Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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Dad would have wanted to save the Sun

"Congratulations, your father would be very proud of you.”

I cannot tell you how many emails, texts, phone calls and personal greetings I have received since it was announced this month that I had purchased the Greenspun Media Group from my siblings. All saying the same thing.

What all of those well-wishers were really saying, I believe, is that the Las Vegas Sun — the newspaper my father started in 1950 and lived, breathed and slept with until the day he died — would continue to live now that it was in my hands and out of the control of people who had a different idea.

Believe me, those good wishes were a welcome sign after too many years of fighting to save the newspaper I had grown up with and was committed to keeping alive no matter the cost. And, believe me again, while I am not allowed to discuss what I paid to make that deal happen, the cost was very dear.

But worth it!

What I now own is a company with some of the best reporters, editors, designers, salespeople and dreamers in the news industry. If the Las Vegas Sun and its sister publications survive and prosper in the coming years, it will be because of the hard work, dedication and imagination of the people who call the Greenspun Media Group home.

The truth is that no one has figured out yet how news organizations across the country — those which have dedicated themselves to providing the best and most credible news and information to the communities they serve — will make the kind of living necessary to continue to fulfill the role protected and encouraged by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The entire industry is in a state of flux.

But don’t worry, it will get figured out — because it has to. Because if news organizations fail, what we have been witnessing at the voting booths — fewer and fewer people voting (and of those who do, a growing percentage of ignorant voters carrying the day) — will continue until democracy is threatened. And that just won’t do.

We are a responsible country, and our citizens have always done the responsible thing. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to make that happen.

That is what I want to talk about today. Responsibility.

I believe, like so many others who have expressed the same sentiment, that my father would be happy with my perseverance to save the Las Vegas Sun and my ability to continue publishing in the community interest, mostly through publications and websites that did not exist and weren’t even contemplated when he was alive.

His source of pride, though, would come not from saving a newspaper — no matter how important it was to him — but from his son doing all he could, regardless of the cost, to honor a commitment made long ago.

Many decades ago, my father visited me in college to tell me about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was not long after a fire had destroyed the Las Vegas Sun, the rebuilding of which caused my parents to go deeply into debt, which they had little or no chance of repaying if they expected to do it from the meager profits that the newspaper made, sometimes.

Howard Hughes wanted to help, and he wanted to own a newspaper. He would pay top dollar and then some, and my dad would be able to operate the business, write his daily column, and live the rest of his life free from debt and financial worry. It was like hitting the lottery.

He came to Washington not to tell me about his opportunity but to ask his 21-year-old son what “he wanted to do with the rest of his life, if he wanted the Las Vegas Sun to be part of it.” My dad knew I had just been admitted to law school, I had a multiyear commitment to the U.S. Army and who knows what else was rattling around in my mind. But he asked anyway.

The next day, I gave him my answer. I told him I had grown up in the newspaper business, I loved Las Vegas and wanted to see it and all the people who lived there grow and prosper, and thought I could best help by continuing what he started. That meant, yes, I wanted to be in the news business. That is when he told me about the offer he would pass up so I could live my dream.

I spent most of the next 20 years or so working side by side with my father. Each day I learned how hard the business was, even then, and the financial sacrifice he and my mother made in their own lives to make sure the Sun stayed alive.

When I negotiated the joint operating agreement with the Review-Journal in 1989, my father was alive to appreciate that his newspaper, and what now was my world, would be alive for 50 more years. A number of years later, when I negotiated the change to the JOA that put the Sun inside the Review-Journal, making us the largest circulated newspaper in Nevada, my mother knew and understood how important that was to continuing what she and my father had worked so hard to create.

This month, when I had nothing to prove to my parents, who are gone, I fulfilled the responsibility I undertook in 1968 when I told my father I wanted to be in the newspaper business. That is when he gave up financial security and a much easier lifestyle to help me fulfill my dreams. It was time to honor what he did for me.

Informing the public and providing the kind of leadership on issues of vital interest to the community’s well-being is not easy and certainly not inexpensive. But, whichever way this media world goes and changes in the years to come, I am in it for the long haul.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire community to ensure that quality news organizations thrive in a way that allows citizens to keep themselves informed so that our democracy benefits.

I pledge that quality. All I ask is that you keep reading and make Southern Nevada the better for it. That is, after all, the responsible thing to do.

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