Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2019

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Barred from writing about Adelson, R-J columnist John L. Smith resigns

Las Vegas Review-Journal Owner: Paper sold for $140 million

John Locher / AP

An exterior photo of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith announced his resignation today, days after the newspaper's new editor said publicly that Smith had been barred from writing about the R-J's new owner, Sheldon Adelson.

On Saturday, editor Keith Moyer told a meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists at UNLV that Smith would no longer be allowed to write about Adelson "as long as I'm editor," according to an R-J reporter who tweeted details of the event. Smith had written numerous times about Adelson, including in a December 2015 R-J column following the revelation that the billionaire Las Vegas casino magnate and his family had purchased the paper.

In that column, Smith called Adelson "precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper."

"His disdain for the working press and its prickly processes is palpable — and easily illustrated by his well-known litigiousness," Smith wrote in the R-J. "I experienced this firsthand when Adelson sued me for a few lines I'd written in my 2005 book "Sharks in the Desert: The Founding Fathers and Current Kings of Las Vegas." At the time, my daughter Amelia was being treated for brain cancer. After an excruciating civil process, during which I was forced to declare bankruptcy, the case was dismissed with prejudice by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Bruce Markell, who declared me the prevailing party."

Smith, a first-place award winner in the Best of the West regional journalism competition in 2013 and recipient of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Silver Pen Award in 2010, also has been sued by Steve Wynn over a book he published.

In a letter apparently sent to co-workers Tuesday, Smith alluded to Moyer's comments as the reason for his departure.

"If a Las Vegas columnist is considered 'conflicted' because he's been unsuccessfully sued by two of the most powerful and outspoken players in the gaming industry, then it's time to move on," he wrote.

Adelson and his family bought the R-J for $140 million months after New Media Investment Group paid about $38 million less than that for the R-J and seven daily newspapers owned by Stephens Media LLC. Initially, the new ownership was identified only as News + Media, a Delaware limited liability corporation that was not required to list its owners in any public document. The R-J staff later broke the story that Adelson and his family were the owners.

Moyer was hired in February. In a story published by USA Today, he said he took the job after the Adelson family guaranteed him it would "never inject itself in the news-gathering process" and Adelson "told me directly he would be staying out of the newsroom."

Neither Moyer nor Smith returned calls this afternoon.

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