A left hook in Vegas
I am a media casualty. After a 5 1/2-year run,
my weekly op-ed column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal was summarily executed.
I should have seen it coming, but journalists tend to be an idealistic breed. We believe that hard-hitting stories build readership and that readership nets success.
My columns on education earned first-place awards from the Nevada Press Association in two of the past four years and were picked up regularly by Internet news sites such as Electric Nevada. My demographics were rich, garnering among the highest percentage of readers in the top income and education brackets.
But my work had one grievous flaw: It was politically incorrect. Because I skewered Nevada’s education bureaucracy—including its reactionary teacher unions—I was branded “anti-education.” I burnished this misbegotten label by exposing how the state’s fast-growing Hispanic population impacts our schools. A May 15 column headlined “Getting Bigger, Not Better” sparked a noisy picket line outside the R-J office. Apparently, my words were offensive.
The R-J, to its credit, stood by me … at the time. The editors at Nevada’s largest daily appreciated the fact that I had my facts straight.
Yet the feeding frenzy was under way. A month later, the Nevada State Education Association purchased a half-page advertisement accusing me of “bashing” teachers. The union’s strategy appeared to play in my favor, since the price of the R-J ad paid my salary for a year. According t0o the time-honored journalistic axiom that notoriety trumps apathy every time, I figured my modest paycheck was secure.
I figured wrong. Again, politics.
While the Review-Journal is historically viewed as a conservative newspaper, it is actually quasi-libertarian with liberal social impulses. In the past election, for example, the R-J editorialized against Question 2 (Protection of Marriage) while supporting Question 9 (legal pot). Oddly, the paper couldn’t even decide whether Nevada Power should be transformed into a municipally owned utility.
As a bona-fide conservative, I put the R-J in a bind. It was bad enough that a lowly freelancer was more widely read than many of its full-time columnists. Now I was mucking up a corporate agenda increasingly dedicated to celebrating political correctness, multiculturalism and casino juice (see also Reno Gazette-Journal). It just wouldn’t do for a publisher and his cronies to feel uncomfortable.
Thus, without debate or discussion, I was curtly informed that the R-J was, in today’s obtuse parlance, “going in another direction.”
What remains of Las Vegas’ crumbling "conservative" press is lurching ever leftward. It is no coincidence that the R-J is now pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into its Spanish language tabloid, and desperately wants to protect that investment. And no amount of First Amendment pontification from the front office can paper over the reality that a dissenting voice has been squelched.