The news you'll never know you needed to know


Expanded from the 6-24-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." --- Voltaire

Get out the spittoons and foul weather gear. I've got fire in my nostrils, tears in my eyes and a bad taste in my mouth.

The best commentator in the state, writing for what UNR journalism Prof. Jake Highton properly called the best newspaper in Nevada, has been fired. Hugh Jackson started as an editorial anomaly at the Las Vegas Business Press. Such publications usually recycle press releases from the local chamber of commerce. Hugh kicked ass, an equal opportunity harasser.

Eventually, he was moved as "senior editor" to the company's alternative weekly, LV CityLife. With editor Geoff Schumacher, they produced sparkling local coverage, putting the Gomorrah South dailies (and the rest of the state) to shame. Schumacher was eventually lured away by one of the dailies to start a competitive weekly.

Without Schumacher, Jackson increased his output. The current edition carries not only Jackson's full-page weekly rant, but also a huge Jackson-composed feature exploring whether or not Latinos can spark a Nevada populist revolution. It's excellent reportage, witty and incisive commentary and just damned interesting reading.

In yesterday's Las Vegas Review-Journal (a frequent Jackson target, he termed its editors "social Darwinists") Rod Smith, general manager for Phoenix-based Wick Communications, announced a 10 percent staff cutback.

The lame excuse provided cover for ceremonial beheadings, a sacrificial offering to the gambling-industrial complex.

"As is the case with all newspaper operations, costs have been increasing substantially," Smith told the Review-Journal Friday.

"Our revenues have been great, particularly local sales, but our uncontrollable costs have been escalating," he added.

Then came the real story: "CityLife reporter Hugh Jackson and Business Press reporter Jeff Burbank are among the workers to lose their jobs at the company, which is the Las Vegas-area printer of USA Today."

Zounds. Business is great but we're firing the two main guys who make our papers interesting. Who's kidding whom?

This is a typical Nevadian power play. These writers had the interests of the real community at heart. The salty-tongued Jackson cared about the peons exploited by the pirate ships of the Strip. He poked holes in the petty hypocrisies of the nouveau riche descendants of the Mob.

In CityLife's 22 Feb. 2001 edition, Jackson printed long excerpts from "The Money and the Power -- The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, 1947-2000." The book is hated by the Las Vegas establishment which prefers to ignore the town's pedigree and the root causes of its ongoing viciousness.

Jackson praised the 500-page work in his column. "Today's PR spin on Las Vegas -- that the days of wide-scale mammoth financial corruption are over, and everything is on the up and up now -- is exactly the same message Las Vegas leaders have been selling for more than 50 years. As Denton and Morris make abundantly clear, it's a message that's never been true in the past, and the inescapable conclusion is that we probably shouldn't believe it now, either," Jackson wrote.

The hit on Hugh Jackson is nothing new. U.S. Sen. Patrick McCarran, D-Nev., tried to put Hank Greenspun's Las Vegas Sun out of business in the early 1950s. All of the paper's major casino advertisers save one pulled their ad budgets within a couple of days.

Talk show host Travus T. Hipp was fired by Reno's KKKOH radio in 1983 for daring to discuss the treatment of the elephants at John Ascuaga's Nugget.

Jackson may have hinted at what was about to come down in a short item in his last edition. Alternative newspapers all across the nation "seem to be fewer and far between as weeklies have evolved from scrappy and passionate to corporate and apolitical."

He also took what seems an oblique shot at the boss in his final weekly commentary: "I'd like to apologize for last week's column. What I did was wrong, unprofessional, immature and bore no resemblance to responsible journalism. That's right. I took up nearly a full page of what I'm assured is increasingly expensive hence treasured newsprint without once mentioning, let alone unloading on, that wanker in the White House."

Jackson criticized the gambling industry, politicians, unions, mobsters -- a journalist of the first order. He ranks with the two greatest commentators the state has ever produced, the late Greenspun and the late Ned Day. (Mark Twain remains in a class by himself.)

Jackson's stuff has consistently been that good. And now he's gone, another casualty of the money and the power of the Sagebrush Plantation.

For shame.

SPEAKING OF CENSORSHIP. As of yesterday, the Reno Gannett-Journal had still failed to inform its readers of juice lawyer/lobbyist Harvey Whittemore's outrageous action filed at the Nevada Supreme Court on June 15. Assembly Bill 661, which deregulates electricity for the likes of casinos and mines, failed to pass the 2001 legislature. Whittemore wants the court to order legislative lawyers to send the unpassed bill to Gov. Dudley Do-Right, who says he will sign it. The bill will skyrocket rates for residential and small business ratepayers.

[BARBWIRE ONLINE UPDATE: The story was not published until the Reno paper's June 26 edition. Note that the text by reporter Jennifer Crowe says the legal action was filed "last week." This is a dead giveaway that the story was ready to print in the week after the filing, but the paper held it until the following week. Apparently, it ain't news until they say it's news, dammit. What an obscenely profitable corporate pulpistry. Click here for the latest.]

NEWSFLASH -- A Friday decision by the National Labor Relations Board bolsters the union cause at Washoe Medical Center. After almost two years of bad faith bargaining and union busting, the hospital conglomerate unilaterally imposed a stingy new contract on employees belonging to the union bargaining group.

Friday, the NLRB ruled the contract illegal and ordered the hospital corporation to bargain in good faith. The announcement comes just in time for Tuesday's planned strike by nurses, who legally had to give the hospital notice of any walkout. The Washoe Med bandidos are bringing in strikebreaker temps from back east for five days, locking their own nurses out starting Wednesday.

People scheduled to receive services from Washoe Med this week should contact their doctors and refuse care from temporary albeit expensive carpetbaggers.

Rather than paying its own longtime employees a fair wage, Washoe Med will pay the strikebreakers $1,500 per nurse per day! The money will eventually come from you, me and the taxpayers of Washoe County who pay the hospital for indigent care. The nurses will host a prayer vigil at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. They'll need help on the lines all week, as the sprawling complex has 16 entrances. Report for duty at the ironically named Pickett Park on Mill St. See you on the frontlines.

SEE YOU ON THE RADIO. Radio and TV stations know that everyone interested in the great issues tunes in at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning. In order to address this substantial audience, I will perform a post-mortem on the 2001 Nevada legislative session at 6:30 a.m. PDT today on "The X," KTHX 100.1 fm. Longtime on-air personality Bruce Van Dyke hosts. Tune in. Turn on. Get some coffee and tell a friend. You won't need coffee afterward. You'll need tranquilizers.

THIS FRIDAY IN THE DAILY SPARKS TRIBUNE -- A Barbwire special in the annual Looking to the 21st Century Edition which will be delivered to every home in the Rail City.

Be well. Raise hell.


UPDATE from LV CityLife columnist Anthony Allison

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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988 .

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