Another Casualty at the Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Sheldon Adelson shit show at the Las Vegas Review-Journal continues. Just a little more than a week after columnist John L. Smith left Nevada’s largest newspaper because the paper’s new management wouldn’t let him write any articles about Sheldon Adelson or Steve Wynn, another respected writer is out the door. Former features editor Stephanie Grimes announced Thursday that she has been fired by Keith Moyer, the Review-Journal editor put in place by Adelson’s team three months ago.

Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson

In December, Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson purchased the Review-Journal for $140 million, a sick sum of money for a paper that was not worth nearly that much, especially in today’s digital age. There was much secrecy surrounding the purchase; for some time, nobody even knew who the buyer was. Writers at the Review-Journal itself set out to solve the mystery and eventually it was revealed the Adelson and his family were the ones who were the new owners.

Because of the price and the fogginess surrounding the deal, people rightfully assumed that Adelson made the purchase to try to spread his political influence. In addition to being the man we poker fans know as online poker’s public enemy number one, he is also a Republican mega-donor, able to control conservative puppet strings with his wallet. The Review-Journal’s new management said that Adelson would have nothing to do with the editorial content of the paper, but that turned out to be a lie.

In a piece on Medium.com, Stephanie Grimes explained what led up to her dismissal, pulling back the curtain on a newsroom in turmoil:

For most of winter, I seriously considered leaving the RJ, not because I actually wanted to but because I couldn’t reconcile my idea of what a newspaper should be — with what any responsible media outlet should be — with what our new owners (and current management) seemed to expect us to be.

There were a few weeks during which it felt as if the newsroom was engaging in open warfare with management. As reporters continued to dig for details about the Sheldon Adelson, the sale, News + Media Capital Group LLC and Michael Schroeder, the mysterious manager sent to represent the newly formed company, rumors circulated around the newsroom: Important details had been cut, stories had been killed and reporters had been told to calm down on the coverage. We felt paranoid, communicating in whispers and texts about the latest rumors lest we were overheard by — well, we didn’t know.

She went on to mention how she live tweeted an internal meeting with Dave Butler, executive editor of the Providence Journal, a paper owned by the company that sold the LVRJ to Adelson. That effort was welcomed by her colleagues in the newsroom, but not so much by management.

“I walked back into the newsroom to the reality that I could find myself without a job, and soon,” she wrote. “But I didn’t regret my choice. I still don’t. I firmly believe that had that meeting not been made public, our newsroom (and by extension, our readers) would have been in a worse position after the fact than we find ourselves in now.”

Grimes then briefly went through the timeline of her old editor and publisher leaving and Adelson’s replacements coming in. She had somewhat of an open mind about it, but quickly saw that things weren’t going to be good. On February 4th, for instance, an article was published about an ongoing wrongful termination lawsuit against Adelson and the Las Vegas Sands Corp., a story which the paper had been covering for a long time. This article, though, was “….one paragraph. No context. No background. Nothing.”

It got worse from there, highlighted by John L. Smith’s departure. After him, it was Grimes’ turn to go:

Last week during an editors meeting, Keith Moyer told us “my job is hard enough without reporters stabbing me in the back” and threatened to fire people he didn’t feel were loyal to the RJ. I’m an obvious, high-profile pick to make an example of, but it wouldn’t be fair of me to blame all of this on my “disloyalty” to the RJ.

I’ve known this was coming from day one. A hyper-conservative middle-aged white man walks into a newsroom and finds a 26-year-old mixed-race woman in charge of an entire department? The humanity! Keith never made me feel welcome in his newsroom and made it clear in every conversation that he didn’t trust me. It was only a matter of time before he pulled the trigger. And yes, absolutely, it’s possible he just didn’t like me for the job and wanted to rely on experience rather than potential. But the timing is off, and I’ve had measurable success as features editor. So I suspect my undoing was that I made it very clear when I disagreed with something that was happening in the newsroom.

She added further detail in a couple tweets yesterday, saying, “I knew I wasn’t going to get along with the new regime during my first meeting with Craig, when he started to tell a joke about liberals. He turned to me, stopped mid-sentence and said ‘you won’t appreciate this.’”

At the end of her post on Medium, Grimes concluded, “The newspaper is bleeding talent left and right. It’s losing its best reporters week in and week out, and it won’t be long until everyone in a position of power is just a yes-man for the publisher.”

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