Telling the full story
“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers,” President Kennedy said.
A newspaper does the same thing. On Sunday, the Reno Gazette-Journal revealed more about itself than about its subject when it ran a puff piece on the mayor of Sparks.
There are those who believe our calling is coming to an end, that newspapers are dying and that in five or 10 or 25 years we will be a thing of the past. Perhaps. But it matters how we go out. And on Sunday three newspapers showed us alternative ways of doing it.
The New York Times ran “How the Russia Inquiry Began,” which reported that the investigation of the Trump campaign’s links with Russia originated with an Australian diplomat, who had a conversation in a bar with influential Trump foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos, whose drink-loosened tongue spilled some beans that eventually found their way to Mueller investigators. Papadopoulos told the diplomat the Trump campaign was aware that Russia held “thousands of emails that would embarrass [Hillary] Clinton.” The Australian diplomat alerted authorities when he was informed of a Russian intelligence operation. As best we know, neither Papadopoulos nor the Trump campaign did so.
The Times piece had enormous impact. Within hours, it was being quoted by Reuters, Inquisitr, CNN, New York magazine, the Chicago Sun Times, the West Australian, AV Club, Hot Air, ITV News, Politicus USA, Washington Examiner, WHIO in Australia, TickletheWire, The Africom, Blasting News, and something in Pennsylvania called 10,000 Couple. The Times report undercuts the notion that the Mueller investigation, which Republicans once called for but now oppose, is politically motivated.
In its profile of Mayor Geno Martini, the Reno Gazette-Journal credited its subject with many good works and smart actions—and stopped there.
It did not inform readers that Martini’s love of corporate welfare for out-of-state chains not only damaged local merchants but drained the Washoe County School District of needed funds, a problem the late Sen. Debbie Smith of Sparks tried to remedy.
It did not tell readers that the mayor and the city council watered down standards for plumbers and electricians as a way of attracting some condo projects, with little attention to the threat this could pose to eventual tenants.
Martini is also living in the past by promoting the kind of economic development that was popular in the 1960s, of attracting tourism and gambling, while most other officials have long since moved on to try to diversify our economy beyond tourism.
We hardly begrudge Mayor Martini the praise he earned and the RG-J delivered, but that is not his entire record. A better example could be found this past week in the Salt Lake Tribune, which called on U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch to retire, then named him Utahan of the Year.
If our business is going down the drain, let’s do it with some class, not with embarrassing softball journalism and articles on where to find the 10 places with the best bouillabaisse—and avoiding editorials that might offend. Let’s go with a bang, not a whimper.