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July 28, 2014

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Catching up on newspapers, finding I was missing a lot

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Here’s a tragic story that garnered two column inches in the Review-Journal’s May 27 Sunday roundup of the week’s news. A streak of 23 days without a homicide ended when Ricardo Perez walked into the county jail and confessed to drunkenly, accidentally killing his friend, Breana Carasik-McGee. Imagine the universe of pain two families are enduring right now.

Not reading the newspaper is a firing offense. That’s what my first editor told me. I doubt I’m alone as a journalist, however, in confessing that I’ve often read the blockbuster news and what was pertinent to my beat, but let many other stories slide, like the one about Breana Carasik-McGee.

It’s become even easier to skip reading the newspaper with Twitter, which acts like a rolling digital news feed, keeping you up to date on what’s happening while obviating the need to read the papers front-to-back.

So, sometime in the spring, I started grabbing the papers in the morning and throwing them next to my desk. And there they sat, and piled higher every day, unread. As the pile grew higher, my old editor’s words rang in my ears like a soft bell of anxiety, and every few days I would commit myself to reading those papers but never did.

Finally, when it had reached several feet high, I spent a Sunday and then a Friday night with a pot of coffee and my stack.

Would you know more about beer if you drank a case in two sittings or one per day for 24 days? I’m not sure, but by the end of my news binge I felt a little drunk on the sheer weirdness of our town.

A front page RJ story details the suicide of Darrol Mosley, who sent an email to friends blaming his former boss and ex-wife. The story goes on to report that Mosley met his wife when she was a prostitute but then forced her to remain in the sex trade. As I read, I wasn’t sure whether I should feel shame for violating someone’s privacy, or anger because I was being violated.

In an ongoing story worthy of a Lifetime movie, Dr. Dipak Desai is either faking the effects of two strokes — or not — as he defends himself against 28 criminal charges related to the hepatitis C outbreak at his clinics.

“Krave touts Drink and Drag as America’s only drag queen bar/bowling alley, as well as the largest employer of drag queens anywhere.”

Readers are captivated — or editors must have thought so anyway — by the story of Onion, the dog that killed a 1-year-old Henderson boy. Onion’s fate see-saws between life and death, as a judge grants a restraining order against his euthanasia. I’m reminded of the “Coma Baby” in “Bright Lights Big City.”

Anxiety is the affliction of the age, and we journalists probably aren’t helping. The papers are awash in atavistic rage and random violence.

“Violent predator sought.”

“A fight that began with a toy helicopter at a senior citizens’ living center led to a shooting in which a man was killed and his mother severely wounded.”

Police accuse a man of paying $2,000 to have his wife killed.

A 26-year-old is sentenced after he shot a man who had been pushing his children on the swings. He died in the arms of his older brother as the children watched.

Police shoot an armed suspect, and her friends are shocked because she wasn’t the violent type. The district attorney decides not to prosecute police officers who used a Taser 11 times on an unarmed man running from a traffic stop and who died. The ACLU is suing on behalf of a prison inmate who was allegedly forced to wear ankle shackles after she went into labor.

The effect of this is to make it seem like we live in a war zone. We do not. Violent crime has mostly been declining for years.

The County Commission is busy battling the Southern Nevada Health District; considering a towing scam, er scheme; and dealing with a farm that wants to expand despite opposition from neighbors.

The plan to build a city 58 miles away in Coyote Springs has collapsed under the weight of its own absurdity, its visionary and one-time power broker Harvey Whittemore indicted on charges of alleged campaign finance abuses.

We are a city of minor scam artists!

A primitive robbery scheme is thwarted.

The feds continue to amass guilty verdicts in the corruption of homeowner association boards, a story so sleazy and petty that it could only happen here.

Then there’s a slightly more sophisticated ruse, using fake bank accounts to bilk the casinos. Stories about casinos getting scammed are funny — people go to casinos to play games they are certain to lose if they play long enough, but it’s all on the level, right?

Business stories tell us that we’ll export ever more gaming to the rest of the country. Maybe voters in those other places should be forced to read our newspapers for a couple months before making decisions about these matters.

There are perfectly good reasons for our journalistic decisions. We don’t report every time a plane lands safely at McCarran, nor should we.

But are we capturing the essence of our community? Hard to say, but I fear we’re missing a lot. I can only promise to try to do better. Closely reading the paper is a start.

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  1. So you're the last one reading the paper? Please throw it in the trash when you're done.

  2. "Finally, when it had reached several feet high, I spent a Sunday and then a Friday night with a pot of coffee and my stack."

    Coolican -- I once read how if one read the entire Sunday edition of any major newspaper, like the LA or NY Times, one took in more information from that reading than a person in Shakespeare's time did in their entire lives. Information is not knowledge.

    "If you leave the smallest corner of your head vacant for a moment, other people's opinions will rush in from all quarters." -- George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, 1925 Nobel Prize winner

  3. Mr. Coolican,

    I've read your work. Trust me, not reading the newspaper will not hurt your journalistic integrity among those who take the opportunity peruse your Pulitzer worthy narratives. Relax and get a new head shot dude.

  4. Since the Las Vegas Sun is a section within the RJ, I get more information from the whole newspaper.

    I've read most of what you outlined, and much more. I learn from reading the hard copy newspaper, and others on the net.

    My one suggestion for the U.S. newspapers would be to increase the amount of in depth news from the world. We are a global community now, and events in other countries can have an effect on the U.S.

    Perhaps the inclusion of more stories of the good that occurs in our city would help some of us regain some hope for the human race. We need some inspiration to at least balance the flow of negative news.

  5. PS I get up an hour earlier to read the paper and mark what I want to spend more time on later in the day/night.