Are you ready for a completely foreseeable twist in the increasingly bizarre story of billionaire and GOP bankroller Sheldon Adelson’s secret acquisition of Nevada’s largest paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal?
Today the paper reported that, as the sale’s terms were being finalized, the paper’s corporate managers (in what seems to have been a bid to win Adelson’s favor) forced three reporters to monitor the courtroom behavior of a particular Clark County judge who happened to be overseeing a lawsuit involving the paper’s future owner:
Just over a month before Sheldon Adelson’s family was revealed as the new owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, three reporters at the newspaper received an unusual assignment passed down from the newspaper’s corporate management: Drop everything and spend two weeks monitoring all activity of three Clark County judges. The reason for the assignment and its unprecedented nature was never explained. One of the three judges observed was District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, whose current caseload includes Jacobs v. Sands, a long-running wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Adelson and his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., by Steven Jacobs, who ran Sands’ operations in Macau.
The confounding assignment was not exactly a polite request or helpful suggestion. The paper quotes a memo sent to staff by deputy editor James G. Wright, who wrote: “We’ve simply been told we must do it, and it must start on Tuesday.” And the lawsuit was no minor matter, either. As reporters James DeHaven, Jennifer Robison and Eric Hartley note:
The case has attracted global media attention because of Jacobs’ contention in court filings that he was fired for trying to break the company’s links to Chinese organized crime triads, and allegations that Adelson turned a blind eye to prostitution and other illegal activities in his resorts there.
The Review-Journal’s entire story of this unusual reporting errand—which involves, among things, a mysterious reporter named “Edward Clarkin” who does not appear to actually exist—is well worth reading in full. For one, it helps answer the question (perhaps definitively) of whether Adelson expects the paper to advance, or at least align with, his own business interests. Two, it demonstrates the resolve of an editorial staff who won’t be easily cowed by their wealthy new owner. Let’s hope it lasts.