The two trying to ‘siga el dinero’
Glad I save past address books … a-ha, here it is … 524 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019… start punching buttons … mention old friend’s name … ask if he still works there … OK, great, please transfer this call to his office … thank you.
“It’s got everything,” I assure my old friend, now a senior producer. “You got your corruption, your fraud, your abuse of power, secret meetings, conflicts of interest, misuse of public funds, bogus news stories, tinges of blackmail and, best of all, genuine heroes—and we’re not talking sandwiches here.”
“So what you’re telling me is that Reno is just like the big American cities.”
“Reno,” I remind him sharply, “is the Biggest Little …”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen the Arch. Listen, Mike, you know the drill. Fax the details, and we’ll …”
“But this thing is classic, even biblical. It’s like …”
“Please, not David and Goliath all over again.”
How did he know?
“Yeah, but there’s something else, something really different about it. Just listen to one more sentence?”
He sighs. “Keep it simple.”
“Gotcha. The ‘David’ part is actually two women—two brave, heroic, community-minded …”
“Lose the adjectives.”
“… two women, names are Toni Harsh and Jessica Sferrazza-Hogan, both of whom just got elected to the City Council and are trying their damnedest to break through the stonewall around …”
“… around the political thugs who control and manipulate the city government for their own and their cronies’ benefits, right?”
“You already heard?”
“Mike, this is America. You’re telling me a Tale of 2,000 Cities, and we’ve got faxes about crooked local politicians all over the floor to prove it.”
“Two thousand cities don’t have a daily newspaper that tells its reporters what they can and cannot write.”
“Go tell it to the First Amendment Center. Didn’t you do some time there?”
“Yeah, in Nashville, and you know who owns the First Amendment Center? The Freedom Forum. And you know who owns the Freedom Forum? Gannett. And you know who also owns the Reno Gazette-Journal?”
“Lemme guess. Gannett. Ironic, ain’t it?”
“You think it’s funny, and we’ve got a town being bled to death by a bunch of self-serving fat-cat bastards trying to shove a train trench project down our throats. These two women, Harsh and Sferrazza-Hogan, are literally fighting City Hall just to get information about who’s paying the big bucks for all their slimy publicity crap.”
“I know I’m gonna be sorry for asking, but how are they doing?”
“Lousy. These are brave women, real heroes, but they’re up against more than just a greedy mayor and a couple of his ass-kissing councilmen.
“They’re also being ignored and/or bad-mouthed by a venal city manager, an apathetic city attorney, a don’t-wanna-hear-it secretary of state, a malicious pair of incompetent but mayor-connected ad agency/P.R. firms and three local TV stations whose investigative reporting is limited to rodeos, flower shows and cowboy poetry.”
“And the voters, the public?”
“Numb, ill-informed, unconcerned, complacent, transient … mix ‘n’ match to taste.”
“And what about Manny’s Law?”
Manny was a mutual friend, Manuel Suares, the super-sharp Latino newsman who, many years ago, taught both of us the phrase and practice of siga el dinero. It was Manny’s Law: Follow the money.
“It starts in the deep pockets of a hotel-casino corporation run by a bunch of rednecks in Memphis, and then …”
“Send it. No more telephone blather.” Click.
If you give a damn about Reno, remember these two names: Toni Harsh and Jessica Sferrazza-Hogan. Trust them. Support them. Help them to siga el dinero.
And never try making small talk with 60 Minutes.