ASNE calls on mysterious Review-Journal owner to come forward

December 16, 2015
Category: Ethics & Trust

The nation’s largest organization of top news editors demanded Wednesday that the ownership of the Las Vegas Review-Journal be made public amid conflicting reports that the buyer may have been casino magnate and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.

In a statement addressing the secretive owner of the Las Vegas daily, the American Society of News Editors objected to the opacity surrounding the Dec. 12 sale of the Review-Journal by newspaper chain New Media Investment Group to a mystery buyer.

Journalism is all about transparency, one of the pillars of trust between a community and its news organization. The Review-Journal owners want to remain secret, a choice that is faithless to the public trust and the talented journalists that work every day to provide an accurate, impartial news report for the community they serve.

Earlier Wednesday, Fortune reported that Adelson was behind the purchase of the Review-Journal, citing “multiple sources familiar with the situation.” The author, Dan Primack, speculated that Adelson may have wished to remain anonymous until the conclusion of Tuesday night’s GOP debate “so as not to become a distraction.”

But Adelson denied direct ownership of the paper in an exchange with CNN’s Brian Stelter during the debate, which was held in Adelson’s Venetian Theatre. He “repeatedly indicated” he wasn’t behind the purchase, telling Stelter he had no “personal interest.”

ASNE isn’t the only journalism association that has criticized the faceless ownership. On Tuesday, the Society of Professional journalists said it was “disappointed and concerned” about the situation, noting that the delphic buyer was interfering with the newspaper’s legacy of transparency. Several journalists at the Review-Journal took to Twitter to protest their unidentified owner.

David Folkenflik, NPR’s media corresponded, tweeted earlier Wednesday that Review-Journal publisher Jason Taylor has swayed the newspaper’s coverage related to the sale. Citing a person with knowledge of the process, Folkenflik said Taylor cut about one-third of an article that named Adelson as a likely buyer.

Other deep-pocketed potential buyers for the Review-Journal have been bandied about since the paper was sold, but none of the names have been confirmed. Steve Wynn, himself a billionaire Las Vegas resident, was floated by Adelson as a possible buyer. Charles and David Koch, both Republican mega-donors, have denied ties to the sale.