Las Vegas Newspaper Publisher's False Statements Draw Critiques

The recent Media Matters report on a string of false reporting and inaccurate statements by Sherman Frederick, the publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of parent company Stephens Media, has drawn some harsh criticism.

Employees at the Review-Journal and other journalism observers in and around Las Vegas have stated that the numerous examples of wrong information and false claims hurts the newspaper's image and continues a history of such reporting by Frederick dating back years.

“Those who are critical of the Review-Journal were thrilled to see someone assemble many of his inflammatory pieces in one place,” said Jon Ralston, a former Review-Journal columnist who now writes for the Las Vegas Sun. “It is one thing for someone to be a local embarrassment; it is another thing to be a national embarrassment.”

The comments followed the lengthy research released last week that detailed numerous examples of Frederick's false statements and wrong information from columns and blog items he has written.

Among them, this item:

In a November 29, 2009, column, Frederick expressed desire for a “health care 'reform' bill that treats American citizens better than illegal aliens.” In fact, neither the House nor the Senate bill provided for subsides for those “not lawfully present” in the United States to receive coverage.

Frederick told me he did not think the research was fair and accused Media Matters of targeting him because of his views: “I think they were commenting on parts of my blog that were opinion and I am sure they don't like my opinion.”

Asked about the fact that numerous factual errors and inaccuracies had been found, Frederick said, “It looks like an over-reaction. I think my blog speaks for itself.”

Paul J. Traudt, a professor of media studies at nearby University of Nevada - Las Vegas, also reacted with criticism: “the practice of newspaper publishers who exercise bias or report inaccuracies in their editorials is hardly new. The big difference between then and now is the number of different news and opinion voices available to audiences. There were dozens of newspapers available to readers then, compared to mostly one metropolitan daily in major U.S. cities today. Therefore, reporting bias or inaccuracies is cause for concern.”

Another UNLV media professor, Stephen Bates, also reacted negatively, stating: “In my view, the research proves beyond a doubt that Sherman Frederick is a right-winger--and not much else. The inaccuracies listed are typical of partisan rhetoric, in Las Vegas and nationally. Luckily, Las Vegas has a strong liberal voice in the competing paper, the Sun, so it balances out.”

Asked for his view, Stephens Inc. President Warren Stephens defended Frederick, stating: “I think he is doing quite well. All reporters make mistakes.”

But when some Review-Journal employees were asked, those not too frightened to comment said the string of problems makes the paper look bad.

“We have a publisher who does things differently than at other papers. He likes to stir the pot, stir controversy and goes out of his way to find it,” said one staffer who requested anonymity. “It could be a black eye for the paper. You try to do your job as best you can. But it is something that can only hurt morale.”

Added another employee: “It is what it is. It speaks for itself. It is very out there.”