Wednesday December 23,2015 : TOP EDITOR TO DEPART LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL (Update)
New owners offer Mike Hengel an exit package.
Just when most thought the extensive reportage on the change of ownership at the Las Vegas Review-Journal was easing, the news broke late Tuesday that the senior editor at the publication, Mike Hengel, has accepted an exit passage and is leaving.
Addressing a stunned LVRJ newsroom less than two weeks since the news broke that the Adelson family-backed News + Media Capital has paid a premium for the newspaper at $140 million, Hengel reportedly told his staff that he did not ask for a buy-out, but that he was offered one shortly after the change in ownership.
He did not say who made the offer, but observed that he thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be "adversarial" and that it was best to let them pick their own editor.
"I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners, and it is in my best interest and those of my family," Hengel said, according to one source.
Reporting on Hengel's shock departure, CNN Money revealed that today's (Wednesday) edition will include a message from the Adelson family on the front page pledging to publish a newspaper that is "fair, unbiased and accurate" and promising new investment and the introduction of an ombudsman.
But retaining the trust of readers will be difficult for the paper, especially if other veteran journalists follow Hengel to the exit, CNN opines.
The Adelson letter also notes that an interim editor will be appointed, tasked with the immediate search for a permanent editor.
CNN recalls that last week, with Hengel's backing, a trio of Review-Journal investigative reporters – Howard Stutz, Jennifer Robison and James De Haven – broke the news that Adelson's family was the initially coy buyer behind the $140 million purchase.
The Adelson family then confirmed the purchase but claimed they never intended to keep their involvement a secret.
The CNN report also makes the startling revelation that on several occasions since the sale, management has removed or changed passages from stories relating to the sale, giving as examples:
* On December 10, the day of the sale, a comment to staff made by Michael Schroeder, manager of News + Media Capital that they should "focus on their jobs" and not worry about who the new owners are, was excised from the copy after the printing process was halted for the purpose. Hengel expressed his objections to the interference to no avail.
* The expose on the Adelson involvement was delayed due to what one senior reporter referred to as a "crazy approval process" with the new management.
* Reference to a pre-sale "unusual assignment" that involved three Las Vegas Review-Journal reporters bring urgently deployed to a mysterious Judge-monitoring project in Las Vegas was removed from an LVRJ article.
Journal reporters are reportedly nervous and uncomfortable with the level of interference and initial lack of transparency on the acquisition deal for their newspaper.
Read the full CNN report here: