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A word to the wise(guys): Watch what you say on live TV

A long time ago, I discovered the hard way that mobsters didn’t watch “Nevada Week in Review” on Channel 10. Politicians, government bureaucrats and ordinary folks watch the show, but not the mob.

Unfortunately, the way I learned this reflected badly, not on the mob, but on me.

It was 1986. Las Vegas mobster Anthony Spilotro and his brother were missing. I called Spilotro’s wife, Nancy, to see if she had any comment and she was so calm and collected that it seemed odd. She declined to discuss her husband’s unexplained disappearance, but she was polite, even friendly. We had met during pre-trial hearings in her husband’s racketeering case and had chatted about our mutual fondness for cats. She actually brought the subject of cats up during the call.

I described her demeanor on “Nevada Week in Review” and moderator David Kelley asked if I had any idea why she was so calm, when her husband was missing and presumed dead. (Later it was learned he and his brother were killed in a basement and buried in an Indiana cornfield.)

Talk about not filtering what was going through my mind. Law enforcement sources had said that Spilotro had beaten her and had girlfriends. Thoughtlessly, I blurted out that it was almost as if she didn’t care.

Now that was callous. The woman’s husband was missing. Who was I to judge how she handled herself?

A shocked Kelley quickly tried to save me. He suggested perhaps she had expected something like this might happen to her husband because of what he did and so she was prepared for the worst. I grabbed his lifeline and said that was probably right.

But I knew I had said something horrible and tasteless and waited to hear from people about what a dreadful person I was to be so rude and presumptuous. I lost sleep over it.

No one from the mob called.

That’s when I realized real mobsters don’t spend time during their weekends watching “Nevada Week.”

I also realized I needed to think more carefully before I spoke on live TV.

That memory came rushing back Monday at the new VegasPBS, Channel 10 studios at 3050 E. Flamingo Road. The local show’s 30th year and PBS NewsHour’s 35th year were celebrated at a dinner featuring Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent on the national show. She provided a grim summary of the polarization between Democratic and Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., saying the division has deepened even since 2008.

Former “Nevada Week” host Myram Borders bemoaned the decline of journalism in general, while praising public television for striving to present fair and balanced news coverage with limited resources.

Another former host, Claudia Collins, remembered an exceptional show where she had invited four out-of-state real estate writers. They arrived at 7:29 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. live broadcast and poured out of a cab in various stages of inebriation. It was the only show, she said, where a guest’s head fell onto the table. The show marched on and moments later, the guest rallied.

“Nevada Week” now has about 16,500 viewers each week. I advise new Review-Journal reporters that going on the show and sounding knowledgeable enhances their credibility with readers.

The down side? If they blow it, say things that aren’t true or show a bias, then they would be wise to say no to Mitch Fox, the host for 20 years, when he calls to ask if they are free Friday night.

After my remark about Nancy Spilotro, I found myself unavailable for quite some time, having learned another harsh life lesson.

Whether she saw it or not, I knew I had crossed the line that divides edgy analysis from thoughtlessness tinged with cruelty.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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