The story above originally aired on Sept. 3, 2007, which marked 20 years since Ned Day’s death.
MYSTERY WIRE — As an investigative journalist and columnist Ned Day was a titan of Nevada news. He was a fearless crusader who stood up to the mob and the Las Vegas power structure. Along the way, he became a larger than life character whose presence is still felt 34 years after his passing.
Mystery Wire’s George Knapp was one of Ned’s closest friends and in 2007 wrote the story below marking 20 years since Ned’s passing.
The happiest day of his life was when the mob firebombed his car, except for the fact his golf clubs were in the back and the Volvo wasn’t insured. To Ned Day, this was proof that he was really getting under someone’s skin. When the bumper stickers appeared days later, it was even better. Characteristically, Ned tweaked the noses of those responsible.
Ned Day: “It doesn’t take much courage to sneak up and attack an unarmed car.”
He was the son and namesake of a world champion bowler, but drifted into a surly life on the mean streets of Milwaukee where he bartended at Mafia owned clubs, married a stripper, and worked for a tout service.
In his late 20’s he stumbled into journalism and started making a name for himself. A side jaunt to Las Vegas in the mid ’70s convinced Ned that it was the place for him. He took a $150 a week job writing for the North Las Vegas Valley Times and soon became bigger than the paper itself.
Mostly, he went after the mob, relentlessly tormenting them. He was hired away by the Las Vegas Review Journal where his column became mandatory reading, sort of a combination of John L. Smith’s everyman eloquence and Jon Ralston’s political savvy. At the same time, he took on another job, managing editor of KLAS-TV, where he molded the careers of many budding journalists.
Ned Day was also known for doing short commentaries about goings-on around Las Vegas in and outside the crime world he normally covered. The three video clips below are just a sample of his work.
No one could parody Ned like Ned. He was a thespian of the highest order, as he pummeled the powerful in on-air commentaries and then became the co-anchor of the town’s first 5 p.m. newscast. He was a free spirit, a wild man with bad habits, but, at his core, a reporter.
Ned Day: “It’s the most important thing we do. Maximize the flow of information to the public.”
In 1987, Ned met Mary Ottman, fell in love, and went to Hawaii for a vacation. He had been working for months to clean up his lifestyle, but a snorkeling adventure proved too much of a strain on his heart. He died in the surf. The news hit Las Vegas like a tidal wave.
The whole town turned out for Ned’s services, the rich and powerful, the down and out, colleagues, governors, hookers, you name it. Ned would have loved it.
Twenty years later it’s amazing how often his name still comes up, weekly, in fact. There are the old photos to remind us, a business card, precious columns now a bit brown around the edges, history books that include his name, and posthumous awards.
But there are two things he’d be most proud of — his continuing legacy as an inspiration to hard-hitting journalism and the women in his life. Mary Ottman, who never married but lives happily in Missouri, and Noel, their daughter, who was born months after Ned’s passing. She is now an honor student in college with plans to obtain a medical degree so she can help the poor and powerless.
Ned would have liked that.
The stories below aired on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas shortly after Day’s death in 1987.