Layoffs hit Las Vegas Sun newsroom; publisher points finger at agreement with Review-Journal

The Las Vegas Sun laid off nearly a dozen staff members Thursday, blaming its joint operating agreement with the Las Vegas Review-Journal as the reason behind the cuts.

In a statement to employees that was posted on the Sun’s website, Las Vegas Sun Publisher and Editor Brian Greenspun said the newspaper, an eight- to 12-page daily insert delivered with the Review-Journal, derives most of its revenue from the joint operating agreement with R-J owner Stephens Media.

He said Greenspun Media was “too exposed to the fortunes of the Review-Journal, a business we can’t control. That is a central reason for the events of today. This is a tragic event for those who lost their jobs, for this company and for the community.”

Mike Ferguson, president and chief executive officer of Stephens Media, called Greenspun’s comments laughable.

“To attempt to lay the blame for these unfortunate job losses at the steps of the Review-Journal is a sad statement and tells us much about the state of the management of Greenspun Media and a failure to recognize the true history of the relationship between Stephens Media, the Review-Journal and the Sun,” Ferguson said. “We entered into a joint operating agreement in 1990 for the expressed purpose of saving the then-failing Sun. If it were not for this action there would be no Sun today.”

Ferguson said the agreement was amended in 2005 to allow the Sun to publish in the morning and be delivered to the full circulation of the Review-Journal, which was many times that of the stand-alone Sun.

“It’s likely there would not even be additional Greenspun Media Group publications had the Review-Journal not entered into the JOA that has greatly benefited the Greenspun family,” Ferguson said. “There is no question that this economy has had an impact on the revenues of all media in Las Vegas, but to blame the very vehicle that has kept his family in the media business for the last 21 years is a sad action. I would have expected much better from Brian.”

The Sun went through a series of layoffs in 2009 and 2010, eliminating an estimated 60 staffers.

Most of the layoffs Thursday were veteran reporters and editors, including the editor of its Vegas Inc. weekly business publication, its longtime, award-winning editorial cartoonist and the newspaper’s editorial page editor.

A month ago, the Review-Journal also cut staff from each of its departments, including the newsroom, in an ongoing effort to reduce costs and make operations more efficient.

“I am saddened any time Southern Nevadans lose their jobs,” Review-Journal Publisher Bob Brown said. “Mr. Greenspun’s attempt to blame the Review-Journal for problems of his own creation is unfortunate, and while it may help him sleep better, in addition to being inaccurate and misleading, it’s just pure BS.”

Earlier this week, Greenspun assumed the daily management of Greenspun Media Group, which publishes the Sun, Vegas Inc., Las Vegas Weekly, Las Vegas Magazine and Vegas2Go.

Bryan Allison, who had been chief operating officer of Greenspun Media, returned to his previous employer, Vegas.com, as its chief operating officer.

Greenspun said the media group would change and take on the characteristics of a startup company.

“We must transform the business,” Greenspun said. “So no, it won’t be business as usual going forward.”

Greenspun family patriarch Hank Greenspun began the Las Vegas Sun when he acquired the remnants of a newspaper began by the International Typographical Union. First published in May 1950 as the Las Vegas Free Press, the paper’s name was changed to Las Vegas Sun in July of that year.

Hank Greenspun died in 1989, the year before his family signed the joint operating agreement with the Review-Journal.

In 2009 the Las Vegas Sun was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service for its investigation of construction site safety lapses.

Over the years, the Greenspun family moved beyond publishing into other businesses that have been hit hard by the recession and housing bust.

The family opened American Nevada Co. in 1974. Their real estate development arm was responsible for the 8,400-acre Green Valley in Henderson, southern Nevada’s first master-planned community.

Over the years, the Greenspuns became partners in several gaming projects with Station Casinos, including ownership in the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Aliante Station. That investment was lost through Station Casinos’ recently completed bankruptcy reorganization.

The Greenspuns still have a stake in the three Station Casinos properties; Barley’s Casino, the Greens and the Wildfire Lanes.

The Las Vegas Sun was a part owner in Las Vegas 1, a failed cable television channel.

The Greenspuns invested heavily in the Las Vegas Sun’s website and have been criticized for winning awards with it while producing little revenue.

The Las Vegas Sun produced the short-lived 702.tv, a nightly television show on the Las Vegas entertainment scene that was created for Las Vegas 1. The plug was pulled on the show after just a few months.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.
com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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