The company that owned the Las Vegas Review Journal asked the newspaper to monitor three judges, including one overseeing a lawsuit against Sheldon Adelson, prior to selling the newspaper to the casino magnate.
Clark County, Nevada District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez has had contentious exchanges with Adelson and his lawyers during the wrongful termination lawsuit brought against Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., by a former employee.
GateHouse Media asked the Review Journal to track three judges a month before it sold the newspaper on December 10 to Adelson’s family for $140 million, considered a steep price in the present climate when many media are struggling to turn a profit.
Non-editorial staff at the Review Journal told editorial staff to include Gonzalez, the newspaper reported on December 19. Reporters were to “observe how engaged the judge is in the case, whether they’re prepared or not, if they favor one lawyer over another, whether they’re over- or under-worked — even whether they show up for work on time, or not,” according to an internal memo. There was no expectation the tracking would appear in a story.
The Review Journal has vowed to aggressively report on Adelson’s purchase of the newspaper. Adelson had at first attempted to conceal his purchase of the newspaper.
News editors considered the assignment tracking the judges a waste of time, but were told that GateHouse mandated the monitoring.
“The reason for the assignment and its unprecedented nature was never explained,” according to the Review Journal news story.
Adelson has said, since being revealed as the buyer, that he would not interfere with the newspaper’s editorial decisions.
An Israeli newspaper owned by Adelson, Israel Hayom, is known to reflect his political preferences in Israel, which lean toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in the United States, where he is a major donor to Republicans.
GateHouse had previously asked another paper it owns, the Sarasota, Florida, Herald-Tribune, to do the work, but staffers there balked, saying that Las Vegas was too removed from their beat.
On November 30, another GateHouse-owned newspaper, the New Britain Herald, a small paper in Connecticut, published a story critical of courts handling business cases. A substantial portion f the article singled out Gonzalez, saying her rulings were unfair.