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April 17, 2014

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Sun Publisher: Community needs two news voices

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L.E. Baskow

Las Vegas Sun Editor and Publisher Brian Greenspun enjoys a few recollections of his father Hank as the Las Vegas pro chapter Society of Professional Journalists hold a discussion at the Nevada State Museum at the Springs Preserve on how the community will be impacted if Las Vegas turns into a one-newspaper town Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013.

Society of Professional Journalists Panel Discussion

Las Vegas Sun Editor and Publisher Brian Greenspun compares both local newspapers as he makes a point during the Las Vegas pro chapter Society of Professional Journalists panel discussion at the Nevada State Museum at the Springs Preserve on how the community will be impacted if Las Vegas turns into a one-newspaper town Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. Launch slideshow »

If the Las Vegas Sun were to cease publication, the resulting diminished competition among news providers would leave Las Vegas with a more limited selection of news reports and editorial content, panelists told a group of media professionals who met Saturday to discuss the newspaper’s future.

As a result, Southern Nevada residents would have less information on a variety of topics, from the level of public safety in their neighborhood to how their tax dollars are being spent to how their children’s schools are performing and more.

“What’s important -- to everyone around the table who believes in journalism and believes in the mission and believes that democracy needs credible information -- (is that) the loss of any information is sad,” said Las Vegas Sun Editor and Publisher Brian Greenspun. “And you should fight against that every chance you get. I’m doing it my way.

“I don’t want to wake up tomorrow and have the (Las Vegas) Review-Journal run the life of Las Vegas.”

Presented by the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the discussion was with Greenspun and Michael Green, a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada. At issue was Greenspun’s ongoing legal battle with the parent company of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which he accuses of trying to kill the Sun by attempting to dissolve a long-standing joint operating agreement between the two newspapers.

“I’m not in on the economics, but I’ll speak as a highfalutin' historian. You do get two different versions of events (with two newspapers),” Green told the group, noting that he once worked at the now-defunct Valley Times. “We do lose a considerable amount of reporting.”

Greenspun’s fight with Arkansas-based Stephens Media began in August, when he requested a restraining order in U.S. District Court against Stephens after siblings Danny Greenspun, Susan Greenspun Fine and Janie Greenspun Gale voted in favor of an agreement with Stephens to terminate the JOA. Brian Greenspun voted against the agreement.

A federal judge has twice ruled against Brian Greenspun, saying his suit is premature because no contract has been signed.

Under the current agreement, Greenspun Media Group, the Sun’s publishing company, receives a share of the R-J’s advertising revenue — most recently amounting to about $1.3 million a year.

The Las Vegas Sun cannot yet operate a website independently of its print product, Brian Greenspun told the group of about 30 media professionals and journalism students.

“It’s just not there, economically,” Greenspun said. “It’s not there yet. It will be.”

Audience members, who at times deviated from the main topic to others that ranged from the value of television news to the Sun’s ties to Sen. Harry Reid, included Danny Greenspun, political reporter Jon Ralston, and former R-J managing editor Charles Zobell.

Zobell noted that there were no current R-J journalists at the panel, and wondered why none had attended. Moderator Gregan Wingert, SPJ president, said she distributed invitations to R-J staffers, but apparently none came.

Initially, R-J columnist Steve Sebelius was advertised as as a panelist, but he subsequently turned down the invitation, Wingert said. Wingert, an assignment editor at KSNV-TV, is a former intern for the Sun.

Danny Greenspun, offering the audience a disclaimer that he is under a confidentiality agreement, challenged his brother’s argument that the Sun needs to stay in print. Most people would prefer to get their news online, he asserted.

“What I’m mostly trying to address is this false premise that completing this deal with Stephens to end the JOA ends the Sun,” Danny Greenspun said. “The only person saying that is Brian.”

Brian Greenspun said “my intent is that whatever happens here will not adversely affect the employees of Greenspun Media.”

He said his efforts were partly driven to preserve the legacy of his father, Sun founder Hank Greenspun.

“I grew up watching my parents struggle, give up everything to keep that newspaper alive,” he said. “When you grow up and you watch that, you’re naturally going to have an inclination to continue.”

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