Adelson’s acquisition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has its journalists fighting for their paper’s soul. They may want to take note of Adelon’s dangerous imprint on Israel’s media.
An ethical fight for the ages has been playing out at the Las Vegas Review-Journal in the past week, one that should be taught in journalism schools everywhere. In taking on their new owner, the Review-Journal’s journalists may be well served by some lessons from Sheldon Adelson’s other media playground — Israel.
Since the Las Vegas Journal-Review’s reporters uncovered the acquisition of their paper by casino magnate and Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson, they have been relentless in their pursuit of transparency, in the face of a new boss known for bullying critical journalists into submission.
But their campaign took a hit on Tuesday, when the Review-Journal’s editor, Michael Hengel, announced he had accepted a buyout and would be leaving the paper. “I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners,” he told his staff.
Hengel was capping off an extraordinary week. Last Wednesday, Review-Journal reporters revealed the identity of the new owner following an investigation that inveighed heavily against the secrecy that had surrounded the sale.
Two days later, they published another stunning investigation that, again, turned the spotlight inward, painting their new boss in an extremely shady light. That piece explored a mysterious assignment they had received a month prior, asking them to drop everything to spend their time scrutinizing three county judges. One of them, it turned out, was overseeing a lawsuit filed against Adelson by the former CEO of his Macau casinos.
(The story gets much more bizarre, with twists including a tiny Connecticut paper with links to Adelson’s company and a possible hit job on the same judge by a journalist who it seems does not exist. This is truly the stuff of great cinema.)
The Review-Journal didn’t stop there. A passionate editorial promised to keep fighting for readers’ trust. Reporters amassed a document listing possible conflicts of interest between Adelson and their coverage, and worked on a disclaimer for when such conflicts arise. A column by John L. Smith, one of many journalists to enjoy the distinct honor of being sued by Adelson, openly declared his new boss to be “precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper.”
The search for a new editor is...Read More