Monday, November 9, 2009

Is The R-J "Fair & Balanced"?

I don't even bother asking any more, but ProgressNow Nevada is noticing... And they launched Las Vegas Journal Review to monitor the teabaggers' paper of choice.

So why does this matter? I'll let them explain:

The Las Vegas Review-Journal is the largest newspaper in Nevada, with a reported daily circulation of 175,841, according to the most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations report.

The Review-Journal is the flagship newspaper of Stephens Media, an Arkansas-based corporation which owns more than 11 daily papers and 50 weekly newspapers in nine states. In Nevada, Stephens also owns the Pahrump Valley Times, Tonopah Times-Bonanza, Ely Times, Eureka Sentinel and Mesquite Local News and publishes the View Neighborhood Newspapers, Las Vegas CityLife, the Las Vegas Business Press, El Tiempo and other niche publications.

Stephens Media executives have made the majority of their political donations to Republican candidates and conservative causes.

OK, so their execs donate to Republicans? What's the point so long as they keep the politics out of the news room? But that's just the problem: They don't! And while the Greenspuns have plenty of their own opinions, one can't argue over Brian Greenspun's recent recounting of the facts in yesterday's Sun editorial.

And to make things worse, take a look at The R-J's main "source for news".

The Nevada Policy Research Institute appears to have a direct line into the Review-Journal’s newsroom. The non-profit institute, which promotes “free market” principles in core areas of education and fiscal policy, gets the bulk of its media hits in the Review-Journal.

There’s certainly value to providing information and NPRI’s perspective to news sources. Local media outlets can certainly tap NPRI’s reports and analysts for this perspective. But it appears the Review-Journal has grown dependent on NPRI as a source.

And that's where the fine line between having a source for analysis and having a source that controls the news can easily be eroded. NPRI is a private think tank funded in part, by the Libertarian Cato Institute and by private foundations like the Roe Foundation that also donate to the Heritage Foundation and other conservative institutes. [...]

NPRI is proud to tout its appearances in local and national media, and it’s clear from these recent clips that the local think tank should call itself a think thank to the RJ.

So far in 2009, NPRI has been in Review-Journal articles 40 times and counting. During the same period, NPRI got 5 hits in the Reno Gazette Journal and 13 hits in the Sun. This doesn't include the 23 submissions by NPRI staff that the RJ and its business publication printed so far in 2009. In fact, if the RJ didn't exist, NPRI would have a hard time justifying its staff. NPRI commentaries appeared four times in the Reno Gazette Journal and once in the Elko Daily Free Press.

And before anyone retorts with some fabrication of "liberal indoctrination" by The Sun or The Reno G-J, let's make this clear. Both The Sun's AND The G-J's respective newsrooms simply report the news and keep the editorializing in the opinion pages, where it belongs. Oh, and neither ProgressNow nor PLAN has any monopoly on either paper's opinion page. (And honestly, The G-J is a centrist paper at most that mostly endorsed Republicans before endorsing President Obama last year.)

Oh, and wait... It gets worse.

[Chuck] Muth recently launched Nevada News Bureau, calling it a nonpartisan, independent source of local and statehouse news in Nevada. The operation states it is needed because: "Budget constraints caused by falling ad revenue and paid subscriptions have forced the publishers of Nevada's major print newspapers to lay off staff. This has resulted in cut backs to both statehouse reporting and investigative journalism and has diminished their ability to be an effective reporter and 'watchdog' for the voter and taxpayer."

We couldn't agree more with that premise. But should the Review-Journal really rely on the news bureau's reporting, even if it is a free service.

Muth, after all, isn't what you'd call a nonpartisan. His Citizen Outreach certainly espouses a conservative-libertarian political philosophy. And it's Muth who has become the go-to consultant for the Nevada GOP during its struggle to create an identity, message or following.

Yes, it's really THAT Chuck Muth. The Chuck Muth that started the "Dump Reid PAC". The Chuck Muth that always pops up as a "conservative voice" on the local talk shows. The Chuck Muth that's become a force in today's Nevada GOP. Chuck Muth's "Nevada News Bureau" has now become another major "source" for The R-J!

No, I don't reflexively hate the entire R-J or Stephens Media. After all, Stephens does publish City Life. It's just too bad that they are now using The R-J as mostly a PR outlet for Nevada Republicans rather than a legitimate newspaper.

This is why The R-J is now no more legitimate than that major national Republican PR outlet.

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