For nearly five months, the Las Vegas Optic has been a three-day-a-week newspaper. For our first 130 years, this paper was a daily.
Because of the reduction, many people have mistakenly believed that we work only three days a week. We don’t — for a very simple reason: The news still happens all the time.
When my superiors decided to reduce the Optic’s frequency, I was nervous. I figured that we would get many complaints from our readers and some cancellations of subscriptions.
To my great surprise, that didn’t happen. Maybe it’s because of all of the bad economic news this year; our customers may have just figured the Optic was just another business that took a hit.
I was initially skeptical about going to three days a week, but I’ve come around to believing that it was a good decision. Many towns the size of Las Vegas have a paper that print only a few times a week or even just once.
Coming out three days a week, we’re able to pack more news into each edition, making it more worth it to drop your quarters into a vending machine.
Some local politicians — especially those who feel aggrieved by our coverage — have claimed that the Optic reduced its frequency because our readers have given up on the paper. They’re tired of a paper that only focuses on the negative, these politicos say.
Of course, we cover the good, bad and the ugly, but some of our elected leaders would prefer a docile press — one that cheers the establishment, rather than hold it accountable.
In recent years, Las Vegas has had two weekly newspapers — the Las Vegas Times and the Meadow City Independent — both of which promised to be both unbiased and positive. (Isn’t being positive a bias?)
Some politicos have loved these publications — a way to get their puff pieces published but keep out the bad news. For a while, an embattled Mayor Tony Marquez was only giving city press releases to the Independent — a practice that stopped once it came to light.
So why did the Optic go down to three days a week? As the publisher stated in his announcement earlier this year, it was an economic decision.
More than 100 newspapers across the country also have reduced their frequencies in the last several months. The downturn for our industry hit long before the national recession.
Last year, our parent company, Landmark Communications, owned mostly by a very rich man, decided to sell off all of its assets. And it got around to selling the Weather Channel. But then the credit markets froze up, and Landmark’s potential buyers disappeared.
So the owner decided to delay the whole process. And that means he intends to sell all of his properties later. Now, it’s apparent that he is trying to make all of his publications financially stronger, presumably to get a higher price. And for the Optic, that meant going three days a week. Spinning a paper off the presses only three times a week cuts costs, as did going to all-mail delivery.
Over the last year, the Optic has also eliminated a few positions by attrition. Fortunately, that hasn’t affected the newsroom. So far.
But I don’t make these kinds of decisions.
One of the unfortunate things about the media industry is its concentration. Yes, by having corporate owners, we enjoy certain efficiencies that help us deliver a better product. But the guy who owns Landmark will never run into you at the grocery store, so he doesn’t feel the consequences of his decisions at the local level.
I’m glad that Landmark doesn’t dictate any of our news coverage decisions. They’re more concerned with the finances.
So you can rest assured that no corporate big guy will tell us how to cover Las Vegas, N.M.
• • •
During a speech last week, Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, admonished the print media to “take down exactly what I say.” He’s been angry at the Optic as of late because we committed the crime of quoting what he said, and it got him in a little hot water with local merchants. (He told a radio host that some Plaza merchants want to turn Las Vegas into another Santa Fe or Taos.)
I’m not sure the senator wants us to quote exactly what he says — word for word. He’s like me and the rest of us; sometimes we use the wrong word.
During his speech, he said that some people in Las Vegas “unlike” the film industry. What he meant to say was “dislike.” I’m sure he won’t mind if we edit his exact words.
We all make these little mistakes, so to make our readers’ lives easier, we will paraphrase and use the right words.
David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or firstname.lastname@example.org.