Las Vegas Review-Journal Looks Forward After Adelson Sale
Las Vegas Review-Journal Reporters Believed Credibility Depended On Revealing Secret Owner. So They Did..
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The announcement that the family of billionaire casino mogul and GOP kingmaker Sheldon Adelson now owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal comes after a weeklong mystery that had media watchdogs and politicians demanding transparency and led to the paper’s own staff breaking the news about the identity of their new boss. The statement in Thursday’s edition follows the announcement last week that the paper was sold for a second time this year to an unidentified buyer, leading to scrutiny about a lack of transparency. They learned that Patrick Dumont, a Las Vegas Sands Corp. executive, had orchestrated the deal at the behest of his father-in-law, Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and Republican power broker.
News + Media Capital Group LLC bought the paper and some affiliated publications for $140 million, a markup of about 37 percent from the paper’s last sale this year, when the similarly named New Media Investment Group bought it. But given the in-house sensitivities, editors continued working on the story and sent it to the publisher around 3:30 p.m. local time to get his clearance.
The publisher was flying at the time, so the reporting team had no choice but to wait, along with much of the newsroom that congregated around the city desk in anticipation. The timing of the sale and the purchase price had pundits theorizing that Adelson bought the largest newspaper in a swing state to influence the presidential election. They considered what they’d tweet when they finally got the publisher’s go-ahead. “I was going to turn off my cellphone for a while,” Howard Stutz, an 11-year veteran who covers the gaming industry, recalled of that anxious period. Stutz said he and his colleagues already had the buyer’s name and information ready to go. “We pretty much had to ignore at that point what the other outlets were doing,” he said. They said they held back because they didn’t want an announcement to distract from Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate held at the Venetian casino-hotel.
Nor is he the first billionaire to get into the newspaper business, especially as they became more affordable in recent years with the downturn in the industry. The Review-Journal published the story online, and the presses were running for the print edition when publisher Jason Taylor ordered those quotes from Schroeder and Hengel to be removed.
Dot-com millionaire Aaron Kushner snatched up the Orange County Register with a pledge to turn around the paper but walked away from the role earlier this year. We don’t own the press.” The Review-Journal team had reason to believe Adelson had owned the press since Friday, though they had been unable to confirm it. They knew that Adelson had tried buying the paper before, and they had discovered business ties to Schroeder, who they also learned was staying in a suite in Adelson’s Venetian hotel last week. DeHaven reported Friday night that the unknown buyer spent $140 million on the Review-Journal and several small papers — a sum nearly triple what the flagship paper had fetched in a sale just nine months earlier. They pledged to invest in the paper. “We believe deeply that a strong and effective daily newspaper plays a critical role in keeping our state apprised of the important news and issues we face on a daily basis,” the family’s statement said.
Wright said it became stressful in recent days as competitors pounced on the mystery, which had become a hot topic on social media as Republican presidential candidates headed to the Venetian Tuesday night for a debate on CNN. Jeb Bush visited the Review-Journal editorial board that day and joked that maybe rival Donald Trump was the buyer. “Obviously we wanted to report this first,” Wright said. “It was our paper and our story.
Robison said “there’s really no way to compare” the past week to her previous 10 years at the paper. “It was incredibly stressful, incredibly tense,” she said. “In the end, we did our jobs and we did them the right way.” For DeHaven, the Adelson story will be his last at the Review-Journal. In a Nov. 30 note to the staff, DeHaven praised his soon-to-be-former colleagues’ journalistic chops. “You might not know what a relief it was to have landed here,” DeHaven wrote. “This place is a refuge for real journalism. In a world of still-shrinking newsrooms and ever-expanding opportunities for ‘native ad content,’ you guys have curated a thriving habitat for reporters and editors who do not kowtow to advertisers and do not mind upsetting the status quo.” Wright said he doesn’t intend for the newsroom to have an adversarial relationship with the Adelson family.
Adelson understands that what he bought was not an extension of his public relations office, that he bought some pretty independent-minded journalists who are not going to simply take no for an answer, are not going to roll over, and are going to stand up for the ethics of our profession,” Wright said.
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