On Nov. 14, Reno Gazette-Journal executive editor Beryl Love published an editor’s note to readers in which he declared that on Washoe County development issues, “The Reno Gazette-Journal has a very simple role in all of this. We will lead the conversation.”
That declaration generated a certain amount of comment around the valley, such as, “Was there an election we didn’t know about?”
Mr. Love has now followed up on his self-selection as leader with a front-page news story, in which, presumably to demonstrate his expertise in this field, he wrote, “In 2001, the Nevada Legislature enacted Gov. Bob List’s ‘tax shift’ plan, which decreased the state’s dependence on property taxes and transferred the burden to the sales tax. Pair this with Nevada’s lack of a personal income tax and the result is a state that has a comparatively high[er] reliance on its sales tax than others do.”
Actually, List served from 1979 to 1983, and the tax shift from property to sales was enacted in 1981.
Mr. Love has been in Reno for a little more than four years. He moved here from Cincinnati, where he was editor and general manager of an arm of the Cincinnati Enquirer (like the RG-J, a Gannett newspaper) and where he also set up a publication called CiN Weekly and its website. At the Gazette-Journal he replaced Tonia Cunning, who actually does have a depth of knowledge about this area. Whether his commitment is to the Truckee Meadows or to Gannett is a legitimate question in determining his role in local development discussions. Presumably, if Gannett calls again, he could be off to the next stop. Indeed, Ohio’s City Beat last week reported that blog reader comments have speculated that a departing Enquirer editor “will be replaced by Beryl Love, the first editor of the now-defunct CiN Weekly who is now executive editor at Gannett’s Reno Gazette-Journal.” How much of a stake in this community does he have?
But that’s not the most troubling part. The Reno Gazette-Journal has generally not been an advocate publication. That being so, it is not the job of its journalists to “lead the conversation.” It’s the job of its journalists to cover the conversation. And if it tries to lead the conversation, how can its coverage of that conversation be trusted?
We’re not knocking an advocate stance, if that’s what the RG-J wants to take. But the newspaper should level with the readers. Even then, it should not be a player.
This community has been down this road before. When Sue Clark-Johnson, another Gannett market-jumper who came to Reno for a time and then left, became the Gazette-Journal’s publisher, she set up a Reno political group—the Forum for a Common Agenda—that was packed with local wheeler-dealers the newspaper should have been scrutinizing instead of cultivating.
The temptation for Beryl Love to get cozy with players in this market while he “leads” would be alluring, and the danger is that this coziness will overlap with the newspaper’s coverage. A better approach would be to drop the civic journalism and stop trying to make the newspaper itself into a player.