The national magazine Politico reported on Tuesday night that Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith resigned from the columnist position he has held for more than thirty years. Smith, a Las Vegas native and the son of a long time Clark County Justice of the Peace in Jean, Nevada has worked at the daily Las Vegas newspaper for more than thirty years and become the lead columnist after Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Ned Day died.
After moving to Las Vegas, Day began working as an investigative reporter for the now defunct North Las Vegas Valley Times newspaper. He later wrote columns for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In the late 1970s, he became the managing editor and a reporter for KLAS-TV.
In 1986, Day’s car was bombed (he wasn’t in it, but his golf clubs were). Ned reportedly described it as “the happiest day in my life, when the mob firebombed my car.”
On September 3, 1987, Day was reported dead while vacationing in Hawaii, at the age of 42. The coroner’s office ruled it a natural death from a heart attack, but none of the people who knew him remember him having heart problems.
After Day’s death, John Smith took his place on the front page of the local section of the newspaper and maintained it until Tuesday, when he left a letter of resignation on his desk and a copy of it on every reporter’s desk.
“Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith resigned from the paper on Tuesday, after the paper prevented him from writing about casino owners Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, whose family owns the Review-Journal,” wrote Politico.
“The resignation of John Smith leaves the daily newspaper without a voice for the average person in this community,” stated Maramis Choufani, the Managing Editor for the Las Vegas Tribune after learning of Smith’s decision.
Smith has been at odds with Rolando Larraz, the Las Vegas Tribune’s Founder, but has enjoyed the respect of this newspaper for writing what he believed in, and for the right reason, and for being a dedicated and good father to his only daughter, Amelia.
Larraz, a fighter for freedom of expression and freedom of the press, becomes upset every time a voice is shot down or shut down, for whatever reason, even if it is a voice with which he does not agree.
In 2014 when the Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice, the only Black newspaper in the state of Nevada, was forced to close for lack of support, the Las Vegas Tribune, the only independent newspaper in Nevada, wrote “Last month, Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice, not only the oldest weekly newspaper, but the only African-American newspaper in the state of Nevada — with 35 years of continual publication — closed its doors. A few days earlier, the weekly Las Vegas City Life, the baby inspiration of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, also shut down for good, leaving several
people unemployed and the city with two fewer voices to be heard. One was more like a tourist, visitors and entertainment newspaper; and the other one could have been the voice for a specific group in the
community; but nevertheless, it is a loss of talent and opinions — no matter how opposite to each other they might have been — since they existed to inform the readers each in their own way, each for their own purpose.”
When commentator Jon Ralston, who has nothing in common with Larraz or his newspaper, lost his television show, the Las Vegas Tribune wrote “Ralston has been digging up the dirt about Nevada politics and businesses for almost two decades.” A Buffalo, N.Y. native, Ralston arrived in Las Vegas in 1983 and went to work at the daily newspaper learning the ropes of our city, very quickly gaining the admiration of many and the fear of others.
Las Vegas has not been blessed with many real journalists; there have been maybe a handful of them that can be counted in that category, and each had their own style.
At the top of the list, of course, is the “Chairman of the Board,” Mr. Bob Stoldal, who has been instrumental in the life and careers of many in the news business in this community. U.S. Senate Harry Reid called Bob Stoldal a legend, and we have to agree wholeheartedly with that designation even if we still refer to him as the “Chairman of the Board” because of his dedication and impeccably clean record in the news business.
Mr. Stoldal is followed by Tom Mitchell who for many years ruled the editorial department of the Las Vegas Review-Journal with an impeccable history of ethics and integrity respected by everyone. Ned Day, a Milwaukee Wisconsin native, is another good example of real journalism; he was a fighter for news and a nose for finding stories.
Day came to Las Vegas to work at the North Las Vegas Valley Times, and when the newspaper closed, the Review-Journal grabbed him and he was the lead columnist until his death.
The First Lady of Nevada Journalists, Jane Ann Morrison, is still hanging in there at the Review-Journal, jumping from reporter to columnist to reporter and back again to columnist.
The end of the Jon Ralston Face-to-Face show is sad for all Las Vegas news junkies. We hope and pray that we can have him back again somewhere, someday, but where can he continue to display his talent?
“In Las Vegas, a quintessential company town, it’s the blowhard billionaires and their political toadies who are worth punching. And account, then that ‘commentary’ tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed,” Smith wrote in a letter to colleagues, which he printed out and left around the newsroom, wrote Politico.
According to the Politico story, “Smith was first told not to write about Adelson on Jan. 28, a person with knowledge of the situation told Politico. That’s the same day that Craig Moon was named publisher of the paper and that the R-J eliminated its standing disclosure about Adelson’s ownership.” (Smith did not respond to a request for comment.)
“The paper’s ban on Smith’s coverage of Adelson was not widely known until Saturday, when R-J editor J. Keith Moyer defended it during an interview with Mary Hausch, a journalism professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, at a Society of Professional Journalists meeting.”