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Sheldon Adelson Didn’t Expect Journalists at His New Paper to Uncover His Purchase

“Oh my God. The end (again) of journalism in The Age of Adelson.” Jon Ralston

Actions have consequences. And now that casino magnate and Republican Party/Marco Rubio donor Sheldon Adelson, Chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands, has purchased a newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a cool $140 million, expect some big ones. The move was a shady, if barely-disguised, power play by one of the GOP’s big movers and shakers.

Money talks. Especially Adelson’s $24.5 billion. And buys things. Not only the means of reporting words. But what words are reported. But you already knew that, because Fox News.

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Like those other captains of industry, the Kochs, Adelson seems to think capitalism is the fleecing of the people wrongly granted political power by the Constitution. The Constitution would make the people the ultimate authority, but capitalism puts corporations first.

The beauty of this system for the Kochs and the Adelsons is that nobody gets to vote for them, taking that pesky Constitution out of the picture. And if, like Adelson, they own the media, nobody is going to utter a word of complaint either.

In other words, as CNN Money is reporting, the Las Vegas Review-Journal staff has been “told to ease up on coverage of new owner.” Of course, by omitting certain areas from coverage, Adelson has tried to render it the print version of Fox News.

CNN tells us that,

Management brought in Dave Butler, the executive editor of the Providence Journal, to “help establish some guidelines.” The Review-Journal and the Providence Journal are operated by the same company but owned by separate groups.

That ‘same company’ is GateHouse Media, which is a subsidiary of the New Media Investment Group.

The consequences?

“At one point, we mentioned that we were worried about being able to cover some significant trials involving Adelson, and Butler said if we don’t cover them other media outlets will, so it’s OK,” one of the attendees said.

Needless to say, if you’re a journalist, a serious one – that is, somebody NOT employed by Fox News (sorry Megyn Kelly) – this rubs you the wrong way. Nothing is off limits. Editor Stephanie Grimes of the Review-Journal tweeted her take:

Grimes reported through Twitter that Butler was “concerned about looking like we’re ‘out to get our owner’: ‘How often do we need to mention the owners'”?

That’s “Republican speak,” as we all know by now, for “reveal the facts.”

Unfortunately, apparently, this was supposed to be a private meeting and…not so much. Butler told CNN Money that,

“I told the staff I would take notes from the meeting and put together a proposal for review on some guidelines. Some folks are still nearly hysterical, as you might understand, and I did say let’s just calm down a bit.”

To which Grimes tweeted, “None of us were told it was a private meeting and we’re not ‘nearly hysterical.’ We’re doing our jobs.”

She also pointed out that “Company leadership really doesn’t seem to understand just how far Adelson’s reach extends in Las Vegas.”

The thing is, when the paper was sold, it was kept secret for days. You can ask, what did the family have to hide? But what’s truly shocking is that it was the paper itself that had to break the news, against the wishes of its new owner.

The Review-Journal‘s manager, Michael Schroeder, told his staff that the (so far unrevealed) new owners “want you to focus on your jobs … don’t worry about who they are.”

So they did, as one of them, Jennifer Robison tweeted “Welp, we DID focus on our jobs. Bad advice for him.” She was one of three RJ journalists who broke the story.

Michael Schroeder, as it happens, in what is an attempt by the Adelson family at damage control, has just been fired, reported the Review-Journal Monday. And there is good reason for their concern. The Review-Journal notes,

The spotlight on Schroeder intensified on Dec. 18, when the RJ revealed that GateHouse Media, which bought the RJ in March before flipping it to the Adelson family, had without explanation ordered RJ staffers to monitor the activities of three judges in Las Vegas.

The RJ noted that a story critical of District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez’ handling of a wrongful termination case involving Adelson had appeared in Schroeder’s New Britain (Conn.) Herald on Nov. 30. The story carried the byline of Edward Clarkin, and included made-up quotes and plagiarized passages.

Nationwide searches by multiple news organizations have turned up no writers named Edward Clarkin, though Michael Schroeder’s middle name is Edward, and his mother’s maiden name was Clarkin.

Schroeder has refused to comment on the Gonzalez story and did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

CNN’s Brian Stelter puts it this way: “There may be no more awkward position for a newspaper to find itself in: reporting on itself when the owners clearly don’t want the reporting.”

Then again, there may be: Schroeder has ties to the Adelson family. They knew what they were getting when they turned him loose on the journalists at the Review-Journal. The Adelsons can say now that they always planned to reveal the purchase, but why not reveal it then?

Because it’s a lot harder to have a paper say nice things about you when everybody knows you own the paper. Information is for sale. Newspapers are for sale.

Information is not so easy to control, however. Information almost wants to be discovered. And just occasionally the power of the people and their right to know, wins out. We have the courage of some of the Review-Journal‘s staff to thank for that.

As WaPo’s Steve Friess tweeted, “the backbone and integrity the @reviewjournal reporters have shown this week is a modern miracle. Inspiring and brave.”

Adelson is now claiming he didn’t buy the paper, his kids did, with their inheritance, and he has nothing to do with it.


Actions have consequences. Sometimes, they’re just not the consequences you expected.

Photo: Bloomberg screen capture

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