A Connecticut newspaper reporter has resigned after alleging gross misconduct by ownership on behalf of billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. Steve Collins has worked at The Bristol Press for more than two decades. But on Christmas Eve, he announced he’s stepping down after it was revealed the paper’s owner, Michael Schroeder, ran a plagiarized article under a fake name that criticized a Nevada judge who had challenged Adelson’s business dealings. Schroeder is the manager of News + Media Capital Group LLC, an Adelson shell company that recently bought a different paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In a Facebook post, Steve Collins wrote: “The owner of my paper is guilty of journalistic misconduct of epic proportions. … Journalism is nothing if we reporters falter and fade. We are doing something important and men such as Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Adelson – no matter how much money they can toss around – cannot have their way with us.” Steve Collins joins us to discuss his ordeal and his decision to resign. “It felt like my boss was pimping out our paper to serve the interest of a billionaire out in Las Vegas,” he says.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
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AMY GOODMAN: A Connecticut newspaper reporter has resigned after alleging gross misconduct by ownership on behalf of billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. Steve Collins has worked at The Bristol Press for more than two decades, but on Christmas Eve he announced he’s stepping down, after it was revealed the paper’s owner, Michael Schroeder, ran a plagiarized article under a fake name that criticized a Nevada judge who had challenged Adelson’s business dealings. Schroeder is the manager of News + Media Capital Group LLC, an Adelson shell company that recently bought a different paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Steve Collins said, quote, “[T]he owner of my paper is guilty of journalistic misconduct of epic proportions. … Journalism is nothing if we reporters falter and fade. We are doing something important and men such as Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Adelson – no matter how much money they can toss around – cannot have their way with us.” Collins is the second journalist to resign over Adelson’s media dealings in recent weeks. The top editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Michael Hengel, stepped down days after the paper published an article indirectly critical of its new owners.
For more, we’re joined by Steve Collins, the now former reporter for The Bristol Press. Along with his wife, he’s also the co-founder of Youth Journalism International, a group that teaches journalism to students around the world. He has just been awarded $5,000 by the I.F. Stone whistleblower award by legendary journalist I.F. Stone’s son, Jeremy Stone.
Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us, Steve. Can you start off – this is a very confusing story. Explain how your paper, The Bristol Press, is connected to what’s just taken place in Nevada.
STEVE COLLINS: Well, that’s a complicated thing to do – whoops, I lost the mic. It’s a complicated thing to do, because we don’t know exactly what happened, other than a story appeared under a fake byline in our paper a few weeks ago, and we – and we just discovered all about that. The –
AMY GOODMAN: [inaudible] exactly what you mean?
STEVE COLLINS: Well, it’s the – a piece that ran in the paper was attacking judges in Nevada. It had nothing to do with Connecticut, nothing to do with the region that we cover. It ran under a name from someone we didn’t know. It was full of plagiarized material. You know, I saw that after all this had come out, and it was like – it felt like my boss was pimping out our paper to serve the interest of a billionaire out in Las Vegas. In fact –
AMY GOODMAN: But explain the connection between Michael Schroeder, your publisher, The Bristol Press, and what’s happening now in Las Vegas.
STEVE COLLINS: Oh, well, Mr. Schroeder was – when the paper was purchased out in Las Vegas, he showed up in the newsroom in Las Vegas to announce it to the staff there. He wouldn’t say who had purchased it. And he basically told them to forget about it and do their jobs. When I first saw that Michael Schroeder had been in the newsroom, it really didn’t even occur to me that it was our Michael Schroeder. I saw a picture on Twitter of him, and it just blew me away. I couldn’t believe that he had anything to do with it. He’s just –
AMY GOODMAN: And explain who Michael Schroeder is, your publisher, and who Edward Clarkin is.
STEVE COLLINS: Well, they may be one and the same. We’re still trying to figure that out. But Edward Clarkin was the name on the piece that ran, and that piece was put into the paper by Mr. Schroeder. Edward Clarkin also showed up on some old restaurant reviews that ran in the early days after Mr. Schroeder had purchased our paper. It sounds an awful lot like him, but we don’t know. It’s a fake name. And all we know is he’s responsible for it, and that he has said –
AMY GOODMAN: So you’ve never met this Edward Clarkin in your newsroom?
STEVE COLLINS: No, there’s no Edward Clarkin. He doesn’t exist.
AMY GOODMAN: And what makes you think he’s Michael Schroeder?
STEVE COLLINS: Well, because the name had showed up on restaurant reviews, and I know that Michael Schroeder used to go and – go to restaurants to review them. I know that when Mr. Schroeder was at BostonNOW before he came to my paper, there was also a review with the name Edward Clarkin on it. It all seems too coincidental. And, you know, it’s –
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Edward is Michael Schroeder’s middle name, and Clarkin is his mom’s maiden name?
STEVE COLLINS: That is exactly right.
AMY GOODMAN: And if you could explain the connection between Michael Schroeder, this article that was written – so you have a local press, The Bristol Press in Connecticut. He’s writing about a Nevada judge, going after a judge in Nevada?
STEVE COLLINS: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, it was a little broader than that, but it was a piece that had nothing to do with our coverage area, nothing to do with our newspaper. It was a truly bizarre thing to be published in our paper. And I don’t know – I don’t know why it was there. I mean, I can’t answer that –
AMY GOODMAN: Now –
STEVE COLLINS: – other than – other than it’s – oh, go ahead.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you planning to do? You worked at this paper for 20 years. You have now quit the paper. How will you get by? And what made you finally decide to do this?
STEVE COLLINS: Well, it was a very hard decision. You know, I loved The Bristol Press. I loved covering Bristol. I think the local news is a very important thing. It’s hard to give that up. And I don’t really know what I’m going to do. The charity that my wife and I run, Youth Journalism International, certainly could use some more of my attention. It’s a big part of why I quit, because I can’t go out and teach all those kids about journalistic ethics and the values of our profession, and then take money from a man who clearly doesn’t care one wit about what we do or why.
AMY GOODMAN: We reached your publisher, Michael Schroeder, Democracy Now! did, but he just repeatedly said, “No comment.” What has he responded to your questions? You work for him.
STEVE COLLINS: He’s never explained anything to anybody. I think he doesn’t think he has to. And, you know, I suppose if you’re in the pocket of somebody like Mr. Adelson, you don’t need to.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, your response to Michael Hengel, the editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, stepping down after the paper was purchased by Sheldon Adelson, although for a while it was cloaked in mystery right before the Republican debate. No one – the reporters did not know who had bought them.
STEVE COLLINS: Right. They have performed yeoman’s work for our entire profession. I have nothing but the greatest respect for all those people out there who have been working on the story, knowing that their jobs are in grave danger. You know, to my way of thinking, that they are on the frontlines of a battle for the soul of our profession. And we all have a responsibility to do everything we can to fight this trend and to try to make sure that a free and independent press survives in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Steve Collins, I want to thank you for being with us, joining us from Hartford, Connecticut. And congratulations on your I.F. Stone Award, awarded by I.F. Stone’s son, Jeremy Stone.