"Face to Face" is doing an about-face. And Las Vegas One appears headed for a fade-out.
The former is official. The latter is not.
Political journalist Jon Ralston, host of the cable channel’s interview program for nearly nine years, will move his show to KVBC-TV, Channel 3 and gain a statewide audience, airing at 4 p.m. weekdays starting Jan. 4. Channel 3’s owner, Sunbelt Communications, also will air "Face to Face" on sister stations — KRNV-TV, Channel 4 in Reno and KENV-TV, Channel 10 in Elko — as part of its rebranding as "Nevada’s Information Network"
The following week, another Las Vegas One program, "In Business Las Vegas," also leaves the shrinking cable outlet, joining Channel 3 at 12:30 p.m. Fridays starting Jan. 15. On Channel 3, "In Business" will reunite co-hosts Dana Gentry and Jeff Gillan, the latter now Channel 3’s assistant news director. Gentry also co-produces "Face to Face" with Guy DeMarco, who is also moving to Channel 3.
"In Business" will air weekly as part of an expanded noon newscast that begins Jan. 11.
These moves complete a trio of departures from Las Vegas One of programs produced by the Greenspun Corp., following the October cancellation of the Emmy-winning weeknight newscast, "NewsONE at 9," anchored by Gillan. That leaves the cable station only with simulcasts and repeats of KLAS-TV, Channel 8’s news as local programming and begs the question: Is the Greenspun Corp. — which co-owns Las Vegas One with Cox Cable and Channel 8 — ready to bail out of the station?
In a joint news release from Greenspun and Channel 3, the station wasn’t even referred to by name, mentioned in passing as "a local cable channel."
Asked today about whether they will continue their involvement with Las Vegas One, Greenspun Chairman Brian Greenspun said: "The honest answer is I don’t know. I think Las Vegas One has served the community well over the last 11 years or so, but the community has not taken to Las Vegas One the way the three of us had hoped they would when we started it. Whether we stay in or don’t stay in, we’ve taken some pretty well-watched shows, at least for Las Vegas One, and moved them to a place where more people can have access to them. It does take off two of the fleshier parts of the lineup, but that doesn’t relieve us of our commitment to Las Vegas One."
Channel 8’s president and general manager, Emily Neilson, said today that "it’s no secret that some of our partners in Las Vegas One have been making some hard choices, so those conversations continue."
The relocations of "Face to Face" and "In Business" follow a Sunbelt-Greenspun partnership that began when Channel 3 debuted a 10 p.m. weeknight newscast recently on KTUD-TV, Channel 25/Cox Cable 14, which is majority-owned by Greenspun.
"Face to Face," which aired nearly nine years on Las Vegas One, will air its final original cable broadcast tonight as Ralston is joined by his guest, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki. Ralston is taking the final two weeks of the year off.
"It’s a tremendous opportunity," Ralston said today. "A lot more reach, a lot more issues we can delve into. We can take what we’ve been doing for almost nine years now to the next level." The switch also reunites Ralston with Bob Stoldal, former news chief at Channel 8 and Las Vegas One, and now Channel 3’s news director.
"I love Bob Stoldal, he’s my mentor in TV journalism and he is probably the best journalist I’ve ever known," said Ralston, who will also contribute to Channel 3’s regular newscasts, as he did on Channel 8, and will continue writing columns for the Las Vegas Sun and the In Business Las Vegas print version, as well as his Ralston Flash electronic newsletter. "Knowing Bob, he’s got 3,000 ideas, so I don’t know what’s going to happen with the program. I’ll find out Jan. 4."
Stoldal says there may be a bit of tinkering with where to place Ralston’s commentary in the structure of the show, but he doesn’t plan any major changes to the heart of "Face to Face," which features Ralston’s dogged questioning of local political and civic leaders.
"Fundamentally, Jon gets the big interviews," Stoldal said today. "This is the first of several important steps as we develop the statewide news network and will be a significant element during the election season. You’re going to see us as more of a watchdog on state government than ever before."
(Under Stoldal’s direction, Channel 3 is also debuting the weekly "Sports Night in Las Vegas," hosted by Kevin West and Randy Howe, on Jan. 10. It will air from 11:30 p.m. to midnight Sundays.)
Sunbelt owner Jim Rogers said the Ralston/"In Business" acquisitions "give us access to the Greenspun Media and all that means. This gives us a competitive edge over everybody else. Nobody can do statewide coverage like we can."