If there were prizes for newspapers that have been sold the most times, the Las Vegas Review-Journal might get the gold medal.
In less than a year, it’s been sold twice.
But the most recent sale last week has all the makings of a whodunnit, because the new owner doesn’t want anyone to know who he or she is.
Now, why would that be?
Rick Edmonds is a media business analyst at the journalism training center Poynter Institute in Florida. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that it is odd that an owner of a paper is keeping his or her identity under wraps.
"We have a large portion of the industry now owned by hedge funds and they're pretty anonymous since nobody knows much about who they are and they tend to not answer any questions from anybody about their business operations, but this is one step further," Edmonds said.
Usually, people who buy a newspaper or a media outlet want to make it clear that they own it. Edmonds said it could be that the person who bought the RJ just wanted to keep it private for reason we don't know about, but he points out the situation is raising questions.
"I certainly think there's a suspicion that it might be somebody with a political agenda that they want to bring to the paper," he said. "I'm not sure that a person of that sort could stay anonymous indefinitely."
It was reported that an early version of an article about the buyout in the Review-Journal said the publisher told reporters not to worry about who the owner is. Then, the publisher later, on his own, took those quotes out.
Edmonds said that is one more bad sign.
"Though I have to say... newspapers writing out their own affairs whether it be a financial problem or a departure or change in executives are often less than candid," he said.
Edmonds said the lack of transparency is troubling for both the employees of the paper and for the readers.
"I think it raises questions in their mind," he said, "And certainly readers are, as we all know, somewhat distrustful of the media these days and the possibility of there being sort of a hidden hand there may indeed be troubling."
Edmonds did point out that although there is "potential" for someone to use the paper for political reasons, "it's not absolutely a fact that it's going to happen."
The Society of Professional Journalists released this statement Tuesday about the Review-Journal's new ownership:
INDIANAPOLIS-- The Society of Professional Journalists is committed to stimulating high standards of ethical behavior among all who engage in the delivery of news. As announced earlier this month, the financial backers of News + Media Capital Group LLC joined those ranks by purchasing the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
While we as one of the largest and oldest journalism organizations are happy to see a company invest in one of our country’s great newspapers, we are very disappointed and concerned by the owners’ lack of transparency and respect for the journalists they employ and the people the Las Vegas Review-Journal serves.
“The Society’s Code of Ethics stresses that those engaged in journalism need to be accountable and transparent,” said Andrew Seaman, SPJ Ethics Committee chair. “We now expect that of those behind News + Media Capital Group LLC.”
Accountability begins with knowing a messenger, which allows an audience to understand that messenger's motives and better understand the messages. To not reveal yourselves is to treat your readers with less dignity than humans deserve and with less respect than democracy should demand.
There is no excuse for the owners of the Las Vegas Review-Journal to hide their identities, and the Society requests that they immediately introduce themselves to their readers and employees. Otherwise, people will have considerable justification to question the quality and value of the information provided by an organization overseen by shadowy company of anonymous financial backers.
Rick Edmonds, Poynter Institute
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