Monday, Aug. 31, 2009 | 5:03 p.m.
You may have seen Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick's ridiculous rant against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Sunday's RJ. He took an obvious joke and turned it into something to fire up the anti-Reid caucus -- inside his newspaper and around the country. Check it out if you want -- I refuse to link to the garbage.
But here's my take:
GREAT MARKETER, HORRIBLE JOURNALIST, CLUMSY DEMAGOGUE: With all the national attention Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick is receiving for his column Sunday assailing Harry Reid for threatening his business, it is worth asking the question: Was this just a shameless, disingenuous and pathetic cry for attention (please, please read the RJ) using a polarizing national figure to do so? Or was this a sincere concern about a powerful senator threatening to put a newspaper out of business?
Don't take my word for it. If you want to know the truth about the sad sack suffering from Pulitzer-envy who needs to engage in demagoguery to prop up his failing enterprise, the facts speak for themselves.
The most damning fact is this: On the day that Reid, obviously displaying the wry, deadpan humor for which he is famous, told the RJ's ad boss he hopes they go out of business, Frederick's echo, Editor Tom Mitchell, posted this on his blog:
Does anyone detect a note of outrage? Indeed, quite the contrary. Don't you think if Mitchell thought it was a serious threat, he would have been apoplectic instead of bemused?
Yet four days later, Frederick publishes a column that makes it sound as if he is bravely standing up to the threatening majority leader? It's clear he saw an opportunity to try to get readers for his newspaper and that's what happened - at least on that one day.
Today, Frederick is bragging on his blog about the thousands of responses. He may honestly think that thousands of people read his column. He may not understand that the column, for obvious reasons, was linked by Drudge, thus generating that volume of response. He may actually be that obtuse - history and my own experience says he is. But it is the national media attention - even The New York Times blogged about it and Fox News is understandably orgasmic - that generated the response on the RJ site. (Not surprisingly, the local GOP and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for whom the column was made to order, are sending it around. And Little Tark also jumped all over it in a release.)
Faithful Flashees know that I have long been the foremost proponent of the leitmotif of Reid as a modern-day Machiavelli. But is there really anyone out there who believes he was threatening the RJ with extinction - I can't even believe Publisher Obtuse believes that - instead of simply being facetious? But for Frederick, it's an effective, if transparent, marketing gimmick to treat it as a real threat - although I suppose it is possible he actually believes what he wrote, even a more frightening proposition.
Frederick had this to say on his blog this morning: "People seem to be energized by a newspaper doing what it should do, which is stand up for the little guy against the powerful who would destroy others for their personal gain." Oh, yes, that's the RJ's reputation all right - standing up for the little guy.
It's grotesquely shameless. But many who don't know Reid's sense of humor or the history will buy it.
Frederick continued his performance - and that's what it was - this morning on KNPR, telling interviewer Dave Berns on "State of Nevada" that the newspaper had not decided yet whether to endorse Reid's re-election bid and that the RJ will always be fair to Reid in its news pages. Now I don't expect my national media peeps to understand how sickening and distasteful this is. But the evidence, here, too, is damning.
Fredrick and Mitchell, through their incessant pounding of Reid in their blogs and columns, and through the placement of stories, clearly have let their opinions seep into the newspaper. Indeed, after Frederick got Mitchell's mind right on how he should react to the "threat," the editor penned a blog entry Sunday (coincidentally the same day as Frederick's column) that embedded an anti-Reid ad from a far-right group on his site, with a screen shot that said, "TV Ad: Help Us Defeat Harry Reid."
Gee, who is "us" here?
Check it out:
On KNPR, Frederick was unable to cite any evidence that Reid actually was trying to hurt his business - indeed, the content of the newspaper accomplishes that task on its own. But the publisher did mysteriously imply that there was evidence, just that he wouldn't talk publicly about anything outside the "four corners" of his column.
I am sure that RJ employees are mortified by their boss' behavior, so obvious and cloddish as it is. Indeed, Frederick and Mitchell delight in painting the Sun as in the tank for Reid as opposed to their fairness. And yet on the same day that Frederick's marketing gimmick defiled the RJ's opinion section, the Sun's Lisa Mascaro penned a balanced piece about Reid's unpopularity in the state despite his lofty position:
The headline: "Home state finds it hard to warm up to Reid"
You can read it here:
I doubt Frederick even saw it - my experience is he doesn't read much, but is reliable when a spoon is put in his mouth. But he and Mitchell, the editor who has happily shown his biases, should note that this is what is commonly called journalism, as opposed to the offal they offered readers on Sunday.