Who bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal?
December 14, 2015 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Who bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal? It's anybody's guess. Nevada's largest circulating daily newspaper has been sold to News+ Media Capital Group, which was incorporated in Delaware on September 21st. The ownership of News + Media Capital Group is a complete mystery.

According to Delaware law, the corporation is not required to disclose the names of its officers until March 1st, a week after the Nevada caucus, a crucial early test for Republican presidential candidates. Because the paper sold for an unusually high price relative to its apparent value, pundits have speculated that a wealthy conservative bought the paper not as a business investment but as a political vehicle. After the Koch brothers denied being the paper's new owners, many observers are speculating that News + Media Capital Group is owned by business magnate and conservative activist Sheldon Adelson, who has so far refused to comment.

Early indications suggest that the new owners do not intend to respect the editorial board's independence: the paper's publisher stopped the presses on Thursday night to soften a story about the paper's sale and the questions about its new ownership. Some of the paper's employees have taken to Twitter to protest the lack of transparency, which they say is a violation of journalistic ethics.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious (55 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why buy ads when newspapers are so cheap?
posted by absalom at 7:29 PM on December 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


They literally stopped the presses? I mean, from what little I know, that's a pretty major thing to do and requires a lot of reset before they can be started up again.
posted by hippybear at 7:36 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's a question of ethics in journalism.
posted by telstar at 7:40 PM on December 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


Reportedly, yes. Some issues of the paper went out with the original story.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:40 PM on December 14, 2015


I mean, it is an issue of ethics in journalism, though. I would be really sad if Gamergate made the whole question of journalistic ethics into a joke!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:41 PM on December 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


OLD MAN BUYS OLD MEDIA
State shrugs, returns to video poker

posted by Halloween Jack at 7:42 PM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would be really sad if Gamergate made the whole question of journalistic ethics into a joke!

No, they made the answer of journalistic ethics into a joke.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:54 PM on December 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


pundits have speculated that a wealthy conservative bought the paper not as a business investment but as a political vehicle

Huh, I don't think I realized that Nevada was the 4th primary state after South Carolina and before Super Tuesday. Maybe it's cheaper to buy the whole paper than fund a SuperPAC these days, although buying the paper would still subject you to more oversight.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:55 PM on December 14, 2015


Perhaps Trump bought it?
posted by futz at 7:57 PM on December 14, 2015


I've seen that theory, futz, although I think mostly as a joke.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:58 PM on December 14, 2015


According to Delaware law, the corporation is not required to disclose the names of its officers until March 1st, a week after the Nevada caucus, a crucial early test for Republican presidential candidates. Because the paper sold for an unusually high price relative to its apparent value, pundits have speculated that a wealthy conservative bought the paper not as a business investment but as a political vehicle.

Part of the attempt to stop Trump, I'd imagine, probably involving Adelson given Trump's unorthodoxy about Israel.
posted by jamjam at 7:59 PM on December 14, 2015


In this type of scenario, ethics is a group activity: I would love it if other journalistic institutions (likely under pressure from their professional-journalist labor force) offered sanctuary to Review-Journal employees who are in "fear of retaliation" for raising concerns about this OBVIOUSLY CONCERNING WTF situation.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:10 PM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel anyone thinking LVRJ could be some kind of impartial source has never really spent much time in Nuh-BAD-uh.
posted by telstar at 8:13 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe people will start reading newspapers again once they revert back to the lurid and half-fictitious tabloids of yesteryear, transparent mouthpieces of eccentric oligarchs. Break out the elaborate full-page comics and the Remedies for Catarrh. Let's do this
posted by theodolite at 8:14 PM on December 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


It was Martin Shkreli again.
posted by Rangi at 8:28 PM on December 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


...and the newspaper now costs $950 per issue.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:37 PM on December 14, 2015 [33 favorites]


People talking about ethics in journalism is laughable when they don't buy news. Money is the bottom line for all news organizations.
posted by GiveUpNed at 9:47 PM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just saying: If I wanted to keep a secret, I probably wouldn't blatantly dangle the fact that I had a secret in front of a bunch of journalists, and then try to cover up the fact.

Like...this is pretty much exactly what I'd do if I didn't want to keep a secret.
posted by schmod at 9:50 PM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


The market would make short work of these people if the web had jobs for ex-pressmen.
posted by rhizome at 10:02 PM on December 14, 2015


Hm, apparently I can be bought and my price is new Little Nemo in Slumberland comics. Well, okay.
posted by nonasuch at 10:43 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why buy ads when newspapers are so cheap?

This might join "if you're not paying for it, you're the product" in the short list of quotes that I bust out IRL then sheepishly admit that I can only attribute it to a stranger from the internet.
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:22 PM on December 14, 2015


> They literally stopped the presses? I mean, from what little I know, that's a pretty major thing to do and requires a lot of reset before they can be started up again.

Spoiler: presses stop and start many, many times a day. Many newspapers are issued in multiple editions, so a single day's run for a middling regional newspaper could mean half a dozen press changes.

These days a lot of newspapers print their runs during leased time on other newspaper's presses (which is made easier thanks to electronic prepress and because so many regional newspapers are owned by one of a few conglomerates). That can get complicated, not because of the press stop/start but because changing plates eats into the time available to get that particular run out. Making new plates and re-inking costs money not just for time, but for the new plates, wasted ink and paper. Printing plants are intended to operate 24/7, and so if your newspaper's print time runs over its assignment, that delays the next newspaper in queue, which delays the next...

At newspapers that still print their own and don't have to worry about other newspapers' schedules, they still have the cost of wasted plates, ink and paper to eat. And regardless of the operation this bites into mailroom time (where newspaper sections, and those advertising inserts, are assembled) and the distributing is also held up.

So yes, on the one hand, in a business with tight margins and short deadlines (by the standards of print media), this is an expense and delay that newspapers will go out of their way to avoid. But it's not a huge deal. When I worked newspaper prepress, many many years ago, we would stop press of the final edition just to update results of a Big Game in the sports section of the Sunday edition. Nobody liked it, but we mostly begrudged the added effort.

Mind, it's still a pretty heavy thing for a newspaper to halt a run just to change a story, especially because of tone or opinion rather than matters of fact. But that's got a lot more to do with principles of journalism (and the image of itself the newspaper has decided to uphold) rather than the mechanics of printing.
posted by ardgedee at 2:50 AM on December 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


Newspapers haven't lost any of their power to drive / mostly comprise the regional media agenda. They've arguably increased their power given the catastrophic decline in local television news -- lower ratings, older audiences, emphasis on soft features over hard news. Newspapers are only cheaper because the Internet took away their classifieds ads and advertisers won't pay the same CPMs for web ads as for print.

Buying a paper for public influence has never looked more attractive. Bezos didn't buy the Washington Post so he could have the smartest kids at Amazon take charge of its online edition or rework its print sales strategy.
posted by MattD at 3:54 AM on December 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Journalism ethics? When was that a thing? You mean like back in the 20's and 30's when Hearst owned most newspapers?
posted by JJ86 at 4:28 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This might join "if you're not paying for it, you're the product" in the short list of quotes that I bust out IRL then sheepishly admit that I can only attribute it to a stranger from the internet.

Hey now, we're not strangers, we're estranged MetaFilto-family!
posted by blue_beetle at 4:36 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


What ardgedee said. Supervised a newspaper mailroom for a number of years, among other tasks, and stopping the press was a PIA but occasionally necessary.

One of the first things we did once an edition went to press was to grab a bundle or two from the stacker and walk the building dropping off copies to editors (for proofreading), sales, the publisher, the library, various departments, etc... Folks would quickly scan that edition and that's often how we discovered reasons for replating on the fly. Back in the old days when paste-up was still a thing this could slow matters down even more as it took time to paste up the change, shoot the plate, and get it out to the press ASAP. So, decisions to stop the press were taken seriously and sometimes we'd just let a typo slide... .

Sometimes not. Here's my favorite story in this regard. Try to imagine the worst possible misspelling of the word "can't" and by worst, I mean worst. (Hint: drop the apostrophe and then misspell.) Furthermore, this error was in a monthly column done by a local religious figure. One of the editors caught this about 1/4 of the way into our first edition and by that time a couple thousand papers were already out on the road and not easily retrievable. In the mad scramble that ensued, the replating process was started and out in the pressroom we ran out to the docks and pulled everything back that we could. Meanwhile, Circulation folks were trying to locate those folks who were already out delivering. We never did get them all back.

So, we resigned ourselves to the prospect of a number of angry phone calls. Sat back and waited for the shit to hit the fan.

We didn't get a single call. Not one.

Brow sweat, anxiously wiped. Lucky stars, amply thanked.
posted by CincyBlues at 5:00 AM on December 15, 2015 [13 favorites]


Journalism ethics? When was that a thing?

Believe it or not, it has always been a thing. Not always, not everywhere, but there are thousands and thousands of honorable journos out there for whom ethics really matters. Proud to say that I associated with--and learned some of my meager chops from--such folks.
posted by CincyBlues at 5:04 AM on December 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


The interesting thing about this is that if it was done for the purpose of Republican party in-fighting they are just ratfucking themselves! Using tricks to get your candidate the nomination undermines the support for that candidate both within and without your party.
posted by srboisvert at 5:49 AM on December 15, 2015


Maybe it's cheaper to buy the whole paper than fund a SuperPAC these days, although buying the paper would still subject you to more oversight.

Oversight delayed is oversight denied.
posted by acb at 6:31 AM on December 15, 2015


I mean, from what little I know, that's a pretty major thing to do and requires a lot of reset before they can be started up again.

Former Publishing Systems Analyst for the Gannett Midwest Group and former Principle Process Systems Analyst for the Gannett Midwest group here.

It would take pushing a button, but good luck getting permission to do that. You have to have something huge to do that. It is expensive. Most likely they would finish that print run, then re-output plates.

One of the papers in our group ran a headline for first edition with Gore wining the presidency, then second edition gave it to Bush, third said it was too close to call. In each case the presses had to be replated, but they didn't stop a run, even if at that point editorial knew they would be changing the headline for the next run.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:14 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, in 13 years in the above job I never once heard a "Stop the presses!" I heard stories of people saying it had been done in the shadowy past, but I'm not sure I believe them.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:15 AM on December 15, 2015


It's incalculably better to own a newspaper than it is to fund a SuperPAC.

The last couple of election cycles testify elegantly to SuperPACs being barely able to move a needle.

By contrast, could you imagine what American policy and politics would look like if Rupert Murdoch controlled the New York Times the way he controls the Wall Street Journal?
posted by MattD at 7:43 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Buying the media is not the same thing as winning the argument.
posted by newdaddy at 8:00 AM on December 15, 2015


cjorgensen: Also, in 13 years in the above job I never once heard a "Stop the presses!" I heard stories of people saying it had been done in the shadowy past, but I'm not sure I believe them.

You'd need a cigar-chomping editor with a green visor to make that happen.
posted by dr_dank at 8:12 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Transporting yourself back to the 1940's would help too.
posted by telstar at 8:14 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, in 13 years in the above job I never once heard a "Stop the presses!" I heard stories of people saying it had been done in the shadowy past, but I'm not sure I believe them.

Never heard that out in Editorial, but in the press room it more or less went like this: The press is going zzziz-zzziz-zzziz and the cutter is going clacketty-clack-clack clack and the insert machines are going shoop-clank shoop-clank and the strappers are going bang-zip bang-zip and then someone comes hustling out onto the floor, waving their hands because everyone is wearing noise reducing ear muffs, and then you hear the lead press person saying, "$##$^%&" and then all the gear starts slowly winding down, each in their own rhythm and also in a kind of chaotic concert all together...until there is silence, more or less.

I do miss the action, lol.
posted by CincyBlues at 8:31 AM on December 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


And people thought the RJ couldn't get any lower than having Sherman Frederick in charge of anything... Remember, folks, this is the newspaper that got smacked by the courts for "assigning" copyright of its articles to a nuisance lawsuit factory.
posted by mystyk at 8:45 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The idea that corporate ownership is a secret is very American. And toxically so. The US is one of the worst countries when it comes to corporate secrecy. It mostly allows various tax dodging scams, but in this case it may well be helping buy an election.
posted by Nelson at 8:46 AM on December 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


schmod: "Just saying: If I wanted to keep a secret, I probably wouldn't blatantly dangle the fact that I had a secret in front of a bunch of journalists, and then try to cover up the fact.

Like...this is pretty much exactly what I'd do if I didn't want to keep a secret.
"

Or it could just be clumsiness. People who are up to something frequently don' t think through all the details.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:55 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


It has to be the LDS Church, fresh out of bad press, wants the state next door to facilitate a favorite son run. They own the press in Utah. Idaho is the wilderness the prophet cries in. Yeah. So, the spin will tell, anyway. Everyone has been busy reading Ezra Taft Benson this year 'round here. C'mon, Vogue didn't buy it, nor Greenpeace, maybe some folks in Dubai. Your free Palestinian rock throwing doll, comes with a year's subscription. No, Occam's Razor on this one, the boy next door did it, yeah the paper boy. Such a nice kid!
posted by Oyéah at 9:20 AM on December 15, 2015


OK, so, as soon as I saw this post I read the LA Times article and pinged a Democratic-insider friend of mine (like... REALLY insider. Has worked for several dem campaigns over the past decade-plus; governors and congressmen know him by name), and his take was along the lines of "ahhh! That is a super inefficient allocation of resources. It's... their money, I guess."

The upshot being, "Why buy ads when newspapers are so cheap" is kind of the opposite of the practical truth - ads and even advertorials are SO cheap that whoever the purchaser is could have bought out basically ALL of the advertisements through the primaries for a few million bucks, so like 5% of the purchase price - which leaves the other 95% effectively dedicated to swinging the small sliver of people who wouldn't be persuaded by ads but WOULD still be persuaded by an editorial with a thumb on the scale.

In short, this transaction is no exception, but rather is another example of some billionaire throwing his money around in a plutocratic but ultimately useless way, much like the republican PACs in the 2012 election. To be clear I don't approve, I don't think it's "OK" in some abstract moral sense that plutocrats can do this in America, but in terms of actual political effect it almost certainly represents a huge waste of money.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:19 AM on December 15, 2015


The last couple of election cycles testify elegantly to SuperPACs being barely able to move a needle.

Only if you narrowly limit "election cycles" to Presidential election years. I think the last two midterm elections and pretty much the entirety of state legislature and judicial elections point to SuperPACs being effective in rallying politically active voters, which at the moment is a demographic that tilts very heavily towards conservatives.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:51 AM on December 15, 2015


Yeah, this "Super PAC money is wasted, we have nothing to fear!" idea is going around, and I think it's really misguided. Super PAC spending probably doesn't do much in a Presidential election, which is high turnout, features relatively well informed voters, and is always going to be well funded by the other side. Probably true to a lesser extent with Senate and gubernatorial elections, as well.

However, the low level and local stuff - House, state legislatures, state judicial, local and municipal boards - are just the opposite. Only the true believers show up. A little money can go a long way there, and is.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:57 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Joey Buttafoucault: "the purchaser is could have bought out basically ALL of the advertisements through the primaries for a few million bucks, so like 5% of the purchase price "

Sure. But do that twenty times and you spent the same amount and don't own a newspaper. Besides while that massive buy might be more useful in the short term in the long term owning the media allows for ongoing subtle influence. See for example Fox News.
posted by Mitheral at 12:07 PM on December 15, 2015


NYTimes: Reporters in Las Vegas Try to Crack Case of Who Owns Their Newspaper
Even presidential contenders were left to wonder. Jeb Bush met for an hour with The Review-Journal’s editorial board on Monday. The only question left unanswered after the meeting, he said in a Twitter message, was “Who owns the newspaper?” That message was then reposted by the paper’s own Twitter account.
posted by Nelson at 12:54 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Also, in 13 years in the above job I never once heard a "Stop the presses!" I heard stories of people saying it had been done in the shadowy past, but I'm not sure I believe them.

Heh... In contrast to your experience, I was working in the early 90s for a small city paper that still had its press in the same downtown building as editorial and sales. A pretty big difference from Gannet in terms of operations and scale. We were still using wax, knives and pasteboard too. Page negatives would be dropped down a chute from Production's darkroom to the press foreman's desk and somebody would pick those up and burn plates.

I never heard anybody say "Stop the presses!" How I recall it: one of the lower-ranked editors from the sports room would slink through the production room to the supervisor's office, notify him that they were going to update the Sports front page mid-edition, and word would get and and we'd groan, and start finding things to do because it was going to be a long night.

Although what usually happened, when they knew the Big Game was going to run late, was they'd just hold the city edition until the Big Game was over, feeding us updated stories now and again so that by the time the final was in we only had to keyline a single graf or sometimes just a sentence and the headline. And we'd groan, and start finding things to do because it was going to be a long night. Sometimes one of the junior editors would bring a small black-and-white TV up with him while he camped out in Production, and we'd at least have something to watch.
posted by ardgedee at 4:54 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, I love a good mystery like this. So far, the only concrete lead about the origin of the mysterious News + Media Capital Group is the person they've installed as its manager and/or figurehead, Michael Schroeder. As stated in the NYT article, his current (or most recent?) gig is as the owner & publisher of a handful of relatively minor Connecticut papers (i.e.: neither the Courant nor the NH Register). A bit more digging reveals that he's been in and around the newspaper biz pretty much his entire 30+ year career. Around half of that career was spent at Newsday in two non-consecutive stints, first in various editorial roles then later in more manager-style positions. One other interesting note in Schroeder's career file was his time as the publisher of the short-lived free daily BostonNOW, which went under in 2008 due to -- no joke -- the Icelandic banking crisis.

Anyways, my point here is this: Michael Schroeder does not, at first glance, appear to be any kind of political operative or slick management consultant. He looks like a legit career newspaper guy, based entirely in the Northeast, mainly in New York City. How did this guy get scooped up for this job? What prior connection might there be between Schroeder and the funder(s) of News + Media Capital Group? If none, did N+MCG use a recruiting firm, in which case, other candidates might have been contacted? Did they put up a job posting on Craigslist?
posted by mhum at 5:51 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who finds it utterly bizarre that the owners of a newspaper get to be shrouded in secrecy? Granted, for a limited time. Still.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:02 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Looks like the buyer is rich scumball Sheldon Adelson.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:32 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow, so that was basically a "the butler did it" ending.
posted by bongo_x at 6:51 PM on December 16, 2015


Which was the third, and most satisfying, ending of Clue The Movie.
posted by hippybear at 7:53 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


NYT: Sheldon Adelson, Casino Magnate, Is Buyer of Las Vegas Review-Journal
posted by chavenet at 10:50 AM on December 17, 2015


Vegas newspaper stands up to its newly unveiled owner, casino giant Sheldon Adelson. Chaos on the editorial page as an internal war is fought. Also evidence of the new owner already tampering with investigative journalism.
posted by Nelson at 9:17 AM on December 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Josh Marshall: A Christmas Story
Let this be our Christmas story. Why? Well, that requires some explaining and perhaps even a stronger rationale than I'm yet able to muster. Because it has no cheer, redemption or family bonding. It's about power, money, greed, recklessness and what can only be termed the sort of roughshod ridiculousness and surreal unintentional comedy that comes from being powerful enough or serving people with sufficient power that the ordinary sort of fear of getting caught and having to explain yourself simply doesn't apply.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:49 PM on December 25, 2015 [3 favorites]




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