HENDERSON, NEVADA — The Nevada News Bureau is a nonprofit organization launched in October 2009 to cover state politics and statehouse news and provide its work free of charge to other outlets in the Battle Born State. It was originally formed under the auspices of Citizen Outreach, a conservative nonprofit organization run by Chuck Muth, Nevada’s leading conservative anti-tax activist. Elizabeth Crum, formerly Citizen Outreach Foundation’s vice president of communications, stepped down from that position to become the site’s editor when it launched in September 2009. The Bureau became an independent nonprofit in September of 2010.
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The site has one reporter based in the state capital of Carson City, Sean Whaley, who previously covered the capital for nineteen years on behalf of the state’s largest daily newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Crum, the editor, is based in Las Vegas. The Bureau also employs a seasonal intern.
Crum says that while she herself leans conservative–“but I’m not a cookie-cutter conservative”–the Bureau’s coverage is decidedly non-partisan. “I believe if you called all the political reporters around the state, they would say the same thing,” she says.
The staff works regular hours, Monday through Friday, with Whaley and the intern producing a combined two to three stories a day, plus audio clips and some video. Crum writes the Bureau’s E!!Politics blog. She also works as a political analyst for KTNV-TV Channel 13, an ABC affiliate, and appears on a guest on Las Vegas public television and radio programs.
The site’s biggest story to date, Crum says, came in August 2010, when it reported that the state senate’s Democratic majority leader had sent out a fund-raising letter seeking donations to his political action committee in return for access to himself and various committee chairs. (You can read the first story here, and follow-ups here and here.)
Recent highlights from the Bureau’s coverage, Crum says, are stories on university faculty fleeing the state ahead of budget cuts, the state’s budget crisis and its debt to the federal government, attempts to get more money out of casinos, and the state’s efforts to reform its public pensions.
When the Nevada News Bureau was launched, news coverage had affiliated it with the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization founded by a former North Dakota Republican political operative, Jason Stverak, with seed money from the Sam Adams Alliance, a conservative nonprofit organization. Crum denies that any of the money to found her site came from Franklin, saying, “I’m not at liberty to disclose our donors, the amounts, or the timing, but Franklin did not provide our seed money.” She explains that the site was “networked” with Franklin from the beginning, but that actual financial backing from the group came later.
Stverak says that the Franklin Center helps fund sites that cover and investigate state and local government. The goal, Stverak and Crum say, is to fill coverage gaps as traditional news sources lay off reporters and stories go uncovered.
Both Stverak and Crum say that neither the Franklin Center nor its affiliated sites have any political agenda.
“The only political component we have is that we cover government. If we have one bias it’s for open government and transparency. It does not matter who is in office,” Stverak says.
Both the Franklin Center and the Nevada News Bureau says they adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics.
Crum says that on its best days, the Bureau’s website might receive 40,000 hits, while only receiving 1,500 or so hits on a slow day. She added that the Bureau’s reach is greater than its website, however, as its stories are offered free to other papers in the state, and often reprinted in rural publications without statehouse reporters of their own. Crum says that on any given day, three to nine Bureau stories are reprinted in other publications, and that other news agencies link to the Bureau five to ten times per week. “It’s good information for their readers, information they might not otherwise get,” Crum says.
Nevada News Bureau Data
Name: Nevada News Bureau
City: HendersonBrendan Buhler is a contributor to CJR.