Originally published in July 2011. We are happy to remind readers that Jon Ralston has a long history of being a poor comedian. It is far easier to throw rocks from the sidelines and stand for nothing.
Original Post: Friday, July 15th, Jon Ralston, a political journalist for the Greenspun Media Group’s Las Vegas Sun newspaper, was busy early manufacturing drama. Mr. Ralston had been trying to talk nicely with the Douglas County Republican Central Committee (DCRCC) website team, but on social media he was sprinkling innuendo about their interview with Congressional Candidate Mark Amodei.
At 7:16 am, Ralston emailed the DCRCC website, “Hi. Your Social Security section in the Mark Amodei interview is not on the site. The stuff from above was wrongly pasted there. Can you fix? Thanks.” Sounds as though he is trying to be up front and helpful right?
Meanwhile, in social media land, he was tweeting from @RalstonFlash, “Moments after I tweeted about @AmodeiNevada’s extensive interview with the rural GOP folks, they took it down. Hmm….” His email above clearly shows Mr. Ralston was aware that something was, “wrongly pasted there.” Why would someone email a webmaster that there might be an error that they’d like to see fixed (an appropriate request) and also be tweeting about it suspiciously, insinuating there was something secretive going on? I contacted Mr. Ralston for comment and he attempted to explain everything away as him simply trying to get the full posting. Did he think perhaps that others were stupid enough to not have read his tweets on the topic that impeach this explanation? Perhaps he just wasn’t concerned about the truth from the start, only traffic to the Sun’s website and subscribers to his newsletter?
I spoke with DCRCC Editorial Board Chairman, Walt Nowosad and reviewed the email exchanges between him, his website and Mr. Ralston. Mr. Nowosad had interviewed Mark Amodei, Republican Nominee for Congressional District 2 with a recorder, and then transcribed the interview word-for-word. While posting it to the website he accidently deleted the answer on Social Security. He took responsibility and corrected the error late Friday morning. There was nothing underhanded going on. In fact, Mr. Nowosad tried to be above and beyond reproach by recording and transcribing the interview word-for-word to give readers complete detail. How do I know nothing funny was going on? I am the one that saw Ralston’s tweets and the DCRCC website article and alerted DCRCC at 8:08a.m. that Ralston was generating drama and suggested the missing paragraph be posted ASAP.
Mr. Ralston’s actions show he was trying to manufacture drama where none existed. A cursory review of Mr. Ralston’s written and broadcast work shows that he has fallen into the trap of many formerly-well-meaning journalists that lost their way and evolved into drama queens that manufacture “news” instead of investigating and reporting on it. It is my opinion that Mr. Ralston traffics in Yellow Journalism, defined as: “… flagrant bias and distortion in presenting the news, so as to attract purchasers or otherwise achieve personal gain….” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sensationalism
His most pathetic tweet was, “Luckily, I saved that web page w/the @AmodeiNevada interview and will post it. Nice try, though, Douglas County Republicans. #runbutcanthide” Run but can’t hide from what Mr. Ralston? This is an accusation that DCRCC was hiding something, plain and simple. Oh, speaking about Mr. Ralston’s tweet about saving that webpage, he did.
Mr. Ralston went on to republish the entire DCRCC-Amodei interview on his Las Vegas Sun website, in violation of copyright law. http://www.lasvegassun.com/blogs/ralstons-flash/2011/jul/15/amodei-medicare-broke-president-broke-war-powers/ Apparently not only does Mr. Ralston have a problem understanding what a journalist is supposed to do, he also must have been ill the day they taught copyright law at journalism school. He did earn a journalism degree right?…HMM (I’ll see if I can find a copy of his diploma online before he can take it down). Mr. Ralston responded to me that he had not been contacted to remove the posting, taking the position that he did nothing wrong. Where does this attitude come from where he thinks he hasn’t done wrong unless someone points it out to him?
News media have an exemption for investigations. Simply quoting only the allegedly-altered section would have more than supported any journalistic investigation he could have been conducting. Mr. Ralston (allegedly a professional journalist) willfully violated DCRCC’s copyright.
In the history of this great land we call America, over 1.3 million military members have given their lives so that Mr. Ralston has the Constitutional right to print whatever he wants and his editors to call it whatever they want. However, I submit to you that when the author of the First Amendment wrote, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” that they gave the news media special privileges not afforded to any other occupation. With these special privileges implicitly come special obligations. Among these is the moral obligation to exhibit integrity and to try and get the story right.
The news media has the moral obligation of informing the people so they may become better participants in their government. We must never cower at reminding the news media that they work for us. The sad truth is that the Internet has made it easier for carnival barkers to masquerade as professional journalists. I refuse to sit numb in front of my computer in awe of someone with a large audience seeking only to advance their self-interest at the expense of truth. I encourage my fellow Americans to take 10-15 minutes a day to work towards learning what people and sources tell the truth. Seek out new sources, ask around, and dig a little deeper. Or, as a good friend once told me, “pull on the thread and see where it takes you.”
There was no story here other than a carnival barker using innuendo on social media to stir up interest in his illegal republishing of copyright-protected material. Having operated various online publishing and social media ventures over the years, I’ve learned that sadly this is a method taught to many users of social media.
Jon, may I call you Jon? Jon, there can be no doubt that you currently occupy an important position in Nevada’s political news media ecosystem. Your subconscious default-position of hating Republicans does you a disservice as we saw with this event. I’d like to see you straighten up and fly right (no pun intended) so you can actually help the political process instead of hurting it. Best to you Sir.
Full Disclosure: I am a member of the DCRCC. This article was written in my then-capacity as publisher of allmightbefree.com.