And now, some local-market media criticism

It has been one week since Jon Ralston reported in the Indy that the chairman of Nevada’s Gaming Control Board called the FBI on Attorney General Adam Laxalt for asking the board to do something nice for Sheldon Adelson.

Everybody gets why the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a Sheldon Adelson Production, has not published a word about it. The paper has hard-working reporters who do some fine work on those stories that don’t have anything to do with Adelson. But on the substantial number of issues that do have something to do with Adelson, the R-J is not a pathetic joke, but something worse, a shameless shill for Adelson’s agenda (and unfortunately for those aforementioned hard-working reporters, the paper’s credibility crisis creeps over and casts doubt on virtually every word the paper publishes).

But again, everybody gets that.

What’s a tad more complicated is why the Sun, the Reno Gazette-Journal, the Associated Press and the TV news stations have also made nary a peep about one of the state’s most important regulatory officials feeling it necessary to record a conversation with the attorney general, and then calling the FBI on that attorney general, who is also the putative 2016 Republican gubernatorial nominee.

One can speculate (Idle Speculator being one my super-power-endowed alter egos) in numerous directions, including but not limited to:

  • Upon reviewing the tape, the FBI determined that Laxalt did nothing illegal. Lazy and/or dim editorial management may determine that means there isn’t a story (hint: they are wrong).
  • The recording itself has not been made public (the Indy has filed a public records request), and area media  may be having trouble getting confirmation — though that’s a stretch in that Laxalt’s own office issued a statement on it, legislators have spoken out about it, the Democrats are attacking Laxalt over it, and gambling trade publications have had little trouble fishing out their own angles on the story.
  • The Sun is a barely staffed decimated shell of its former self.
  • The AP very rarely rewrites/distributes items that aren’t published in venues that are contracted with AP (the Indy isn’t; that said, it is not unprecedented for AP to write up/follow up on reports from non-AP media). This by the way is one big reason TV hasn’t said anything about the story.
  • Local TV news is also perpetually preoccupied with weather and car wrecks, including and especially car wrecks caused by the weather.
  • The RGJ ran some outstanding stuff on Adelson’s dumb football field, so evidently they’re not as intimidated by him as others might be. I’m not familiar enough with the paper to speculate about what’s going at Gannett’s Reno property, but its silence seems the most conspicuous of the bunch.

And there’s another damned thing: Media likes to pretend other media doesn’t exist. If the Reno paper or the Sun (let’s just forget about the R-J in this instance) were to publish anything about the Laxalt-GCB-FBI story, they would necessarily have to mention the Nevada Independent, in a tacit admission that a non-profit start-up competitor not only exists, but beat them on a pretty juicy story. (Disclosure: I’ve written a couple of freelance pieces for the Indy, for which I have been paid U.S. dollars, and I confess I think that conflict has influenced the piece you are reading now: I sincerely suspect if I hadn’t published anything in the Indy, this blog post would be much, much, much harsher on the rest of the state’s media.)

Competition, we are told, is healthy. Again, there are some fine journalists in Nevada. So here’s a suggestion for their managers and editors: Don’t ignore the competition. Let your reporters compete with it. Don’t deprive your audiences of information because you didn’t get it first and you’ve been convinced you mustn’t do anything in aid of a competitor’s brand. Let healthy competition drive better and more coverage, not less, on this issue and others, in keeping with your mission to foster a well-informed public.

The chairman of the state Gaming Control Board thought Laxalt’s request to talk about one of Adelson’s lawsuits was so unusual, so irregular, he recorded the conversation. And then he sent the recording to the FBI. Do Nevada’s news executives feel that their readers/viewers do not deserve to know that? Is Nevada’s for-profit media willing to pretend that since they didn’t get it, the story doesn’t exist?

Laxalt and Adelson hope so.