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Why we need to know who owns America's newspapers
An anonymous person just bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for seven times the paper's earnings over the past year. Here's why that matters. - photo by Chandra Johnson
Nevada's biggest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was sold this week for seven times the paper's earnings in the last year. There's just one problem for the paper's staff and media analysts no one knows who the new owner is.

That might seem trivial, but the mystery may have a variety of implications, critics say, and it sets a disturbing precedent, depending on the reasons for the secrecy.

Whatever the reason, many journalists on staff at the Review-Journal are not amused and some tweeted as much about the sale.

"I am personally offended & embarrassed that whoever bought the RJ does not have the guts to say so," reporter Sean Whaley tweeted, as CNN Money noted.

One speculation is that the secrecy may be tied to the significant political influence of the paper.

"Nevada is a swing state of 1.4 million registered voters, and the Review-Journal is a powerful voice in its most populous city," the Los Angeles Times pointed out as a possible motivation for the hush-hush sale.

"Control of the newspaper ... could play an important role in the 2016 Republican primary race, and, potentially, the general election as well. Nevada is the fourth state to vote in the nominating contests and could provide a necessary bump for a flailing campaign," the International Business Times reported. "The state has notoriously low voter turnout and Mitt Romney won more than 50 percent of the caucus vote in 2012 with just 16,486 votes, making the influence of a paper that much more important."

The anonymous ownership has already interfered with First Amendment rights when, the Huffington Post reported, new leadership allegedly stopped the presses at the paper to edit a story referencing staff questions about the sale.

All I can figure is that someone bought a lot of silence with that money, a Review-Journal journalist anonymously told the Washington Post.

As the debate over the reason and implications of anonymous ownership continues, many journalists argue that this case sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the integrity of American journalism. The American Society of Editors released a statement on the sale, demanding that the owners of the paper identify themselves.

"Journalism is all about transparency," Poynter quoted from the statement. "The Review-Journal owners want to remain secret, a choice that is faithless to the public trust and the talented journalists that work every day to provide an accurate, impartial news report for the community they serve."