Longtime Nevada Journalist Retires After Nearly 40 Years
One of the state's most seasoned reporters and columnists is retiring after nearly four decades on the job.
Jane Ann Morrison has covered everything from political corruption in Las Vegas to statewide politics, to crime and courts and just about everything in between.
“I tried to mix up my columns," she told KNPR's State of Nevada, "I tried to do some pat-you-on-the-head, this is a good guy or a gal story and I also beat people up that I thought needed it.”
Morrison came to the Las Vegas Review-Journal in the 70s. She figured she would stay for only three years or so, but ended up spending her career here.
"The news kept me here," she said. "It is a rich news town."
At the time, three newspapers competed for readers and stories. She said the competition was good for the industry and kept reporters hunting for stories.
She covered the federal courts when the FBI started its efforts to bring down the mob. Besides the column, she said covering the courts was the favorite part of her career.
“Federal court, it was at a time when Las Vegas and the FBI and the state regulators were really going after the mob. So getting first-hand exposure to mobsters when you’re not exposed was a pretty good gig,” she said.
She covered people who went on to shape and lead Southern Nevada, including former Senator Harry Reid, when he was head of the gaming commission, and former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, when he was a lawyer for the notorious mob enforcer Tony Spilotro.
Morrison covered Reid during one of the most trying times of his life. While on the gaming commission, he fought with mobsters, including publically with Frank Rosenthal.
He was targeted and talked about by the mob. One of those conversations led to an investigation into whether he had ties to Kansas City mob guys.
As Morrison explains on wiretaps made by the FBI, mobster said they "had a clean face in their pocket" in Nevada. "Clean Face" was the mob's nickname for Reid, which made people wonder if he was involved.
Morrison explains the FBI decided the mobsters were just boasting and really didn't have Reid in their pocket.
While not everyone loves Reid or his style, Morrison credits him with stopping the nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain.
“He had his rough spots… but he was effective. He got things done,” she said.
As for Oscar Goodman, Morrison said some of their less than amicable relationship stems from the stories he's told about the past, including about who actually did his research for court and whether cartoon caricatures of him and other lawyers were put outside the grand jury room to intimidate witnesses.
“I know these things are not accurate," she said, "Now maybe Oscar’s memory is going. Mine is sometimes. But he tells all these stories but I’m not always there to catch all the mistakes.”
Morrison said Oscar Goodman's wife, current Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, has really cared about changing the city. And while she might have had Oscar Goodman's vision in the beginning she has come into her own.
The only criticism she had for the mayor is her often long-winded State of the City addresses.
Morrison didn't shy away from looking into stories surrounding powerful politicians. She published many stories about former Clark County Commission Dario Herrera, including a story about a no-work public relations contract involving the housing board.
Herrera was indicted for corruption but not for that problem. He was involved in the scandal dubbed G-Sting. It turned out Herrera and a few other county commissioners were taking money and gifts from a strip club owner in exchange for votes in his favor.
Morrison said she was "as shocked as the rest of the city" when she heard about it but she got a chance to cover the trials in her column and give it perspective and commentary.
It was that kind of range that Morrison said she loved about being a columnist. She could write about the first time she dyed her hair or about corrupt politicians.
“I had the freedom to write about what I was interested in and what I thought was important,” she said.
When the paper was sold to the family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson many seasoned reporters left the paper for various reasons. One of those was KNPR contributor and former longtime RJ columnist John L. Smith.
Morrison said rules were placed on what Smith could write about but they weren't placed on her.
“I wasn’t going to write about the Raiders Stadium. I didn’t care about the Raiders Stadium. So maybe it’s because I wasn’t writing about things that mattered,” she said.
She said it was sad to see so much institutional knowledge leave the newspaper but there are young reporters that she believes are doing great work, especially in the October 1 shooting story.
She was the first female general interest columnist. She's now retiring for the second time to try her hand at fiction writing.
“I’m going to write a murder mystery. I figure with my experience with politicians, mobsters and journalists I’ll get a great story out of that. And maybe more than one because there are great characters. This has been a wonderful town in terms of characters.”
Jane Ann Morrison, longtime Nevada columnist and writer