Dear Editor: If a credible journalist offered you the hottest newsbreak of your life, would you print it?
I know the Tribune’s answer. For others, a cautionary tale.
In the early 1970’s, AutoWeek publisher Russ Goebel moved his operation from Detroit to Stead. His crew included editor Leon Mandel and reporter Cory Farley.
With curly-haired visage and tobacco-tinged growl worthy of Wolfman Jack, Mandel became an instant star at KTVN TV-2.
General manager Lee Hirshland had guts, having left a major chain to start an underfinanced ABC affiliate.
Hirshland was also a news purist. He fired his news director and sales manager when he caught them playing footsie with future Gov. Mike O’Callaghan’s 1970 campaign. Lee named Ed Pearce to run the news department. The young Fallonite brought in hungry reporters who kicked ass.
The number-three network station, with only black-and-white film, was soon breaking stories the big boys lusted after. At the same time, skulduggerous practices by KOLO TV-8 management caused CBS to fire them. So the number one network, including legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite, moved to Channel 2 on Jan. 1, 1973. It made national waves.
Mandel pulled no punches. He once advised locals to “shop over the hill” in California because Nevada’s single-point auto dealerships enjoyed little meaningful competition. (Still don’t.) Almost every car dealer in town trooped into Hirshland’s office demanding Mandel’s termination.
Hirshland somehow placated them and personally did an editorial response but refused to fire Leon. Such integrity no longer exists in these parts.
Hirshland added extroverted UNR Prof. Howard Rosenberg for movie reviews. Channel 2 News jumped to number one in the metro and stayed there for years.
Leon was a published author before he arrived. His book “Speed with Style,” the biography of movie-star handsome Revlon heir and world class Formula One driver Peter Revson, was twice on Hollywood’s fast-track to star Jeff Bridges until Revson’s family objected.
Harrah’s hired Mandel to write a bio of its late founder. When they tried to get him to delete confirmed information about Bill Harrah (ahem) consorting with exotic hookers, Leon refused.
He made a courtesy call on the Reno Evening Gazette and Nevada State Journal (they had separate editorial staffs back then). He offered to provide advances on hot innovations in consumer cars. Not interested.
Leon got a call from Miss World Margie Wallace who had just been defrocked for her relationships with Revson, singer Tom Jones, tennis superstar Jimmy Connors and others. Leon offered the Reno papers an exclusive.
“Nah, we’ll pick that up from our wire services,” said the RGJ boss.
In 1973, Mandel was tipped on the hottest story in the world which is again news today. John Paul Getty III, kidnapped grandson of the richest man on earth, had been found alive — minus his right ear.
Leon called the RGJ. “The Reno Evening Gazette and Nevada State Journal, in a copyrighted story, report that billionaire John Paul Getty’s grandson has been found alive,” he offered.
“Nah, we’ll pick that up from our wire services.”
The info came from a True Magazine writer who had been sent to Italy to find the Getty kid and did. Because True was a monthly, his story wouldn’t see ink for two or three months, so he gave his friend Leon the go-ahead.
A few years later, Gazette-Journal ownership sold out to Gannett. Reno’s 38 percent profit margin was the main attraction. It made a few guys rich but their die-hard journalists loathed it to their dying days.
Mandel returned to Detroit to become lionized editor/publisher of AutoWeek. He died in Motor City in 2002. In 2016, his son, Dutch, retired as AutoWeek’s longest-tenured editor.
If you pay to see “Alien” and “Gladiator” director Ridley Scott’s new film “All the Money in the World” starring Christopher Plummer as miserly grandpa Getty, remember how the corporate weasels at our local daily blew their chance to scoop the world.
And well may again.
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 49-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com/ He produced the 1976-78 worldwide Long Beach GrandPrix Formula One Radio Network and co-anchored with Leon Mandel. Margie Wallace participated. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>