Friday, Feb. 18, 2011 | 2 a.m.
- The legacy of Chancellor Jim Rogers (7-5-2009)
- Regents approve new chancellor for higher education (6-18-2009)
- Rogers calls for Ashley’s ouster (6-17-2009)
- Rogers: UNLV President Ashley should be fired (6-16-2009)
- College students band together, rally against budget cuts (1-22-2009)
- Rogers adds own incentive for president (5-6-2006)
- Rogers shares wealth of experience (5-13-2005)
- TV mogul is willing to serve as chancellor (4-20-2004)
- Praises pour forth for interim chancellor (4-6-2005)
TV station owner and former university system Chancellor Jim Rogers has discovered Twitter.
In a matter of weeks he has become one of the state’s most interesting commentators on the social networking tool, using it to comment on state politics and policy in his trademark caustic and provocative style.
Rogers’ absence from the public arena — he stepped down as chancellor in 2009 — has left him with plenty of spleen to vent. On Twitter, he unleashes his opinions — mostly negative — on school superintendents, county commissioners, legislators and the Legislature, anti-taxers, parents and the governor.
He called Clark County Commissioner and Las Vegas mayoral candidate Chris Giunchigliani “mean.” He questioned state Sen. Barbara Cegavske’s intelligence. And suggested the Legislature be dissolved and their powers passed to local government.
He had this to say about the governor: “If Brian Sandoval had been the captain of the Titanic it would have gone down with him smiling, his hair perfectly combed.”
A spokesman for Sandoval declined to comment for this story.
Certainly, it is not a surprise that someone is sharing opinions on the Internet.
But Rogers comes at it from a unique place.
He’s a successful businessman. He owns Intermountain West Communications Company, formerly Sunbelt Communications, which operates 16 television affiliates in five states, including KSNV Channel 3 in Las Vegas and KRNV Channel 4 in Reno. (The Las Vegas Sun is a media partner with the stations.)
He knows state government. He served as boss of Nevada universities and colleges from 2004 to 2009.
He is politically connected. He is a prodigious political fundraiser and donor, which helps him get meetings with just about anyone he wants.
To a certain extent, his tweets are condensed versions of the weekly memos he sent out as chancellor. As a vocal defender of colleges and universities, he delivered withering — and highly entertaining — attacks on Gov. Jim Gibbons over his proposed cuts to the system.
Gibbons is “simply a greedy, uninterested, unengaged human being whose only, and I mean only, goal is to see what Gibbons can do for himself and his greedy friends,” he wrote during the 2009 legislative session.
Twitter has meant Rogers can communicate such thoughts in bite-size pieces with 100 percent-less filter. (His tweets are at twitter.com/jimrogersnevada.)
Rogers’ Twitter feed was born Feb. 4 with “Get to know your Legislator” with links to websites to assist with that.
Three days later, Rogers’ familiar caustic voice emerged.
“The man in the empty suit — Washoe County Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison,” Rogers tweeted.
Soon they were coming at a fast clip.
• “The rich folks have decided the poor folks don’t need, want or use an education.”
• “Regent Knecht has lots of brains and no judgment. Pitting K through 12 against higher education will hurt them both.”
• “If you want to know what boring is — attend a Regents meeting & listen to Knecht who talks more than all the others combined & says nothing.”
Then: “When Ron Knecht ran for Regent I gave his opponent $20k. Knecht never forgave me. I made a mistake. I should have given his opponent $100k.”
Rogers also has some kind things to say. He has called current Chancellor Dan Klaich “world class” and praised new Clark County Superintendent Dwight Jones.
Every weekday he has some tidbit that has lobbyists passing smart phones back and forth, laughing and cringing.
Rogers, in a phone interview Wednesday, said he dictates his tweets every morning. Mark Whitehead, director of promotions for KSNV, sends them out throughout the day.
“I just dictated 26 more for today,” Rogers said. “I’ve got all this pent-up information.”
He said his employees suggested he use Twitter to supplement the televised editorials he does from time to time.
“l will say things no one else will say,” Rogers said. “Others are thinking these things, but don’t have the nerve to say them. So I say them.”
Rogers is not “following” anyone on Twitter. Despite his interesting ideas, his number of Twitter followers is shockingly low — 117 as of Thursday afternoon. (By comparison, the Sun’s Jon Ralston’s @RalstonFlash has 6,349 followers.)
Rogers was asked if he has received any feedback.
“No,” Rogers said.
“People sign up,” Whitehead said. “We’ve had people sign up, they’ll call. They say they’re excited.”
Rogers chimed in: “Or ‘way to go Jim.’ ”
Whitehead added: “It’s like an AP news wire of what’s going on in Jim’s mind — here’s what he’s thinking.”
Rogers said his opinions pose no conflict with the news gathering side of his station.
“I don’t tell employees what to say, what to do,” he said. “I don’t control content. I never had a conversation with Jon Ralston who to have on his show, what to ask.
“I believe in the right of somebody who owns one of these stations to express themselves. Frankly, I believe in the right of anyone to express themselves.”
Regent Ron Knecht, the above-mentioned target of Rogers’ tweets, had heard of Rogers’ comments on Twitter, but only read them after a reporter called.
“He’s shouting at everyone, shouting nastiness at everyone and he’s frustrated no one is listening,” Knecht said. “I’m not going to spend any time on it. It’s just pathetic and sad.”
Knecht said he keeps getting the image of Jimmy Stewart from “It’s a Wonderful Life” yelling at greedy villainous Mr. Potter.
“You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!” Knecht recalled with impressive accuracy.
Rogers said he called Morrison an “empty suit” because he refuses to criticize Gov. Brian Sandoval’s education cuts.
“He’s kind of Pollyanna,” Rogers said of Morrison. “He doesn’t recognize what’s going on. He’s one of these guys who says we play along to get along.”
Morrison was unavailable to comment.
Rogers said he called Giunchigliani mean “because she is mean.”
“She personalizes a lot of things. I saw her just dress down the chief of staff from UMC at a public meeting,” he said. “It’s destructive.”
Gary Gray, Giunchigliani’s husband and campaign manager, said in a statement: “Twitter is wonderful, but limited in expression. By ‘mean’ I suppose Mr. Rogers really meant ‘Chris is as tough as I am, genuine, knowledgeable, and effective at getting the job done.’ ”
Rogers’ most recent Twitter screeds have focused on Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, a conservative who worked for a time as a consultant to KSNV.
Cegavske wouldn’t comment.
Rogers first mentioned her on Wednesday, at 11:51 a.m.
A few hours later: “Have you ever tried to talk to Sen. Barbara Cegavske about anything substantive? After ‘hello’ she has nothing to offer.”
And then Thursday morning: “If you can get any Republican Nevada State Senator to go on record to say Cegavske is brilliant — I’ll give your favorite charity $10K”
State Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said of Cegavske: “I think he’s mistaken. Sen. Cegavske is brilliant.”
He added, “Let’s argue over issues. Let’s not bring personalities into it.”
Rogers said he believes there is value in even his most provocative statements.
“At least it stimulates them to thinking,” he said. “Maybe they think, ‘Rogers is crazy. He’s totally wrong.’ That’s all right. I’m not a dictator.”