I came to be introduced to Las Vegas Review Journal columnist John L. Smith by way of being the subject of factually incorrect opinion pieces written by him. John L. Smith works as an “opinionist” (otherwise known at newspapers as a columnist). Suffice it to say that I was stupefied by the characterizations and assumptions Smith made about me in a number of columns written about me and about information I had in my possession related to criminal activity that I was presenting at trial. And apparently he felt protected enough about writing as an “opinionist” that I guess he thought he could write pretty much anything he damn well pleased and get away with it.
I’m not going to let that happen.
John L. Smith is described by the LVRJ as the Review-Journal’s “most widely read columnist.” Well, one thing I know that newsroom employees at newspapers across the country learn and come to understand quickly is that, “you don’t piss off people who buy ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.” John L. Smith may have those kinds of assets at his disposal, but I have this small piece of Internet real estate that I can use to tell my side of the story. To level the playing field. It’s all I’ve got, and I’m going to use it.
What most people who read that “most widely read columnist” don’t know is that he was sued for libel by billionaire Sheldon Adelson for $15 million over factually incorrect information that he wrote and which was subsequently printed in a published book. To protect himself from that lawsuit and to avoid the additional hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt he had racked up, John L. Smith filed for bankruptcy.
A journalist’s stock in trade is credibility and the credibility of the information that he provides. To say that John L. Smith’s credibility is suspect is an understatement. One thing I wouldn’t do is piss off a billionaire with errors in fact written about him that are egregious enough to warrant that billionaire to file a libel suit to the tune of $15 million. Sheldon Adelson doesn’t need to do something like that because he thinks he can make some more money. He files that kind of a libel suit against someone because that person, in this case, John L. Smith, has gotten things so wrong that on principal, a man like Adelson needs to get people to pay attention to the level of incorrect information that was published.
Watch these pages closely. More to come.