(Thomas Mitchell) – I used to stand on the upper floors of the parking garage at McCarran when I flew in or out of town, gaze over the city and think: This is my town. I’m a part of it. I can make things happen. Or at least stir the pot.
I knew casino owners, council members, commissioners, lawmakers, government executives of every stripe.
I conducted newspaper editorial boards with billionaires, governors, congressmen, senators, heads of federal agencies, a former U.S. Supreme Court justice and more than a few gadflies and crackpots. I had one billionaire call me stupid to my face in front of my boss. After another meeting, he held onto my arm as I escorted him down a hallway he could not see to where his driver waited.
I was one those bastards on Bonanza, as one former mayor called us.
On this day four years ago, I walked unceremoniously and unlamented out of the offices of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and have never returned. That was after nearly 23 years as managing editor and editor — in charge of the news and opinion pages, along with a multimillion-dollar budget and nearly 150 reporters, editors, artists, photographers and more. I was also a column writer with the self-appointed role of standing up for free speech and press, access to public records and open meetings, as well as being the ombudsman heralding the paper’s successes and explaining why we did things the way we did when controversy arose.
When I interviewed for the job, I was asked about my politics. Though I had written columns over the years, I was not steeped in politics. I said I was a liberal, but a fiscal conservative. It took me a couple of years to discover the label for my politics all along was libertarian.
Over the years I had come up with policies for newsroom staff, such as no comps. A reviewer could accept a ticket for a show being reviewed but no other. I spelled out when anonymous sources could be used and why. I insisted a supervisor approve and must know the source’s name and reason for anonymity.
For my last few months I had the title — and it was title only — of senior opinion editor. I wrote columns, but with a different tack, as well as editorials and opinion pieces on topics of the day at the bidding of the new publisher.
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Mr. Mitchell publishes the 4TH ST8 Blog at www.4thst8.wordpress.com.