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Should columnist John L. Smith write about his ultimate employer?
Tuesday April 26,2016 : CONFLICT ISSUE AT ADELSON NEWSPAPER
Should Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith write about his ultimate employer?
US media reports Monday were debating a possible conflict of interest issue involving the editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (bought by the Adelson family recently) and columnist John L. Smith, who has had a legal brush with Sheldon Adelson in the past.
Following Adelson's acquisition of the LRVJ, long-time columnist Smith wrote a piece that referenced litigation back in 2005 that the casino mogul had launched against him over a book he had authored. Smith fought the case, which was ultimately dropped, but in the process was "sued into bankruptcy."
In his piece following the LVRJ takeover, Smith suggested that Adelson was the "wrong person" to be a newspaper owner in general and the LVRJ in particular.
"Sheldon Adelson can buy the newspaper. It's his right," Smith wrote. "For a man of his means, that's the easy part. And the family deserves the chance to make good on its stated intentions. But Adelson can't purchase the credibility of an independent press. That has to be earned every day on the street by reporters, columnists and editors who must be able to throw elbows without fear or favour - even at the new boss."
The publication TPMLive reports that LVRJ's latest editor, Keith Moyer, commented over the weekend at a Society of Professional Journalists meeting that Smith, who writes a Las Vegas-oriented column for the paper four days a week, would not be permitted to write about Sheldon Adelson.
In subsequent tweets, Moyer declared that in his personal view it was a conflict of interest for Smith to write about Adelson, commenting: "As long as I'm editor, John won't write about Sheldon Adelson."
That could cramp Smith's style, as he writes about a wide range of topics and people in Las Vegas, and Adelson is a high profile and controversial figure in local business and politics, resulting in Smith and other journalists often writing about his activities and opinions.
TPMLive emphasises that it is as yet unclear whether Moyer's decision to prohibit Smith from writing about Adelson is grounded in the 2005 litigation or not, and neither Smith or Moyer have so far clarified that point in response to a TPMLive enquiry.
Moyer replaced the former editor, Mike Hengel, in February this year after Hengel stepped down mere days after the acquisition by the Adelson family. Before doing so Hengel had assured readers in a front-page editorial that the LRVJ would maintain its independence from Adelson and keep its reporting fair and balanced.
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