We are definitely inside the rabbit hole now.
Both Las Vegas “newspapers” today are reporting that the man who announced the sale of the Las Vegas Review-Journal to a new company called News + Media may be the pseudonymous writer of a lengthy article in a small Connecticut newspaper that criticized a Clark County judge who is handling a civil case involving casino owner Sheldon Adelson, the once secret money behind the newspaper purchase.
I said it was a rabbit hole. The swirl of ethical mishops is enough to boggle the mind.
The R-J links Michael E. Schroeder, the man described as manager of News + Media Capital Group when the purchase was announced, as the probable person behind the Edward Clarkin byline on the aforementioned article.
The brief story reports that Schroeder’s middle name is Edward, and California marriage records show his father, Clarence J. Schroeder, married Karen A. Clarkin in 1957. Schroeder was born in the following year, the paper says.
Meanwhile, back in the Las Vegas Sun insert, a lengthy story on this topic recounts that “there is compelling circumstantial evidence that ‘Edward Clarkin’ is a pseudonym used by Schroeder. The publisher’s middle name is Edward, and his Facebook page at one time identified his mother as Karen Clarkin Carey. That reference was removed from the page, but the Facebook page for Karen Clarkin Carey contained a photo of Carey with Schroeder.”
Also, the Clarkin byline has shown up at various publications where Schroeder worked.
Both the R-J and Sun recount allegations in a Connecticut newspaper that sources quoted in the judge story never were contacted about the story and several passages were nearly identical to previously published reports.
What makes the Clarkin tale doubly dubious is that weeks before the R-J was purchased three of its reporters were assigned to shadow three judges for two weeks and report on their activity. One of those judges was Elizabeth Gonzalez, who is presiding over an Adelson lawsuit and who has fined his company failing to disclose evidence.
No story was ever published and no one in the newsroom was told who picked Gonzalez for scrutiny or why.
The Sun reports, “Mark Fabiani, a San Diego attorney retained by the new owners in the days after the sale, said Wednesday that Schroeder would not have a management role. He was retained as an adviser during the purchase and helped conduct due diligence, Fabiani said.”
Then on Wednesday the R-J published a front-page missive under the hed “A message from the new owners about the future of the Las Vegas Review-Journal,” which pledged to publish “a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate.”
There was a short sidebar announcing that editor Michael Hengel had accepted a buyout that said, “Hengel described his decision to leave as ‘mutual’ and said he did not believe he was forced out.”
However, the Los Angeles Times reports today in a lengthy article on the shenanigans at the R-J that in a Wednesday interview Hengel told them he first learned of his acceptance of the buyout when someone from the paper read the editorial to him over the telephone Tuesday night. That was at the same time he received an email with a formal offer, the Times said, though there is a photo online purportedly showing Hengel announcing his departure after 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The Los Angeles paper also recounted how business reporter Jennifer Robison, “a diminutive 10-year veteran who had won awards for exposing the state’s faulty healthcare website,” recalled what happened when the sale of the paper was announced.
“They look like they were registered just to buy us,” Robison whispered to business reporter Howard Stutz, the Times reports.
“Stutz leaned over and whispered back one word: ‘Sheldon.’”
In a story posted online Wednesday, The New York Times quotes Hengel as saying concerns about potential conflicts of interest with Adelson’s ownership factored into his decision to accept the buyout offer — like there was a choice? “I’m not sure what their plans were and how I fit into them,” he told the other coast Times. “So when I got presented an offer based on what I knew the situation was, I had to determine whether it was acceptable or not. And for me and my family, it was.”
The NY Times went on to say that 15 employees have accepted “voluntary buyout offers,” according to a source, though several reporters told the paper they were aware of only one person besides Hengel who had accepted a buyout. Some of those other buyouts might not have been in the newsroom.
In a Sunday column under the hed “Adelson has chance to prove doubters wrong,” John L. Smith, who was sued into bankruptcy by Adelson before prevailing in a libel suit over a passage in a book about casino executives, said:
“Adelson has every right, and certainly the bankroll, to buy this newspaper. In theory, at least, a local ownership group might bring an improved sensitivity to the needs of the community in one of America’s most complex company towns.
“But Adelson is precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper. His disdain for the working press and its prickly processes is palpable — and easily illustrated by his well-known litigiousness.”
Now, about that promise to be fair, unbiased and accurate?