It’s been about two months since the Las Vegas Review-Journal was sold to the family of Sheldon Adelson.
The purchase led to speculation that Adelson would push his agenda into the paper’s news and editorials.
This week, a story in the paper heightened that speculation.
The story was about the potential for a Las Vegas stadium, large enough to host an NFL team that would be partially financed by Sheldon Adelson.
But there’s more: Of the $1.2 billion stadium cost, Adelson would put up about a third; the other $780 million would come from the public.
In this case, the public dollars would come from room taxes that now go to the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority.
Longtime political observer Jon Ralston wrote a recent column about the RJ’s coverage of the stadium and how it seems like Adelson has begun to use the newspaper to his advantage.
“This has long been an agenda of Sheldon Adelson to take money away from the convention authority,” Ralston told KNPR’s State of Nevada, “He has clearly seen an opportunity to do that and now he used not only his newspaper to play up those stories, have his right-hand man feed the stories to reporters there, who by the way conducted themselves honorable and wrote straight stories. And then, orchestrated an editorial that was a total reversal of the Review-Journal’s past policy that public money for stadiums is bad.”
According to Ralston, the RJ has written editorials in the past against the use of public money for stadiums.
“The RJ wrote a lot of screeching editorials against using public money to support the stadium downtown,” he said, “They have consistently taken a libertarian perspective on this and other public money, picking winners and losers, etc.”
He said everyone who follows the editorial page can see it.
Ralston also said Andy Abboud, an executive with Sands Corporation, gave the story about the stadium, including internal documents from the corporation, to Review-Journal reporters.
“They used that newspaper to help advance their agenda,” he said, “The question is whether this is an aberration or just the beginning”
Ralston pointed out that Adelson’s family owning the Las Vegas Review-Journal is not the same as CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos owning the Washington Post.
“Adelson is enmeshed in the most prominent business and in the political world here as almost no one else is,” he said, “You can’t get away from that…to have somebody like that own a newspaper is going to be problematic.”
For Ralston, it is a matter of transparency.
“As long as all of this done out in the public square and in a fair way fine, but I think there is reason to believe that because the guy who wants this plan done owns the single most important media outlet in the state that there’s reasons for concern,” he said.
Ralston said Adelson can own as many newspapers he wants and use them how ever he pleases. He also said it is okay if Adelson wants to highlight how the LVCVA uses its money, but it will have consequences.
“What’s wrong, in a journalistic point of view, is the owner is now signaling that he may use the newspaper to advance his agenda influencing not just the editorial page but how news is played,” he said.
Jon Ralston, host of PBS's "Ralston Live"/Reno Gazette-Journal columnist
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