What shall it profit a man to own a newspaper?

Newsprint heading to the presses. (R-J pix)

The print edition of today’s Las Vegas newspaper direly warns that this country’s newspapers could become thinner or even disappear altogether because of tariffs as high as 32 percent being placed on newsprint imported from Canada. For some inexplicable reason the story cannot be found on the paper’s website, but has been replicated at the PressReader website.

“It’s very possible that inadequate newsprint reserves will affect the page counts of the Review-Journal and perhaps that of our partner in the joint-operating agreement, the Las Vegas Sun,” Review-Journal Publisher and Editor Keith Moyer was quoted as saying. “We’ll do everything possible to keep popular features in the print edition every day, and if we have to cut some content, we’ll publish the newspaper in full for our e-Edition.”

He did not mention that the paper already has cut pages this year, dropping the Sunday opinion section from six pages to four and cutting out op-ed pages on Wednesdays and Fridays. It also appears the paper is being printed on thinner newsprint stock, possibly down to 30-pound stock from 32-pound stock. The tell tale is the curling of the pages.

That was before the tariffs.

Today’s poor mouthing comes after the newspaper recently reported that its owner, billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson’s annual salary at the Las Vegas Sands was doubled in 2017 to $26.1 million. Adelson purchased the paper two years ago for $14o million — $38 million more than the previous owner had paid nine months earlier.

As for that joint-operating agreement “partner” feeling the pinch of newsprint prices, the Sun for a month earlier this year ran a daily front page announcement saying that it is now charging for access to its online content, the Sun contracted to get a percentage of the R-J’s profits, but there are no profits, the article said.

Today’s article notes that, while putting news online is an option, it is print advertising that is the primary source of revenue and profits, if any, for most newspapers. But, if it comes down to it and print pages have to be reduced, the article said the paper is considering adding pages to its  e-Edition, an electronic replica of the paper available online for print subscribers.

The morning paper ran an editorial a couple of week’s ago bemoaning the tariff hike.

Today’s front page print story mentions that the News Media Alliance is conducting a propaganda, er, education campaign about the newsprint tariffs. The organization encourages people to contact Congress through a website: stopnewsprinttariffs.org. The campaign has the snappy title of Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers (STOPP) and warns that the tariffs threaten an estimated 600,000 jobs across the U.S. printing and publishing industry.

Now, don’t you feel sorry for Sheldon?

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Should we have practiced journalism of rote regurgitation?

As in the case of the dog that did not bark, the solution to the mystery may lie in the answer to the question: Why?

On Monday the morning newspaper reported that 20 years ago the same paper, when I was editor, decided to “spike” a draft of an account about an ongoing lawsuit against casino owner Steve Wynn, apparently one claiming gender and age discrimination because one of Wynn’s casinos had created a policy requiring waitresses to lose weight and wear high heels.

I do not recall what was in the story or why it was not published, but I deeply resent implications and innuendo that the newspaper management at the time shirked its journalistic responsibilities. Monday’s story suggests the 1998 draft may have included accounts in court files by some plaintiffs that other women, not themselves, had been sexually harassed by Wynn. The story points out that reporting of court proceedings are protected against defamation litigation and quotes some journalism professor as saying, “Journalism has to be about courage.”

Apparently in the eyes of some, the journalism of verification has been supplanted by the journalism of rote regurgitation.

The code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists calls on journalists to “Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it.”

If someone walks through the front door and hands a reporter allegations of a salacious nature, the reporter would be obligated to verify. Just because someone makes the same allegations but launders them through court filings might sometimes protect the newspaper from litigation but does not absolve the paper from doing its job of responsibly reporting verifiable facts as accurately and fairly as possible. It is not about courage, it is about responsibility to the readers. (By the way, an online forum on responsible media warns, “The fact that documents are lodged with the Court in civil proceedings will not, of itself, attract privilege.” The privilege applies to evidence given in open court.)

The same due diligence would apply to the busboy as well as the wealthy casino owner.

As I said, I do not recall the specifics of this one incident 20 years ago, but the implication that the paper was lax in not reporting something just because it was filed in court is ludicrous and insulting and, dare I say, defamatory.

As for the credibility of the currently barking dog, former Publisher Sherman Frederick points out that longtime columnist John L. Smith resigned when the current newspaper management ordered him to never write about two of the biggest players on the Strip — Wynn and current newspaper owner and casino bigwig Sheldon Adelson — because they had unsuccessfully, repeat, unsuccessfully sued him over passages in books he had written.

 

 

 

 

What is unsaid speaks loudly

Sometimes the most notable aspect of a news story is what is not in it.

The Las Vegas newspaper today has a front page story about the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case that could allow all states to legalize sports betting. Since Congress passed the Professional and Amatuer Sports Protection Act in 1992 only Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware have been allowed to engage in sports wagering because they already allowed it, thus were “grandfathered.”

New Jersey is leading the appeal of a lower court ruling upholding the law.

The story reports that the Nevada casino lobby is siding with New Jersey, saying they hope the expansion of state-sponsored regulated betting would effectively end illegal offshore betting competition.

What the story does not say is where casino owner Sheldon Adelson stands on the matter. Adelson, who happens to own the newspaper, has been a vocal opponent of online wagering, but his Venetian casino sports book has a mobile app that can be used anywhere in Nevada, which seems like online gambling.

The story doesn’t even have one of those disclaimers saying the Adelson family owns the paper.

According to an article at The Federalist in August, Adelson has spent years trying to outlaw internet gambling. He was pressing to extend the Federal Wire Act of 1961 to ban the “bad, addictive” practice of online gambling. The bill is called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.

The original act intended to stop “mobsters from using telephone and telegraph systems for organized crime, most notably for horse racing and other sports betting.” This was before the Internet, of course.

Online and sports betting seem to be somewhat connected.

The Offshore Gaming Association, whose ox would be gored by repeal of the sports betting ban, noted recently that the appointment of Neil Gorsuch means the court is dominated by states’ rights Republicans. The article says, “It’s also notable that while the GOP is beholden to Sheldon Adelson for giving millions to their campaigns, Adelson’s fight is for the banning of online gambling. Adelson has no interest or concern surrounding sports betting. And Donald Trump himself felt that PASPA is largely to blame for the demise of Atlantic City casinos.”

Adelson once said of online gambling in an interview with Forbes, “I am willing to spend whatever it takes. My moral standard compels me to speak out on this issue because I am the largest company by far in the industry and I am willing to speak out. I don’t see any compelling reason for the government to allow people to gamble on the Internet and nobody has ever explained except for the two companies whose special interest is going to be served if there is gaming on the Internet, Caesars and MGM.”

Yet his sports book has an online app for betting. A little clarification might be in order.

Sheldon Adelson, center, with Donald Trump and Miriam Adelson in 2016. (Pix by Andy Abboud/twitter.com)

 

Dueling columnists could be entertaining, except …

Epithets at 10 paces. Turn and fire.

First, in the pages of the Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Wayne Allyn Root took issue with MGM’s CEO Jim Murren telling his employees that the firm would match any donations they decided to make to certain groups that he apparently identified as civil rights organizations. In a letter to employees Murren noted recent violence in Charlottesville and Barcelona and stated, “In the midst of this uncertainty, I want to affirm a clear-eyed, concrete view of the company in which you have chosen to invest your career, because on the question of human rights, MGM Resorts takes and unequivocal position: The protection of human dignity, demonstrated in the form of tolerance and respect for all people, is the core of our identity. We strive to create workplaces and entertainment spaces that are welcoming, open and respectful to all kinds of people, regardless of disability, age, gender, race, ethnicity, religious preference, gender identity or sexual orientation.” (His bold face and italics.)

He listed the groups for which the company would match donations as Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, ADL, Council on American Islamic Relations and others.

Root took issue with the doling out of shareholder funds to liberal groups in general but especially with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is known for tossing out hate group labels like trinkets at a Mardi Gras parade, and the Council on American Islamic Relation, which has been pegged as the clean-faced front for Hamas.

Root blasted, “Jim Murren has gone too far. And he’s put MGM’s board, shareholders and employees in a terrible position because of his extreme, radical, reckless decisions” — without bothering to append the usual disclaimer about the newspaper’s owner, Sheldon Adelson, being both a business competitor with MGM and frequent political opponent of Murren.

Today, the putative editor of the insert inside the Review-Journal filled that gap with a diatribe. Brian Greenspun said of Root’s Thursday missive:

That day, he went after one of Sheldon’s biggest, most forward-thinking and most responsible competitors in the gaming industry. It is exactly what the gaming industry feared might happen when the news — as secret as the Adelson family tried to keep it — broke that one of the GOP’s wealthiest donors had purchased one of the two largest newspapers in Nevada. The Las Vegas Sun is the other “largest” newspaper in Nevada.

I don’t know if Sheldon knows what Root writes from one day to the next, but he should be very careful about what his minions publish in and under his name. Root and publisher Craig Moon certainly know what would please Sheldon.

Not only are Adelson and Murren competitors on the Strip but also in Macau and perhaps in Japan in the future.

Adelson is a huge Republican donor, while Murren was a card-carrying Republican for Reid and a Hillary Clinton supporter.

A couple of years ago Adelson tore into MGM and Caesars for driving down the price of rooms on the Strip and costing his Sands corporation money. Adelson personally attacked Murren for supporting a convention center expansion, which competes with Adelson’s convention center, over a new football stadium.

But perhaps the funniest thing in Greenspun’s screed was this line:

Which reminds me of one of the first lessons in newspaper publishing I learned from my father, Hank Greenspun, many decades ago — publishers have profound responsibilities to the public interest and it must always be placed before personal interest.

Hank Greenspan was notorious for pulling his newspaper like a dueling pistol to attack business competitors and political foes and to support his friends. He was virulently critical of an FBI agent who conducted a sting on certain politicians and he conducted a campaign to discredit a competitor in the cable television business.

Greenspan concludes his spiel, “Come on, Review-Journal, publish your paper in the community interest. You and your owners should be better than this.”

A little dueling between newspaper columnists could be entertaining — if they both weren’t such clowns.

A reminder that NFL stadium financing is cloaked in secrecy

A hole into which money will be poured. (Rendering via R-J)

It’s just your tax money. You don’t need to know how it is being used.

A front page story in today’s newspaper reminds us of just how dreadful that deal the governor and legislators cut with the Raiders football team to build a new stadium in Las Vegas really is.

The piece reminds us the law creating a stadium authority also veils just about everything in secrecy, and again relates the stadium cost of $1.9 billion is just wild-ass guess. It could be more. It could be less. And we might never know which. If it comes in at the guessed at cost, the taxpayers will be ponying up nearly 40 percent of the cost. If comes in at the original estimate of $1 billion, the taxpayers will pick up 75 percent of the tab, plus the $900 million in road improvements for a stadium site with only 15 percent of the necessary parking spaces.

Today’s story has Stadium Authority Board Chairman Steve Hill confirming that the public won’t get much information about the financing of the stadium at I-15 and Russell Road of the confidentiality wording included in the 2016 special session Senate Bill 1.

“A big part of the information that the board will get will be confidential,” Hill quoted as saying. “The Raiders’ financial situation is not going to be a public document, so we’ll get a framework for that at a board meeting and individual board members will get a more thorough briefing outside of the public meeting.”

The 1,000-word article tells us mostly what we don’t know and probably never will. The final paragraph reports that the Raiders did not respond to email inquiries about the project and its financing and have told its contractors to not talk to the press.

Of course, the newspaper’s owner Sheldon Adelson took his promised $650 million in stadium financing and went home.

All the news about the paper’s owner that fits

There is a story on the Las Vegas newspaper’s website about how Vice President Mike Pence and House leaders plan to honor the paper’s owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife at a June 7 fundraiser for the National Republican Campaign Committee. The fundraiser is asking for contributions of up to $50,000 per couple. Adelson is a major Republican donor.

But for some reason the Reuters story about Adelson being questioned by Israeli police as part of an ongoing criminal investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t appear to have been posted yet. Adelson is a Netanyahu supporter

Reuters reports Netanyahu is suspected of abuse of office, but he denies any wrongdoing.

Reportedly Adelson talked about suspicions that Netanyahu negotiated a deal in 2015 for favourable press coverage with Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Adelson owns a competing Israeli newspaper.

Adelson arrives for Trump’s recent speech in Israel. (Reuters pix)

 

Adelson’s fingerprints are everywhere … well, almost

Sheldon Adelson speaks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before a speech by President Trump at the Israel Museum on Tuesday in Jerusalem. (AP pix via Haaretz)

The Las Vegas newspaper may have to add a couple of pages just to handle the disclaimers if its owner gets his fingerprints on any more news items.

Today there were, count them, four separate disclaimers.

In the front page story about President Trump being at a museum in Israel there was a mention that the paper’s owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife were in the audience. So at the end of the piece there was the obligatory disclaimer: “The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.”

The disclaimer also appeared at the end of a story about what it would cost to remove the attorney general as legal counsel for various agencies, including the Gaming Control Board. A bill was introduced to do this after the head of GCB secretly taped a conversation with Attorney General Adam Laxalt in which Laxalt asked the GBC to file a brief in a civil court case involving Adelson.

At the end of a story about a languishing bill that would have created an inspector general’s office to audit spending by government agencies there were two disclaimers. The bill was prompted by the newspaper’s reporting of lavish spending by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The first one notes: “The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands Corp. operates the Sands Expo and Convention Center, which competes with the LVCVA-operated Las Vegas Convention Center.”

The second adds: “The Review-Journal owns the domain lasvegas.com, which is subleased to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The sublease terminates Aug. 2.”

Frankly, the story and its front page placement smelled distinctly of editorializing that would benefit Adelson’s convention business at the expense of his competition.

Oddly enough there were two stories in the sports section about the NFL’s Raiders moving to Las Vegas, but neither mentioned Adelson’s key role as catalyst for the move since he walked away from the deal — keeping his money but still getting the stadium “amenity” largely at taxpayer expense while still being able to put bods in his beds. No mention, no backgrounding, no disclaimers.

Also, pay no heed the fact the legislation that created the stadium funding also created a special oversight committee to monitor the expansion of the LVCVA facilities. Adelson has long opposed the expansion of the publicly funded convention center, contending it unfairly competes with his Sands Convention Center.

The redundant oversight panel could scale back the expansion, which might have been Adelson’s real Machiavellian objective all the time.

 

Guess his fingerprints have been wiped clean from that one, but who knows where they will turn up next.