Las Vegas Review-Journal and Independent JournalismDecember 24, 2015 11:10 am
Two weeks ago, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson purchased Nevada’s biggest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, for $140 million, an amount that was almost $40 million more than its purchase price of eight months earlier. However, the acquisition did not go down at all well with the newspaper’s staff, especially its top editor Mike Hengel, who has since accepted a voluntary buyout and now left his post.
One of the reasons the chief editor of five years cited for his departure is his belief that the working relationship between himself and his new bosses was likely to be “adversarial” in nature. Previous to the newspaper’s purchase, for instance, Sheldon Adelson and his business interests had often criticized the Review-Journal’s reporting of their gambling empire, and the paper was even sued by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation on a number of different occasions .
Fueling further speculation as to Adelson’s motive for the purchase, details of the new owners was kept a mystery for as long as possible until Hengel started an aggressive investigation of the situation, and the story eventually broke. Since then, the new owner’s commitment to unbiased news reporting has been called into question by members of its own reporting staff, such as R-J columnist John L. Smith who had previously been sued by Adelson. Commenting on the attitude of the new owners since taking over the newspaper, Smith explained; “If they expected the R-J staff to be a bunch of whipped dogs, what happened was those dogs bit ’em.”
Losing Hengel, however, has come as a bit of a shock to Review-Journal staff, but Smith said that his colleagues would not back down or refrain from pursuing independent journalism. In the meantime, New York University journalism professor Mitchell Stephens has argued that Adelson could cause immense damage to the respected brand if he attempts to turn it into his new mouthpiece. Trying to avert such concerns, on Tuesday the new owners delivered a message to their readers stating that they “pledge to publish a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate” and that they would remain “stewards of this essential community institution”.
One thing is for sure, from now on there will certainly be many critical eyes scrutinizing the newspaper’s every actions, and judging whether the new owners can be taken on their word or not.