Friday, November 12, 2010

Review-Journal Publisher, Editor AND GM Are Out

News just broke that R-J publisher Sherm Frederick is stepping down as publisher of the newspaper and as CEO of Stephens Media and Thomas Mitchell is out as editor. And yet, there's even more to it than that.

Not in their story? Allan B. Fleming, the Review-Journal's general manager, is also out. And Mitchell is getting a new gig created for him, some sort of senior editorial page editor role.

The article published by the R-J announcing this posits that Sherm is leaving for health reasons, and he certainly has had a rough year with surgeries for prostate and heart ailments this summer.

But the real explanation of what's happening here? Harry Reid won.

An extremely knowledgable source at the paper called this move a "shakeout" and a "head slap" from the top, meaning the owners back in Arkansas. He reminded me that the Stephens family are big Washington D.C. players, with banking interests and other issues to deal with in Congress. They may have supported Republican candidates, but the over-the-top efforts by Sherm Frederick and Thomas Mitchell to support Sharron Angle and unrelentingly beat up on the Senate Majority Leader was exceptional. It was nasty and personal and harmed the reporters' ability to have their work taken credibly, but even more importantly, if the Stephens clan wanted to make nice with Harry Reid, the only way to do it was to get rid of Frederick and Mitchell.

It's entertaining that the newspaper tried to soft-pedal this news, leaving out the Fleming angle and reducing to the very last paragraph the fact that Mitchell was also departing from his role. Those are the clues that this is a much bigger change than just an ailing publisher choosing to reduce his stress load.

Two of the announced changes, though, look like Titanic deck chair shuffling. The company's chief operating officer Michael Ferguson ascends CEO of Stephens Media and advertising director Bob Brown will be publisher of the R-J. Brown has no significant journalism experience, and what this paper needs is someone in control of the purse who understands why they need more reporters and more resources. I fear an ad guy won't have that sensibility.

Still, there is one huge reason to be encouraged: They're going out looking for a replacement for Mitchell as editor. That means that for the first time in a couple of decades, that newsroom's leadership will have some serious new energy and ideas.

The stagnation has been crippling. If Stephens is courageous, they will bring in someone young and sharp from the outside who understands (or at least doesn't openly despise) the Internet, who can give that rudderless features section a solid redo, who can advocate for more resources so reporters can spend more time digging into important stories.

Plenty of questions left:

* Will Sherm, who will retain his Sunday column, keep up the feud with the Greenspuns and the Sun, or is there a chance for a little class and maturity to break out in Vegas newspaperland?

* Will the dramatic efforts to sue to protect copyrights continue via Righthaven?

* What becomes of "Director of Visuals" Al Gibes, City Editor Mary Hynes, Features Editor Frank Fertado and Managing Editor Charlie Zobell, all of whom have been in their posts for unusually long stints?

* If Mitchell had been outright fired, would he have filed for welfare unemployment benefits?


E C Gladstone said...

I don't get it... Frederick is going to keep doing his column? How's that going to work?


Well, he can write a column. It doesn't take much. He only has two columns in him anyway. Then he recycles.

dave202 said...

OK, I'll agree that the RJ was over the top in support of Angle, but you have nothing to say about the over-the-top support of Reid by the Sun? Ralston and Greenspun were Reid lapdogs. If you disagree that one newspaper shouldn't play favorites, you have to criticize the other too, I would think, for YOU to retain any credibility.


Dave: Take a look at my blog. I ALWAYS have criticized both papers -- much to my own peril since I write a column for GMG-owned Weekly. In fact, on Nov. 2, I wrote:

{{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.}}


That's just one of countless occasions when I've addressed that.

Steve Stern said...

Steve, while Frederick's columns were the most vitriolic I've ever seen during a campaign, I think this is more about the Righthaven suits than anything else. My take is here:

Evangeline Shaw said...

Charlie Zobell is really nice, and so is his family. I hope Stephens has the common sense not to wack him, at least if Stephens wants to avoid alienating the LDS community in Las Vegas.

Jeff Simpson said...

Why should they bring in someone who is "young and sharp"? Why not just sharp?
Sounds like you're advocating the discriminatory selection of a new newsroom boss.


Fair enough, Jeff. I just want somebody who gets the Web. Usually, those folks are young.

Laura Martin said...

An extremely knowledgable[sic] source at the paper called this move a "shakeout" and a "head slap" from the top, meaning the owners back in Arkansas.

I wonder why it took so long. The RJ went pretty hard for Sue Lowden during the primary, then wasted no time shilling for Angle.

Whatever the reasons, I cautiously say good riddance. Let's hope the staff changes bring real change to the Review Journal.

Anonymous said...

You're wrong. 100 percent wrong.

Anonymous said...

until they restrain their Righthaven pitbull, I won't link or read their crap

Anonymous said...

"...I wonder why it took so long. The RJ went pretty hard for Sue Lowden during the primary, then wasted no time shilling for Angle..."

Yes, we can't have a paper that supports Republicans.
Why, what would the neighbors think?

Tom Araya said...

the Greenspuns and Sun are hopeless shills for the Marxist Rats so it seemed pretty even to me. That is too bad the right has lost some of their ability to balance out the left. I guess i will take solace in the fact that the right is purposefully not supporting that which is not in our interests.

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." Thomas Jefferson

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property - until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
Thomas Jefferson

Anonymous said...

What the heck is the Review Journal? I've lived in Vegas most of my life and didnt realize that the we even had a newspaper. Although, I do rember using something that was delivered to my house a long time ago to line the cats box. Wonder if that is what they are making erference to?

Anonymous said...

Good move. Because as we all know, the Democrats are really, hugely pro-business. /sn. Seriously, does the Stephens family actually think Dingy Harry is going to do anything to help them? All that corruptocrat does is take money from the unions and then slam businesses. What a bunch of friggin idiots. Dingy pushed through Obamacare against the wishes of the American people. And it is an absolute disaster for American businesses. Oh well, I truly hope the their business fails. Remember, when you lie down with dogs...