Journalism 101: Beware the unsubstantiated narrative

It’s a small matter, but one worth underlining for the general public and to the ever-shrinking community of journalists in Nevada. The matter is this: Political journalism in Nevada too often gets buried underneath petty personal agendas.

Consider a recent piece on Harry Reid published by Jon Ralston in Politico. Ralston is a former reporter for me who has gone on to create a local political newsletter business. He’s a weird dude, as most who read him know. Somehow the Nevada political world revolves around him and his “reporting.” Anyway, he wrote in Politico:

“At one point, Reid joked to a newspaper official that he hoped the RJ would go out of business. He was kidding —or was he? Right after Reid won, Mitchell and Frederick were removed from their positions. No explanation was ever given, but many insiders speculated that the timing could not be coincidental. When you shoot to kill the king, or in this case Prince Harry, best not miss.”

The narrative propagated by Ralston that Sen. Reid was responsible for the changes at the state’s largest newspaper is a torch Ralston has carried for some time — without backing it up with one single shred of evidence. It’s his fantasy.

Clear thinkers don’t need me calling “BS” to know this narrative is suspicious.

If, indeed, as Ralston says, one of the most powerful politicians in America pulled strings to silence his newspaper critics, any political reporter worth his or her salt would be all over that story.

Ralston wasn’t.

Nor was any other political reporter on the planet, or any of a number of journalism watchdog sites.

In fact, after Reid made his “going out of business” wish comment, I scorched Reid for the comment in a column, as any self-respecting newspaper person would do. Ralston defended Reid. Ralston at the time contended it was an obvious joke. Nothing to see here. Move along.

The point is Ralston changes the “facts” to fit his narrative du jour.

The idea Reid engineered a coup at the RJ is pure horse apples.

Yet, Ralston has repeated this falsehood so often now, it has become part of his “serious” retrospective on Reid. Really? That isn’t good journalism.

Like I say, it’s a small matter. But it’s worth pointing out because no doubt Ralston will be around to spin other narratives as Reid fades into the sunset. People who don’t know better will read this guy thinking he’s a fair broker of Reid and Nevada political news.

He’s not. To be charitable, he’s more like that one-eyed guy in the land of the blind.

Bulldozing substantive nuances (and sometimes flat-out making up stuff) to embellish the story might make entertaining barroom talk, but it is untrustworthy journalism. Be forewarned.

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