A month after its sale to casino tycoon and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson made headlines amid concerns about the newspaper’s objectivity, the Las Vegas Review-Journal is getting a new publisher.
Craig Moon, who formerly served as president and publisher of USA Today, is taking over the top spot at the LVRJ from Jason Taylor, who is leaving the publication after six months on the job.
Moon led USA Today from 2003-2009, then worked as a consultant to newspaper publishers, according to the LVRJ. His appointment is widely viewed as a move to burnish the newspaper’s reputation and allay worries among readers, as well as the newspaper’s own staff, that it might succumb to political influence or other types of bias.
Taylor may have lost the trust of editorial staff at the LVRJ, due to alleged meddling in the newspaper’s own reporting on its new owner.
After acquiring the LVRJ through a company called News + Media Capital Group in December, Adelson initially tried to keep his ownership of the newspaper under wraps, causing staffers to publicly call for the new owner to reveal himself.
During this period, when the new owner’s identity was still unknown, Taylor reportedly removed a quote from former editor Mike Hengel, questioning the motives of the unknown buyer in an article about the subject, without consulting editors or the reporter who wrote the article.
Taylor may also have been involved in the shady arrangement by which reporters from the LVRJ were assigned to investigate a Nevada judge presiding over an important legal case involving Adelson.
Although it’s still not clear what happened, it appears execs from GateHouse Media, the company that manages the newspaper’s operations, instructed mid-ranking editors to form the investigative group in November. That's when the negotiations for the sale of the LVRJ to Adelson was under way – raising questions of a quid pro quo, as Adelson was prepared to pay well over market value for the newspaper.
It’s hard to imagine this intervention occurring without the knowledge and acquiescence of the newspaper’s publisher.
Moon set out to reassure readers and editorial staff that the newspaper will be managed with integrity. “I understand that ownership transitions can create questions among staff and readers alike. I intend to answer these questions with my actions – actions that will demonstrate my commitment to The R-J, to the people who work here, and to the community we all serve.”