Call your lawyer and get ready to file some lawsuits. The Las Vegas Review Journal has just revealed the panacea for anyone who has ever worried about receiving negative coverage in the paper: Sue the reporters. All of them.
Before I explain why this will work, in the interest of full disclosure, this advice comes in the wake of the resignation of longtime RJ columnist, John L. Smith, who became my friend more than a decade ago when we did some work together at KVBC (now KSNV).
Friendship aside, Smith is one of the top columnists in the country. You would be hard pressed to find someone who does not acknowledge his writing skills and his journalistic acumen. He’s currently in Oregon where he’s receiving a national award for ethics in journalism. His integrity is beyond reproach, unless you’re speaking with Sheldon Adelson and his cronies who now run the The Las Vegas Review Journal.
Smith did the honorable thing this week by resigning his post as columnist at the RJ after being told he could no longer write any stories related to Adelson, who surreptitiously purchased the newspaper last year. Smith understood that being muzzled on any topics about any person was a disservice to the paper’s readers who expect and deserve uncensored reporting.
Why was Smith prohibited from writing about the paper’s new owner? The RJ’s publisher said because Adelson sued Smith for libel (unsuccessfully) over a passage that talked about him in one of his books, it would present a conflict of interest for Smith to cover any stories related to Adelson.
The RJ’s new editor, J. Keith Moyer had the temerity to suggest the paper was taking the high road by banning Smith from writing about Adelson (and Steve Wynn, who also unsuccessfully sued Smith for libel). According to an NPR report, Moyer’s defense included this amazingly condescending and syntax-challenged quote: “Invoking ‘conflict of interest’ restrictions might not be common in Nevada, but they are elsewhere.”
At least Moyer can’t be accused of pandering to residents of his new home state, with the possible exception of newspaper-owning billionaires.
While I’m personally sad to see the RJ lose yet another outstanding writer and believe this reflects poorly on the state of journalism, Moyer’s patronizing lesson in ethics gives hope to anyone who wants to avoid negative coverage in the newspaper: sue every RJ reporter. Don’t worry whether your lawsuits have merit because now we know the newspaper’s conflict-of-interest policy mandates a reporter you have sued can never write anything about you ever again.
Then again, there’s the outside chance the policy only applies to casino magnates. Ethics are tricky that way.