A scandal with potentially national implications has erupted at a Las Vegas newspaper. Someone bought the publication, said to be Nevada's largest and most influential news source, and nobody will say who.
In fact, according to reports, the buyer's anonymity was a stipulation of the $140 million cash sale. That secrecy is being challenged by the Las Vegas Review-Journal's own staff, who on Monday launched a concerted Twitter effort and investigation to unmask the mysterious backer.
"At 4 p.m. EST on Monday, around two dozen Review-Journal staffers began tweeting links to the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics, which includes a section on being 'accountable and transparent,'" the Huffington Post reports.
And according to the New York Times, other reporters "were working on uncovering the identity of the buyer; an article that sought to explore the paper’s ownership was submitted but not published, according to two people familiar with the situation."
Meanwhile, as Review-Journal columnist John Smith tweeted on Monday:
Late last week, the Review-Journal published an article saying that it, along with its sister publications, had been "acquired by News + Media Capital Group LLC, a newly formed Delaware-domiciled company backed by 'undisclosed financial backers with expertise in the media industry.'"
However, "the publisher later removed questions in the article about the group's owners remaining secret," the Huffington Post noted.
The nondisclosure is even more troubling because of the influential role that Nevada holds in the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
As Fiona Morgan, journalism program director with the open media organization Free Press, pointed out, “The Review-Journal is Nevada’s most influential newspaper, and Nevada is an early primary state in the 2016 presidential campaign, which makes knowing the owners and their political objectives, if any, a matter of national significance."
Charles and David Koch, co-founders of Koch Industries and major donors to conservative candidates, have already denied that they were behind the deal.
Free Press issued a statement on Monday saying it stands with the Review-Journal staff in their call for the new owners "to come out of the shadows.”
"Reporters ask for transparency of others in power, so it’s critical that news organizations themselves be held accountable and reveal their owners to readers, sources and their own employees," Morgan added.