Tag Archives: Sheldon Adelson

Journalist shows his chops … and quits


John L. Smith had a problem I never encountered in my 37 years as a print journalist.

He worked for a media mogul who is far more than just a mere newspaper titan. Smith was a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Then he quit when he was told his boss was off limits. He couldn’t comment on his doings.

Is that fair? I don’t believe so.


And just who was this man’s boss? Sheldon Adelson bought the R-J in 2015. He’s also a big-time casino owner and a political money man for Republican politicians.

Smith thought that he could comment on Adelson’s casino business and his political activity.

No can do, came the directive.

At one level, I’m somewhat relieved I never encountered that problem while working as a reporter and editor for three corporate owners.

The first one was in Oregon City, Ore., where my corporate boss was Ed Scripps, owner of Scripps League Newspapers. Then I moved to Beaumont, where I worked for the Hearst Corporation, which bought the paper late in my first year on the Gulf Coast; the mogul then was William Randolph Hearst Jr. Then I went to work in Amarillo, where the Globe-News is owned by Morris Communications; the head man there is William Morris III.

They all had tremendous influence within their spheres. The issue never came up on whether I could comment on their outside activities.

Although …

The current Globe-News publisher’s involvement with certain civic activities has raised questions in some quarters about whether the paper could look critically at those activities. Yes, I worked there during some of that time, but the issue didn’t present itself so directly that I ever considered quitting over it.

John L. Smith’s dilemma is quite interesting, given Adelson’s huge impact outside of the business he owns. It’s his political influence that ought to make the R-J’s owner fair game.

It’s not to be.

The case isn’t entirely simple. Smith had written about Adelson before and the casino mogul sued Smith for libel. The suit was dismissed, but Smith went bankrupt defending himself. The two men had issues.

Smith wrote in a letter to his colleagues: “In Las Vegas, a quintessential company town, it’s the blowhard billionaires and their political toadies who are worth punching. And if you don’t have the freedom to call the community’s heavyweights to account, then that ‘commentary’ tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed.”

My hope for Las Vegas is that other media organizations will fill the vacuum left by John Smith’s resignation.

I applaud the man’s guts in quitting over a journalistic principle.