I wanted to follow up on the news that Sheldon Adelson purchased the biggest newspaper in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. We can never know quite what to expect when a ultra-wealthy person purchases a newspaper. Will they use it as their own political mouthpiece or will they take a more disinterested approach focused on stewardship? When it comes to Sheldon Adelson, we don’t have to guess.
Adelson plays in two countries: Israel and the United States. He is actually a much more dominant figure in Israeli politics than American politics, notwithstanding the fact that he’s an American citizen and is also an extremely powerful figure here in the US.
Newspapers are a big, big part of his game. And he’s not subtle.
Almost a decade ago, Adelson founded Israel Hayom (Israel Today), a free daily that rapidly overtook the established dailies to become Israel’s largest circulation daily. It is widely understood to be a money losing operation, though it has become wildly successful in its true purpose: supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Its comical slavishness to Netanyahu is so profound that the Hebrew nickname for the paper might be loosely translated as “The Bibi Post.”
Since founding Israel Hayom, he has bought up a number of other Israeli papers. (Remember, Israel is a very, very small country. It’s got a vibrant press and a lot of papers. But it’s basically one media market in geographical terms.)
What it all amounts to is that we’ve seen how Adelson operates in the newspaper business. He makes Rupert Murdoch seem like a mix of philosopher king and Katherine Graham. He runs papers like a pro-right-wing Pravda.