Michael Schroeder, a publisher of two local newspapers in central Connecticut, has written a “note to our readers” acknowledging that a story from last year didn’t meet the papers’ journalistic standards and failed to cite Schroeder’s controversial connections with the new ownership of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The level of reporting in this story did not meet our standards,” writes Schroeder in the note. “Pieces of the article were taken from related Internet sites and were not credited.”
The piece in question is titled “Business courts a way for state economies to remain competitive” and appeared in Schroeder’s Bristol Press and the New Britain Herald in early December. Though essentially impenetrable, the piece, under the byline of one “Edward Clarkin,” advocated for courts that specialize in the adjudication of business disputes. After citing the advantages of these courts, the story takes a mallet to, of all people, Nevada District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez.
Why Gonzalez? The story offers no explanation for why she’d be a focus of the story. But Schroeder himself late last year emerged as a frontman for the group of investors who’d paid $140 million for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. As it turned out, that group of investors had acquired the newspaper with funding from Sheldon Adelson, the prominent GOP donor and Las Vegas casino owner. And also as it turned out, Judge Gonzalez is presiding over a case involving Adelson’s Sands Casino. “Sir, you don’t get to argue with me,” Gonzalez ripped into Adelson last year at one point in the case.
In his note to readers, Schroeder references the Las Vegas connection: “In addition, readers should always expect to hear from us first when a story that we publish might create even the appearance of a conflict of interest. In this case, a part of the story involved a matter concerning the buyer of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. There should have been a tagline indicating that I had a business relationship with that person,” writes Schroeder, who is no longer involved in the group that purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
With each sentence of Schroder’s note comes admission of greater sin. Behold this passage:
As editor and publisher, I take full responsibility for the assignment, publication and editing of the story and for these failures. It was a combination of writing and reporting from multiple sources, with anonymity promised, in this case, inappropriately. That’s why a pseudonym — “Edward Clarkin,” which had been used before — was used in this instance. We have eliminated this practice.
In the kicker line, Schroeder falls back on some elliptical phrasing: “I personally apologize to you, our readers, for the concern caused by this story.”
The three-column note from Schroeder cites newspaper coverage of the story on business courts, as well it should: The Hartford Courant and others had shown that experts cited in the piece reported they’d never been contacted for it. Also exposed were the unattributed passages that were nearly identical to previously written work.
As this blog wrote on Dec. 24, the shenanigans over the pseudonymous, mystery-laden story on business courts were scandalous enough to prompt the resignation of longtime Bristol reporter Steve Collins, who announced his move in a Facebook post:
I have watched in recent days as Mr. Schroeder has emerged as a spokesman for a billionaire with a penchant for politics who secretly purchased a Las Vegas newspaper and is already moving to gut it. I have learned with horror that my boss shoveled a story into my newspaper – a terrible, plagiarized piece of garbage about the court system – and then stuck his own fake byline on it. He handed it to a page designer who doesn’t know anything about journalism late one night and told him to shovel it into the pages of the paper. I admit I never saw the piece until recently, but when I did, I knew it had Mr. Schroeder’s fingerprints all over it. Yet when enterprising reporters asked my boss about it, he claimed to know nothing or told them he had no comment. Yesterday, they blew the lid off this idiocy completely, proving that Mr. Schroeder lied, that he submitted a plagiarized story, bypassed what editing exists and basically used the pages of my newspaper, secretly, to further the political agenda of his master out in Las Vegas. In sum, the owner of my paper is guilty of journalistic misconduct of epic proportions.
Reached by phone today, Collins was hesitant to praise Schroeder for the mea culpa: “If he truly feels any regret about this, he needs to do more than just say ‘Oh, I’m sorry. He needs to explain who wrote it, why they wrote it why they published it. There’s a context that’s totally missing from his apology and I think somebody should pay the price for this and I have a feeling it’s him,” said Collins. “If you or I wrote that, we’d be out on our keister.”
The Erik Wemple Blog has sought comment from Schroeder.