Craig Moon, former president and publisher of USA Today, will take over as publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which has been in disarray since it was purchased by billionaire casino magnate and GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson. Moon was previously the publisher of the Arkansas Gazette, leaving just before Gannett shut it down after the newspaper war with Walter Hussman’s Democrat.
The backstory on Adelson’s purchase of the paper in Las Vegas is incredibly complicated, so let me refer you to NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen‘s extremely detailed reporting and analysis here and here. To make a very long story short, the paper was bought under mysterious, super-secret circumstances. Turns out the buyer was Adelson, who also owns a paper in Israel that parrots Adelson’s right-wing Israeli nationalist views. Adelson also spends zillions of dollars in presidential campaigns, including propping up the science fiction novelist Newt Gingrich quixotic campaign for months on end in 2012.
The journalists at the Review-Journal heroically tried to do their jobs amidst rumors that Adelson aimed to use the newspaper as an agitprop mouthpiece. Indeed, it was partially through their reporting that it was revealed that Adelson was the secret owner. From a December editorial, as the paper investigated the circumstances under which it was bought:
You can be assured that if the Adelsons attempt to skew coverage, by ordering some stories covered and others killed or watered down, the Review-Journal’s editors and reporters will fight it. How can you be sure? One way is to look at how we covered the secrecy surrounding the newspaper’s sale. We dug in. We refused to stand down. We will fight for your trust. Every. Single. Day. Even if our former owners and current operators don’t want us to.
Just two days later, however, the paper’s editor “accepted a buyout,” which he learned about in an editorial printed in the Review-Journal. Unbelievable. Journalists started resigning in protest both at the Review-Journal and at another paper taken over by Adelson, with journalists complaining of bosses “guilty of journalistic misconduct of epic proportions” who “used the pages of my newspaper, secretly, to further the political agenda of his master out in Las Vegas.”
Eventually, the Review-Journal instituted a policy requiring reporters and editors to get permission before they published any article regarding the Review-Journal or Adelson.
Into this horrific cesspool shill factory of plutocratic propaganda now steps Moon, who said that “leading the Las Vegas Review-Journal is an exciting opportunity.” Moon was previously a newspaper consultant. It’s not clear whether his consulting work included any advice on exactly how shameful one’s career can get before it’s no longer possible to show one’s face in polite company.
Rosen speculates that Moon is there to turn the reins over entirely to Team Adelson:
There was an all-hands meeting at the R-J where Moon appeared with Kirk Davis, CEO of GateHouse, to announce the switch. According to what I learned from GateHouse employees and this AP report, Jason Taylor will stay with GateHouse in an executive capacity overseeing Western properties. New publisher Craig Moon will not be a GateHouse person, as Jason Taylor was, but an employee in the House of Adelson.
That changes the executive picture, and possibly indicates tightening control over the Review-Journal by the Adelson forces.
Rosen reports that Moon has already ordered the elimination of the following disclosure statement, which used to appear in both the print edition and online:
The newspaper war in Arkansas was before my time, but perhaps some old timers can share Moon stories in the comments. Here’s a former Gazette reporter’s take on Moon, published on the Arkansas Blog some years back:
Craig Moon, the Gannettoid “publisher” sent in to preside over the death of the Arkansas Gazette (when not out jogging with female employees), has presided over the decline of the chain’s flagship, USA Today, and now wants to leave.
Jim Hopkins’ Gannett Blog reports:
I have been informed of an extraordinary power shift at the nation’s top-circulation newspaper: Publisher Craig Moon has just announced his retirement, in a memo sent to employees moments ago. Now, confirmed..
Moon’s departure after six years as chief executive of Gannett’s marquee brand followed steep advertising sales declines during the early part of this quarter vs. a year ago. A reader posts a pertinent — or impertinent — comment to Jim’s bloog:
So, let’s get this straight:
— Moon got his butt handed to him in Little Rock and was rewarded with . . .
— The Tennessean, where he successfully demolished the last of the Sigenthaler era for which he was rewarded with . . .
— USAToday, where he pinched and pinched and pinched just as they were making serious headway as being a national player.
And for this, he’ll retire to a life of luxury.