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Interview: Las Vegas Review-Journal Sale Poses Nightmare For Reporters

Jon S, Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

It's been about a month since the news broke that Vegas power player Sheldon Adelson secretly purchased the largest newspaper in state, the Las Vegas Review Journal. But the repercussions of this sale are still unfolding. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey spoke with local journalism professor Alan Deutschman about the fallout. Below are excerpts of their conversation.

Credit Julia Ritchey
Alan Deutschman is the business journalism chair at UNR's Reynolds School of Journalism.

There’s a long history in the U.S. of wealthy businessmen buying media outlets, but there appears to be a resurgence in that trend with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post a few years ago and now Adelson’s Review-Journal buyout.

According to Deutschman, this is not necessarily a bad thing if there’s transparency in the process.  

“There’s a good way for media and there’s a bad way,” he says. “Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post is the good way. … So that’s the right way to do it is to come in and say, ‘I’m a rich guy and I have a lot of money, and I realize that I’m buying something that’s a public trust, and I’m going to respect that and promote that.’”

Then there’s the Adelson way.

“Adelson basically financed a company that kept his identity secret, and they bought the biggest newspaper in our state without revealing who actually was owning it and why they were buying it and what their real motivation was,” he says.

Since the sale, staff at the Las Vegas Review-Journal have been relentless in reporting on the ownership change, even earning an award for their coverage. But reporting on Adelson, who has major investments in casinos and other Las Vegas enterprises, still presents a major challenge for the journalists there.

“[It] turns out that [management company Gatehouse Media] was trying to get reporters to do the dirty work of Adelson to basically report on a judge who was hearing a case about Adelson’s alleged corruption in his dealings in his casinos in Macau,” he says. “The new management [also] tried to get reporters to ease off their critical coverage of Adelson.”

Deutschman says only time will tell if Adelson will try to use the paper to wield his influence in the state.

“Here’s someone who has a tremendous amount of money who has a history of trying to use his money to buy or sue anyone who gets in his way,” he says.

For more, listen to the full discussion above. 

Julia Ritchey is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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