Las Vegas Sun

February 18, 2019

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Where I Stand:

Mr. Adelson, take responsibility for your newspaper

Mr. Adelson, it’s time to take personal responsibility for your newspaper.

I haven’t much cared about what is written in Sheldon Adelson’s newest acquisition in Las Vegas — the Review-Journal — because whatever his folks write, and however outrageous, illogical and radical some of his newsroom’s efforts may be to please their billionaire owner, there is always the calm, collected, thoughtful and sane reporting and editorializing of the Las Vegas Sun to keep things in balance. As much as the R-J owners like to crow that their newspaper has the largest circulation in the state of Nevada, they forget to add that the Las Vegas Sun is exactly the same circulation.

So we at Greenspun Media and the Sun have remained content to report and comment as we see fit in order to fulfill our responsibilities as the major news organization in Nevada. We are confident, with good reason, that our editorial voice is far more helpful to the people of this state than the rantings of a newspaper enthralled by the music of the far right.

What I am trying to say is that as long as the Las Vegas Sun is in town to keep things sane, that “little paper down the street” can be as far right or as far out as it pleases.

Unfortunately for both news organizations, the R-J’s circulation continues to lose readers year over year. I suspect a large part of the exodus is driven by readers’ refusal to put up with a newspaper that is overtly dedicated to fight Sheldon’s political and business battles. And it does all this while pretending the owners have no involvement in the newspaper’s editorial focus. It has been over two years since the purchase and nobody is buying those denials.

But, that is his business and his newspaper to do with as he pleases.

As a newspaper owner with special rights and obligations, what Sheldon should not do is join the President Donald Trump chorus that screams constantly that the media is the enemy of the people.

It is no secret that newspapers across the country have taken Trump’s threats against the media to heart. The sad reality is that there are crazy people with guns and bad intentions out there who are susceptible to half-baked conspiracy theories and other nonsense that hits their inboxes.

We have hardened our offices to protect the staff, made our lives and those of our families more secure and placed Metro, the FBI and Homeland Security on speed-dial. Even as I write this, several active investigations of threats against the Sun and its leadership are underway.

Among several wildly irresponsible people Sheldon has decided to empower at the R-J is a man named Victor Joecks who recently used me to try to make a ridiculous point about Trump’s childish fantasy of a wall to keep brown people out of our country.

Because I live in a gated community, Joecks tried to insist my newspaper’s position against the wall and Trump’s temper tantrums is somehow hypocritical.

The column was a strikingly juvenile piece of false equivalency — nations are different than private homes and the scores of ways that Joecks’ argument fails are scarcely worth mentioning.

Putting aside the absurdity of Joecks’ arguments, he veered into dangerous territory because he invited readers — some of them doubtless disturbed — to imagine seeking out my home and paying me and my family a visit. But he went further still.

Adelson’s protégé also went after one of Sheldon’s newspaper’s favorite targets, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Because his relatively modest retirement home also is in a large gated community — just like hundreds of thousands of other Southern Nevadans — Joecks dragged Harry into his twisted argument too.

Let’s not forget the fact that Harry has earned whatever security measures he has in place. A lifetime of making tough decisions on behalf of the American people has put him at odds with the worst terrorists on the planet. Why on earth would Sheldon allow his agents to put Harry and his family, just like me and mine, at risk because some nuts might read some of the nuts who write in his newspaper?

Of course, for added measure this fool also threw in Rep. Susie Lee and Nevada’s newest senator, Jacky Rosen. Do you see a pattern here?

Here is the harsh reality of these times: Sheldon’s buddies in Washington have ushered in a period where crazy people feel triggered in ways we haven’t seen in modern America. Fueled by paranoid delusions from the internet and aimed at enemies defined by Fox News’ inane commentators and columnists like those Sheldon has unleashed, there is an unrestrained anger and a sense that any kind of violence is justified against people who don’t look like you or think like you. And the media has a special place in the hearts of these dangerous wackos — the threat level is escalating.

The point of Joecks’ column was nonsensical and unimportant. It’s how he did it that matters. He pointed possibly disturbed readers toward imagining things that should be left unimaginable.

Sheldon is new to owning newspapers. As a novice, he might think it’s amusing to use his paper to torment business competitors or intimidate judges who rule against him or try to bully people or organizations with whom he disagrees.

But those things are a special kind of sin in our business.

Yes, newspapers have a point of view that should be expressed honestly and forthrightly in opinion columns. Certainly the Sun has a point of view that we advocate in editorials. But as a lifelong newspaper person, I assure you there are certain things you never do. You don’t encourage violence against other Americans, you don’t knowingly propagate lies, you try to help people work together for the common good.

Sheldon has a lot to learn about newspapers and the responsibilities they entail.

Just last week, the nationally respected Columbia Journalism Review (www.cjr.org) published a breathtaking account of rampant sexual harassment at the highest levels of the Review-Journal. It spoke of a culture at the R-J where women were victimized by a number of executives and seemingly where no one stood up and assumed accountability. The article describes revolting behavior at the top of the R-J, but it’s worth the time to read it — https://www.cjr.org/special_report/sheldon-adelson-metoo-las-vegas-review-journal.php

If Sheldon is running a newspaper where women are not safe, he should clean house. If his columnists are willing to endanger people with whom they disagree, he should clean house.

There are decent people who work at the R-J, and they deserve worthy leadership.

There is a sacred trust enshrined in publishing newspapers. We who run them must strive to be our best selves and not give in to our own worst instincts to abuse our power or look the other way when our staff does something improper. All newspaper publishers should take personal responsibility for what our staffs do and remedy wrongs they might commit.

So, please Mr. Adelson, I know you are capable of acting responsibly. You wanted a newspaper, and now you’ve got one. Act like you deserve to own it.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun