if they even had that to back such a claim up, don't make it thus. How many times did anyone from the R-J get invited on any cable news show -- even on Fox! -- to discuss the election? When did the HuffPo or Drudge or Politico point towards something insightful the R-J did this cycle? In what form did Sherm Frederick's jeremiad on Harry Reid have any impact whatsoever on the result of the election?

Nobody with any serious intellect -- not smart readers, not power players of either party in this city, county, state or nation, not even the sort of credible national conservatives who reference the National Review or the Washington Times as offering interesting points of view -- cares what Sherm Frederick has to say.

Why do I, then? Well, for one thing, it's entertaining to watch someone with so much hubris choke on his own venom. The hypocrisy is so seductive to observe that it's almost like porn. Sherm Frederick, after everything he's done and said, has the nerve to suggest journalists who chose to hold Sharron Angle accountable for her outlandish remarks and elusiveness were exhibiting a bias? Dude, remember that thing about what to do when you find yourself in a hole? Stop digging.

This also has long worried me because there are good, earnest folks at the R-J whose work is overshadowed and tainted by what he does. Frederick in this cycle sold out his reporters, preferring to stand with a candidate who stole his content, refused to speak to even his scribes and deployed insanely childish efforts to confound the media. He owns a media company; his knee-jerk should have been to be outraged by such behavior.

And, finally, a word about Jon Ralston. Sherm wrote this in advance of Jon's How-Harry-Won column in tomorrow's paper:

If you can find a disclosure in the column explaining Ralston's spectacular conflict in analyzing said campaign, let me know and I'll give you a sucker.

Jon Ralston knows no ideological bias. Really. He and I are not friends and I'm well aware he has little fondness for me, but to suggest that Ralston is in the tank for a particular party, ideology or human being (other than Jon Ralston) is idiotic. Anyone who has read or watched him for an extended period of time knows his instinctive journalistic muscle is for honesty and truth, except when it comes to media criticism.

In politics, though, when Ralston senses bullshit, he attacks. There have been plenty of Democrats whose dishonesty he has been vicious about, most notably Mayor Oscar Goodman. He's not always right, but he always asks hard questions and is openly dismayed whenever something doesn't compute to him. There is no question that Ralston was hard on Sharron Angle, but not because she was a Republican. It's because she was a constant liar and someone who made some statements -- Second Amendment remedies comes to mind -- that were downright dangerous.

Ralston did not sneak into the polling places with thousands of people to know how they voted. He looked at numbers, weighed a number of factors from his long history as a journalist and Nevadan, had a pipeline to polling that made more demographic sense than everything else. It wasn't magic. He applied his knowledge of such math and began early and often to sound the bell that the polls were wrong. That takes guts; it's so much easier to go with the conventional wisdom.

I speak from experience. Take a look at this:

The green was me on Oct. 22. I told several people weeks before the election that I thought Reid would win by a few points. But the steady stream of polls and the makeup of the early voting data dissuaded me from saying so publicly. By Election Day, I was sure Angle had it and spent the day gathering material in advance of a Reid defeat as well as for the stories to come from that in the days to come. I had the instinct, but I didn't listen to it. It was easier to go with the flow or at least mute myself rather than look incompetent. It's the difference between me and Ralston; he's done this a long time, he knows things I don't and he stuck to his guns.

Sherm Frederick stuck to his guns, too. And that's fine. But now he's found out his guns were empty. And he's still sticking to them. He thinks that the fact that other Republicans won redeems his prognostications and shows he had some influence somewhere, but Ralston predicted other Republicans would win, too. In fact, Jon suggested one or two of the statewide Democratic officeholders might fall, too, and none did. Ralston also has never argued with Frederick's assertion that Obama and Reid are unpopular in Nevada; he just questioned how that would translate in actual balloting.

That's not ideology, it's analysis. Ideology is twisting yourself into a pretzel to stand up for a view that has been discredited. And now the only question for Frederick is just how much more irretrievably irrelevant he can make himself.

The best part for those of us chomping popcorn at home? He won't even know what he's done to himself.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Strip is LIVE Sat w/ Frank Sinatra Jr!

The Podcast-a-Palooza was great fun, but we're back on track in the LVRocks.Com for the live show with a remarkably revealing and intimate conversation with Frank Sinatra Jr., who is at The Orleans for shows on Nov. 19-21.

He really answers everything. What did he do for the days that he was kidnapped in 1963? What famous star's doorbell did the kids in his L.A. neighborhood never ring on Halloween? Why does he feel that he's never been a success?

The Strip starts at 12:30 p.m. PT. From noon to 12:30 p.m., Amy and I will do one episode of The Petcast featuring an interview with anthropologist Barbara J. King, author of "Being With Animals: Why We Are Obsessed with the Furry, Scaly, Feathered Creatures Who Populate Our World."

As always, you can listen live at via LVRocks.Com and join the chat with fellow listeners. Or wait and grab the podcast version via iTunes or Zune or listen via that nifty "Listen Now" player on TheStripPodcast.Com or ThePetcast.Com. Your call.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Show is UP: Rita at the 'Palooza!

Sorry we're late this week! It was just a little crazy, some minor news around here, you know. So here we go. You can click on the date below to get it to play or right-click on it to download it to listen at your leisure. Or, of course, subscribe for free in iTunes or Zune. -sf

Nov. 2: Dancing With Rita At The ‘Palooza

She’s danced on Broadway, told jokes in Carnegie Hall and, of course, headlined in Vegas for nearly a decade. And now, Rita Rudner is about to reach her career apex, appearing with us at the Go Pool at the Flamingo Las Vegas. That’s right, we’re LIVE at the third annual Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza to chat up the Harrah’s Las Vegas comedienne and her husband about their careers, their politics and much more. Also, when will Rita be at Harrah’s? Answer: Probably sooner than later.

In Banter: Lion King is leaving, Lotus of Siam is exported, Las Vegans are out of their minds, Venetian-Palazzo checks into a new alliance and more.

Links to stuff discussed:

Rita Rudner’s website

Get tickets for Rita Rudner at Harrah’s Las Vegas
See Rita’s funny Harry Reid ad, “Crazy Juice”
Video of Rita’s routine for Obama at Caesars Palace
VegasHappensHere.Com interpretation of The Lion King closure
Cirque’s announcement of its Michael Jackson arena show, Immortal
Mike Weatherford’s Criss Angel piece
Lotus of Siam heads to New York City
The Venetian-Palazzo joins the InterContinental Alliance
VegasTripping.Com on “Harmonizing” the St. Regis
The website for the Jabbawockeez at Monte Carlo
The Daily Beast says Vegas is the dumbest city in America
Steve’s pieces on Shelley Berkley for Tablet and the Weekly

Probably My Last Election Piece: How Reid Won

I'm out front on The Daily Beast today with an assessment of how Harry Reid won. I like to think it's a colorful view, and it includes remarks from folks like Danny Tarkanian, who lost to Sharron Angle. Here's the top:

How Harry Pulled It Off

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took his victory lap on Wednesday before a state and a nation that had anticipated his humiliating demise, the reasons for his triumph became so obvious that it’s a wonder the outcome was ever in doubt.

Yes, he ran a magnificent, vicious, and effective campaign, one to be studied by political masterminds for generations. But rival Sharron Angle also ran an epically terrible campaign, one that comes with a sidesplitting blooper reel for the DVD.

It’s not simply that Angle was a tragically flawed candidate given to surprising, polarizing, or baffling statements. Under the right circumstances—say, when running against a loathed incumbent who is the chief lieutenant of an unpopular president, and your state’s economy is at all-time lows—Angle’s peculiarities might have been overlooked or charming.

But the uncompromising Tea Party purist seemed to work actively to avoid expanding her base in a way that would ever have resulted in a win in Nevada, ...

Read the rest at TheDailyBeast.Com

Nevada Secretary of State Fails To Look Ahead On Web

One of the folks I should have included as a WINNER in my list of media winners and losers from the election is Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller. The Web efforts he has helmed have been terrific, with timely and merged data rolling in and available for press and normal person alike at SilverState2010.Com.

Last go-around, they used now-defunct SilverState2008.Com, so they're building a bit of a trademark. The design is attractive and easy to use and I heard no complaints about load times or crashing on Election Night.

But. On a whim, I went to see how much foresight Miller's gang have had. I searched the GoDaddy.Com registry for SilverState2012.Com. Lookit:

The state doesn't own it. For about $10, a 35-year-old Chris Langhorst of Las Vegas snapped it up.

Two nights ago.


Langhorst, who has this audio/video company, tells me he was watching the TV coverage at home and decided to check the SoS site because numbers were slow to roll in. Then he went to GoDaddy.Com on his iPhone, saw that the next logical iteration of Nevada's election Internet center was vacant. He grabbed it.

"I was very surprised," he told me. "You’d figure they’d take care of that stuff."

You would think. And look what's still out there:

Langhorst didn't do it to cybersquat, really. He doesn't know why he did it, other than that it was cheap and he was curious what would happen next. He even asked me what I knew about this sort of thing, and I mentioned I'd covered the topic some. Here's my New York Times piece from September 2008 on political domain-name squatting.

Yet this is a little different. Langhorst hasn't grabbed someone's name, which could be considered their trademark or intellectual property and which Internet governing agencies have forced surrender of in certain situations. (And by the way, Sen. John Ensign does NOT own JohnEnsign.Com. Some dude named Eugene does. Really. A clue to his future plans?)

I'm just fascinated that the crack team in Miller's office -- and I mean that sincerely, because their election night site is really a model for the nation -- didn't think ahead. Their options now are to (a) ask Langhorst nicely to vacate, (b) pay Langhorst to vacate or (c) pick another URL. And if they go with (c) they might buy up the next permutations in advance. Or, better yet, pick one that's not year-sensitive.

Consider this an S.O.S. to the SoS.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Winners & Losers, MEDIA EDITION

OK. As I wrote for Politics Daily, Harry Reid's a winner and Sharron Angle's a loser. Duh. But there's much, much more to it.

* WINNER: MSM. Sharron Angle believed the Fox/Limbaugh hype that the "lamestream" media is irrelevant. And perhaps in the national universe that's become more true. But not in local races and certainly not in places like Nevada. Literally running away from reporters looks juvenile and inept. Believing you can simply say you never said the thing you just said and get away with it when you're recorded makes you a bad liar. Pissing off the most significant pundit in the state by reneging on a clear promise to debate before him with your opponent is just asking to be treated as if you have no credibility. Angle will surely claim the press was out to get her, but she even froze out the Review-Journal after the June 8 primary, and those are her people. Yes, Harry Reid also played hard-to-get with the media, but at least his people didn't, providing quick and thorough responses to every niggling question in a usually timely, respectful manner. Also, he's the incumbent with years of media under his belt; you're the relatively unknown challenger. Contrary to what Palin and Friends say, The Media is an important means for leaders to be held accountable for their statements and actions and a useful way to communicate with the broadest cross-section of the public they hope to lead. This trick may work in Kentucky because Rand Paul was always the red-state favorite, but it didn't work for Angle or Delaware's Christine O'Donnell and probably not for Alaska's Joe Miller. Miller's folks handcuffed a reporter.

* WINNER: Jon Ralston. The only pundit who got it right is also, as we learn again and again, the only pundit who matters when it comes to Nevada. He could've played it safe and hedged, but he perpetually railed against the likely inaccuracy of the polls -- oversampled this, ignored that, did not make any sense. He predicted a win for Harry Reid and saw silver linings in early voting data and took some guff for it, most notably from the Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick, who claimed it exposed Ralston's partisan bias. I'm offended by Ralston's simplistic, petty and personal version of "media criticism" precisely because it lacks the guts and balance and any introspection whatsoever, all things he applies to the rest of his journalism. But he swung for the fences this weekend and bashed it over the wall.

* LOSER: Sherm Frederick. Sunday's Opinion section of the R-J was soaked with pieces explaining why Reid would lose. The worst offender was the publisher, who suggested Reid would need a "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment to pull it out. So, when Sherm turns out to be wrong, does he at least show a little class and humility and offer a mea culpa to Ralston or his entire readership? Boy, that's a funny thought, isn't it? No. Instead, he keeps referring to it as a "surprising" Reid victory and quotes that same Dewey-Truman column to compliment himself for foreseeing the House flipping red even though he merely got that impression from pollsters and journalists elsewhere whom he saw on Fox. Reid's victory wasn't that surprising to the people he tried nastily to discredit before the election - Ralston and Reid's people. Sherm just spent YEARS viciously attacking the senator and eviscerating the public's ability to respect or trust his reporters' work. He laid waste to any claim he had of being able to read Nevada's mood and sank to a shocking low by giggling when Sharron Angle gave the sneaky slip to reporters asking reasonable, important questions. He even wrote of Reid at about 10 p.m. last night: "Initially, he was up over 50%, which was hard to believe. But the margin of victory appears closer now, and more credible." Reid's final tally? 50.2 percent. Sorry, Sherm. As the kids say, epic fail.

* WINNER: KNPR. You might recall back in June, I was pretty peeved that Our World of News and Information was re-running morning chat shows as the votes were being tallied. That is, they sat out the first big act of the most significant Senate race in Nevada history. I'm a massive fan of KNPR and I put my prospects of being invited to appear on the air again at risk over that, and KNPR management wrote in the comments that such coverage was too expensive and not in public demand. My solution to the first part was to partner up with a local TV station and take the audio of live victory and concession speeches, maybe have some anchor in the studio talking to analysts and calling up candidates. I don't know if they did the latter, but in my drive from Venetian (GOP party) to Aria (Dem party), I did hear them taking KSNV audio of Rory Reid's speech. Given that the local race was a national one and the national NPR feed contained tons of Nevada reporting, that was pretty adequate. I'm delighted they did it, so I'll be sending an extra check real soon.

* WINNER: KSNV. This one's a point of personal privilege. Miles and the News 3 crew slaved and stressed for weeks to craft the NBC affiliate's election night coverage. I didn't get to see any of it because I was running around doing my thing, but I understand from many people that it was fantastic. And many people should know, because the station won the night in the ratings. Awesome.

* LOSER: Me. I've made more money in the past two months than in the dreadful second half of 2009, thanks to Reid, Angle and new clients such as CBS, Politics Daily, Tablet and The Daily Beast. But now it's over and there's no Sen. Sharron Angle, R-Cuckoo, to appallingly fascinate the political world. Proof of how fast the national media has lost interest in all this? I spent the morning pitching the idea of a profile of Jon Ralston, the only-pundit-who-got-it-right. Responses, and I quote: No, No, Who cares, Thanks but we'll pass. If this had been a big CA or NY race and it was one dude against the entire pollosphere, you know they'd snap that one up. So once my Daily Beast How-Reid-Won piece posts, I suspect that'll be all for now on this. I'll be on to covering the World Series of Poker, and I just don't think anyone's going to care nearly as much.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Seriously, R-J?!?

This is a screen shot from a real e-mail I just got from the R-J. It's funny because:

(a) If I didn't know the fucking paper was going to cover that, I'm a fucking idiot.
(b) Someone took effort to distribute this despite (a).
(c) Whatever they have in the Wednesday dead-tree edition will NOT be the "latest" news and commentary because of some various pieces of newfangled technology they probably haven't heard about yet.
(d) If they're referring to their website, that's funny because their website is a joke and I'm fairly confident you're better served to look elsewhere tomorrow morning for the "latest" beyond whatever their people write later tonight.
(e) Also, this email does not provide a link to the R-J's website.

Did I miss anything?

Election Day: Not Angle's Time, WHHSH & Ralston 'Media Analysis'

A few random thoughts as we head into the election:

* BEST cover ever! Awesome, right? Oh, also, if you're already done with this election, be sure to skip ahead to 2012 in my column this week.

* The WHHSH Watch Is Baaaack!
That is, tomorrow I plan to shame the national reporters so lazy that the best they could do was start or transition parts of their stories with, "Nevada voters made sure that what happens in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas...". Our very first violator of the day is, in fact, not a journalist but some scribe with the Sharron Angle campaign who pushed out a missive this morning predicting victory that began: "For one night – tonight – what happens in Vegas, will not stay in Vegas." GROAN.

* Where's Sharron?

Notice someone missing? The Angle campaign may believe that its anti-media position will help them, but it also ensures her utter irrelevancy as part of the national dialogue and conversation should she win. Why isn't the ultimate Tea Partier who may slay the ultimate Obama proxy on the cover of Time? Or even mentioned at ALL in this piece? Why are two likely losers -- Meg Whitman and Christine O'Donnell -- there instead? I suspect it's because Angle wouldn't talk to Time or even sit for a portrait. Meanwhile, by another measure, Sharron Angle is the sixth most covered politician of 2010, behind THREE likely losers, Whitman, O'Donnell and Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania. That may -- and in O'Donnell's case definitely -- relate to candidates' proximity to the nation's media nerve centers of New York, DC and Los Angeles. But add this disinterest to the fact that many Angle voters I spoke with today at the polls seem to believe her more extreme positions don't matter BECAUSE she won't have any power, and I suspect Angle will be surprised at how irrelevant she is if/when she gets to Washington.

* RalstonSpin. It's worth noting that Jon Ralston took yet another jab at the R-J for its Election Day editorial reiterating their desire to see Reid go bye-bye -- an opinion piece on the opinion pages, the nerve! -- but conveniently didn't care that the by-far dominant image on the newspaper's front page today was a beautiful shot of uber-popular Michelle Obama embracing the senator. How is THAT explained in the world view of those who view an entire reporting and editing operation as the subsidiary of Sharron Angle's campaign? And while the Las Vegas Sun surprisingly managed not to shove our faces in its pro-Reid bent today, the last big campaign story the paper chose to print was yesterday's front page piece about a 4-day-old John McCain appearance in which it is posited that the Arizona senator is champing at the bit to restart Yucca Mountain as a nuclear repository once Reid is gone. This sentence, in the reporter's voice, was particularly intriguing: "Reid is the only obstacle between McCain and his energy platform, which relies on construction of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain." As I've said before, both papers have their problems, but the Sun's bias in its news columns is far more overt and strident. It doesn't matter to Ralston because where his bread is buttered matters more than being fair to his colleagues.