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Pandering to Reno Aces
by Jake Highton
May 02, 2009 | 847 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“A newspaper should have no friends.” – Joseph Pulitzer

The Reno Gazette-Journal coverage of the recent home debut of the Reno Aces was shameless boosterism.

When the Aces, the new Triple-A professional baseball team in the Truckee Meadows, opened their season recently in downtown Reno, the Gazette-Journal treated it as if it were the second-coming of Christ.

Its page one headlines: “A new downtown ballpark captures our hopes and imagination … Triple-A experience is so much more than baseball at today’s opening game.”

That day’s page one index had seven items, including “GAME DAY BLOG” and “ARE YOU ON TWITTER?” On page one the day after the opener the G-J carried an index of seven breathless items, including “MEET THE FIRST FANS THROUGH THE GATE” and “THE HOTTEST TICKET IN TOWN.”

The only thing missing after each blurb was an exclamation point.

Alongside those embarrassing second-day gushes appeared a column headlined: “How are we going to top this?”

Dennis Myers, news editor of the Reno News & Review and media watchdog, was appalled by this complete disregard of any pretense of objectivism.

The G-J and TV stations gave the impression that they owned the Aces with their “reverential and admiring coverage,” Myers wrote.

He decried failure to do a probing report on how the ballpark was financed and “the implications of that financing for the city’s taxpayers.” Myers asked: “Where was the scrutiny of the Reno Aces corporation along with the bubbly, adoring ‘news coverage’? ”

Local news departments have become PR firms, totally ignoring the Pulitzer dictum that a newspaper should have no friends.

The G-J, rapidly descending from a subpar newspaper to a bad one, is now carrying a special section called “Good News.” The very nature of so much news is bad.

The media do regularly run good news. It was good news that the Las Vegas Sun won a Pulitzer Prize last month for public service. The Sun was honored for articles describing lack of construction safety regulations leading to high death tolls. The jurors saluted the courageous reporting of Alexandra Berzon.

It was precisely what newspapers should be doing, not boosting the home town.

In hailing the award, the Las Vegas CityLife expressed the hope that Las Vegas would soon produce another Pulitzer winner. I nominate CityLife columnists Steve Sebelius and Hugh Jackson. They write the hardest-hitting, toughest public affairs journalism in Nevada.

Unfortunately, their kind of commentary is not likely to win a Pulitzer. Newspaper jurors, very much part of the Establishment, prefer safe and sound columnists, not guys like Sebelius and Jackson who tell the naked truth.

Cheering a disgrace

The oldest cry from the Right is that the media are liberal. Would it were so. After President Bush held a farewell press conference, White House reporters gave him a standing ovation.

A standing ovation is highly unprofessional for supposedly neutral journalists. Moreover, how could any reporter applaud the sordid eight-year record of 43?

Prudish New York Times

The New York Times, publishing in the 21st century but with 19th century prudishness, recently ran a story about Supreme Court arguments on the use of the word “fuck” in broadcasts.

“You know the word I mean,” Adam Liptak of the Times coyly wrote.

This is 2009. Sophisticated Times readers can handle that word without blinking.

Another Establishment speaker

I have endured Scripps dinner speakers for nearly three decades at the University of Nevada, Reno, journalism school. All are Establishment to the core.

The speaker this spring was no exception. Edie Lederer, an Associated Press veteran, entertainingly described how she covered wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan. But she never gave the faintest suggestion that these wars were unjust, uttered not a word about U.S. empire-building and gave nary a hint that U.S. provocations led to the 9/11 attacks.

Just say it plain

The Associated Press reported that a basketball player had “a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn meniscus.”

Surely there is a more felicitious way of writing that so it can be understood by readers who are neither doctors nor medical students.

Paul Mitchell, journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a sports authority, learnedly explains the injury:

“The ligament acts as a stablizer for the knee (keeps it in place). The meniscus is a fleshy tissue that acts as a shock absorber.” If the parts wear out, “the athlete risks rubbing bone on bone in the knee joint.“

But, Paul, why couldn’t the AP simply say the player had a knee injury? Newspapers are written for general readers, not specialists.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at UNR.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Dan Hinxman
May 08, 2009
You are absolutely right about the Gazette-Journal. The newspaper only exists now to kiss up to potential advertisers. They are in bed with the Aces because they advertise at the ballpark and they see the Aces as a potential advertiser. They fawn over sports teams in the community now because their sportswriters neither have the talent or the guts to challenge anyone. The section is run by a sports editor who has no skills either as a reporter or an editor. It's just all about making money at the Gazette-Journal. There is no journalistic credibility at the newspaper anymore.
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