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Earlier this week, it was 108 degrees in Las Vegas …
May 24, 2008

… and in just a few weeks, I’m still going to join several of my friends from Kansas, Florida and Ohio in the Nevada news oasis known as the Las Vegas Sun and Greenspun Media Group.

I’ve blogged about the great work being done at the Las Vegas Sun on a couple of occasions — and offered more than a little advice to the place whenever I’ve been asked.

And now I get to join what I think is easily one of the most interesting local media operations in the nation.

As well as what has to be one of the most stacked new-media news organizations in the world.

As Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell mentioned subtly in her column last Sunday, I will be joined in Las Vegas by several members of our skunkworks team here at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive — including Tim Richardson, Levi Chronister, Deryck Hodge, Cara McCoy and Sean Stoops.

Some of our team’s longtime interns also will be joining us — Melissa Arseniuk, Amanda Finnegan, Cydney Cappello and Scott Den Herder.

This was by far one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. My respect for The Washington Post, and especially Don Graham, is immeasurable.

I’ve worked for some inspiring and visionary people in my career — most notably Dolph Simons Jr. and Ralph Gage in Lawrence — but I don’t think I’ve ever worked with someone quite as inspiring to me as Don Graham.

This is a guy who helped spec out a Facebook app. How many other leaders of traditional media companies even have a Facebook account? And there was Don Graham helping to build a piece of software for it!

As we were developing LoudounExtra.com, Don even drove out with me to talk with the superintendent of schools when we hit a snag in working with the school district.

More importantly, Don Graham is genuinely one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Ever.

And since Katharine Weymouth took over as publisher at The Washington Post, she has been so supportive and helpful that oftentimes our family couldn’t believe it.

The two of them — along with folks like Bo Jones, Steve Hills, Sandy Sugawara, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, Jacob Weisberg, Jon Meacham, Phil Bennett, Joe Elbert, Caroline Little and too many others to mention — make it hard to leave a place like this.

Getting to work side-by-side on our WPNI skunkworks team with Jesse Foltz (who is not only an amazing designer, but one of the smartest Internet nerds I’ve ever met in my life) and Dan Berko (who is one of those extremely rare journalists who can write code and sentences) is something I will always be extremely proud of.

Working at The Washington Post Company taught me a valuable lesson: Sometimes it’s OK to love and revere something, and not have to be a part of it. I love The Washington Post and all that it stands for, but I probably wasn’t the best fit with the organization.

Yet, I still love The Post with all of my heart.

As many of you know, I also love the rock band Kiss as well — but I won’t be accepting that band’s offer to replace Ace Frehley if it ever comes. I’ve learned my lesson. (I can still play Detroit Rock City note-for-note. I know … that has to solidify anyone’s doubts as to just how big of a nerd I really am.)

Working at WPNI also allowed me to work side-by-side with folks I’ve always respected, like Jim Brady and Tom Kennedy. I also got to work with extremely talented and smart people like Henry Tam and Jen Crandall. (I even forgave Jen for going to school at Missouri.)

But all of that being said, what’s in store for our team in Las Vegas has me humming Elvis songs in my sleep.

Due to the JOA in place in Vegas, the Las Vegas Sun’s role within the community is very different than most daily newspapers. It acts much more like a daily magazine, focusing on the “How” and the “Why.”

(I don’t know if that strategy represents the future of print journalism, but it sure feels like a radical step in the right direction in keeping local daily, printed newspapers relevant to readers. It was not only that different kind of focus that made this place so appealing to all of us, but also the willingness that strategy represents to take significant risks.)

And it’s all done with a newsroom that includes former staffers from the LA Times, Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, SF Chronicle and Seattle Times, as well as one of the nation’s most famous editorial cartoonists.

So, the Journalism with a Capital J is there. The commitment to excellence is there.

Then layer on the company’s award-winning weekly newspapers, which will play a central role in nearly everything our team wants to accomplish in the Las Vegas Valley.

Then add all of the Vegas-related magazine titles that the Greenspun Media Group publishes, including the uber-cool Las Vegas Weekly, and it’s clear that entertainment and lifestyle content are there.

Then you have Greenspun’s involvement in local television stations.

In Las Vegas, our team has a chance to help shape an entire organization. Not only that, but also have a hand in a far greater range of publications and media outlets, which means more options as we continue to try to shape the local news organization of the future.

And when you look at all of those assets and top it off with the private ownership of the Greenspun family, it begins to feel a little like Lawrence. Only with showgirls.

So, what happens when a bunch of news nerds from Kansas converge on the Nevada desert?

We’re about to find out.

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