Scene In Passing: Nevada Appeal nears 150 & counting; count on it

Let’s break some rules of journalism today, shall we?

Among the smart rules of print journalism is an admonition against question leads. Starting an article with a question isn’t what being authoritative is about. So consider that one broken already. Another is to remain in the background. In other words, avoid tooting your own horn. Well, toss that rule on the scrap heap as well. It’s time to toot the Nevada Appeal horn in blaring fashion.

We’re celebrating 150 years in the saddle around here come May 16 and the bronc remains unbroken, so that means staying on this horse called “history on the run” for so long beats the hell out of the eight seconds expected of rodeo riders. Believe me, this bronc bucks at any given moment and those of us along for the ride love it with real passion. Call us addicted.

“All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose,” wrote H.L. Mencken, 20th century newspaper columnist and editor. “They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced on them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.”

Like many an aphorism from Mencken, this states a truth that’s patently false. Partly it’s because HLM’s goal was to be more than a columnist, elevating his game to the status of consummate controversialist. Partly it’s because he venerated truth but knew reaching people with it required hyperbole, to say nothing of the fact there is no such thing as Truth with a capital T.

Let’s put it another way: Every truth must be laced with some falsehood — including this one.

For a newspaper to ply its trade, advance its craft, pay its bills and eke out a profit, coexist peacefully but not always peaceably with and in a growing community, it must provide a continual tension for said community. A sound paper must be both bellicose and a bearer of blather or good tidings, ceaselessly querulous but forever prepared to see all sides of every possibility.

It must carry news and ads, sports and comics, columns and crossword puzzles. In short, it must be unreasonably reasonable. Otherwise, it would cease to exist as a viable business long before its Sesquicentennial.

On Saturday, May 16, come celebrate our birthday with us at a Nevada Appeal party for everyone from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. After my nearly half century in journalism, off and on, and almost 75 with it in my face (my parents both practiced the craft and I got it dished out at my childhood dinner tale), the party will be a joyous occasion for me.

I’ll be working, covering the extravagantageous gala affair with trusty pen and notebook. Come visit me with your original true falsehoods. If you entertain me, you’ll make the Sunday paper of May 17. But your true falsehoods must be good, like the HLM quote that follows:

“When I mount the scaffold at last, these will be my farewell words to the sheriff: Say what you will against me but don’t forget to add, in common justice, that I was never converted to anything.”

Except, I’m betting, committing journalism. So, in that tradition, happy birthday Nevada Appeal. Keep plying the trade with all your blather and bellicosity, rule following and rule breaking.

Do it for another 150.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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