Misleading Headline Triggers Intense Online Backlash Against Las Vegas News Outlet

by Gabriel Martinez
Online Campaign Against Las Vegas Review-Journal

A Las Vegas-based newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has become the target of a virulent online campaign stemming from its reporting on the alleged murder of a retired police chief. The concerted online attacks appear to arise from either a misunderstanding or an intentional misrepresentation of the news outlet’s coverage.

Glenn Cook, the Executive Editor of the Review-Journal, stated on Wednesday that the barrage of online hostility necessitated a thorough review of emails directed at one of its journalists to shield her from the most egregious attacks.

On August 18, Sabrina Schnur, a reporter for the Review-Journal, interviewed the family of Andreas Probst, a 64-year-old former police chief from California who was killed in a hit-and-run accident while cycling in Las Vegas. The article’s original headline read, “Retired police chief killed in bike crash remembered for laugh, love of coffee.”

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However, the story took a dark turn when a video surfaced, apparently captured by a teenage passenger in the offending vehicle, indicating that the act was deliberate. Subsequently, charges against the 17-year-old driver were elevated to murder. On Wednesday, a court determined that both juveniles would be tried as adults.

Cook described the circulating video as a “snuff film,” and an edited version was linked by the Review-Journal last Saturday. This led to online accusations, suggesting the newspaper had deliberately obfuscated the details of a murder involving a retired law enforcement officer. Cook declined to speculate on the intentions of those who fanned the flames of the online outrage but emphasized that the allegations were spread without verification.

Cook further disclosed that the influx of online animosity intensified following a tweet from Elon Musk, who questioned the lack of media attention to the crime. Musk’s representatives have yet to respond to requests for comments.

Some of the assaults directed at the journalists included explicit and antisemitic remarks, leading to at least one threat being reported to authorities. This issue is particularly sensitive for the Review-Journal, as last year its investigative journalist, Jeff German, was fatally stabbed. The alleged perpetrator, who was previously covered by German, awaits trial.

To mitigate the online vitriol, the newspaper altered the original article’s headline in its digital archive, which itself sparked further controversy. Cook maintained that the modification did not alter any factual information but acknowledged that it only served to inflame the online trolls further.

Schnur declined to comment as she was working on a related court story but had expressed concern about her personal safety to Poynter, a journalism website. She temporarily vacated her residence, and additional security measures have been taken by the newspaper to protect her.

According to Jeje Mohamed of PEN America, online harassment of journalists, especially women and minorities, remains a persistent issue. A 2020 global study revealed that 73% of women journalists have been subjected to online abuse.

Editors at the Las Vegas Review-Journal have been proactive in defending their staff, said Mohamed, particularly in an environment where news organizations are increasingly under attack.

Cook opined that the episode appears to be part of a broader campaign to erode public trust in the media, noting an escalating level of anger aimed at journalists. In a recent column, he defended Schnur and her reporting, underscoring that she had been the first local journalist to speak with Probst’s family and had acted responsibly when alerted about the incriminating video. Cook stated, “It is crucial that people recognize her as a person, not the villain that she has been portrayed to be.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Online Campaign Against Las Vegas Review-Journal

What triggered the online campaign against the Las Vegas Review-Journal?

The online campaign against the Las Vegas Review-Journal was triggered by its coverage of the alleged murder of retired police chief Andreas Probst. A misleading social media post accused the newspaper of covering up details of the murder, which fueled an intense backlash.

Who is the reporter involved in the original article?

The reporter involved in the original article is Sabrina Schnur. She interviewed the family of Andreas Probst for a story, which was later misinterpreted, leading to the online campaign against her and the newspaper.

What role did Elon Musk play in this situation?

Elon Musk intensified the online animosity against the newspaper by tweeting a message that questioned the lack of media attention to the crime. His tweet was seen by his 157 million followers, further spreading the message.

Did the newspaper change the headline of the original article?

Yes, the newspaper changed the headline of the original article in its digital archive to mitigate the backlash. However, this action sparked further controversy and did not abate the online attacks.

What measures did the Las Vegas Review-Journal take to protect its reporter?

The Las Vegas Review-Journal took multiple security measures to protect Sabrina Schnur, including sifting through emails directed at her to shield her from the worst attacks. She temporarily moved out of her apartment, and additional security measures were put in place.

What ethical questions does this incident raise?

This incident raises several ethical questions, such as whether a news organization should alter a published article based on information that becomes available later. It also brings into focus the impact of misinformation and public figures in shaping public opinion.

What statistics are available about online harassment of journalists?

According to a 2020 global study cited in the article, 73% of women journalists have experienced online abuse. This emphasizes that online harassment is a significant and ongoing problem in the field of journalism.

What is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s stance on the entire issue?

The Executive Editor, Glenn Cook, defended reporter Sabrina Schnur and stated that the online campaign appears to be part of a broader effort to erode trust in the media. Cook highlighted that the allegations against the newspaper were spread without verification.

Are there any legal repercussions resulting from the online campaign?

At least one specific threat against the journalists was reported to authorities, but the article does not provide details on any legal actions taken as a result of the online campaign.

How does this incident fit into the larger context of public trust in media?

This incident is indicative of an escalating level of anger and distrust aimed at journalists and media organizations. It highlights the challenges news organizations face in maintaining public trust amidst the potential for misinformation and targeted online campaigns.

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JohnDoe_1990 September 21, 2023 - 12:03 pm

i mean, changing the headline after the fact? Seems sketchy to me, even if they meant well.

SamIAm September 21, 2023 - 1:39 pm

didn’t know the stats about harassment were so high for women journos. It’s 2023, why is this still a thing?

Sarah_M September 21, 2023 - 1:48 pm

Wow, can’t believe how quickly things can spiral online. This is why we need solid journalism more than ever.

MikeInLV September 21, 2023 - 2:53 pm

As someone from Vegas, the Review-Journal is usually on point. It’s a shame they’re getting dragged like this. People should check facts before jumping the gun.

EllaWrites September 21, 2023 - 3:10 pm

The ethical questions here are big. Should the past be changed to fit new truths? Its kinda like editing history.

NewsJunky September 21, 2023 - 7:26 pm

Sabrina Schnur seems to be doing her job. Why are we blaming the messenger instead of the ones who actually committed the crime?

CryptoQueen September 21, 2023 - 8:42 pm

This is why due diligence is important, people. Just blindly following the internet mob leads to real life consequences.

TechGuru September 21, 2023 - 11:38 pm

It’s ironic that in the age of information, misinformation spreads faster. We got to do better than this.

KevinIsHere September 22, 2023 - 3:14 am

The role of influencers like Elon in spreading info should really be looked at. They have so much power but sometimes no responsibility, smh.

TeaTimeTony September 22, 2023 - 9:29 am

honestly, the online harassment of journalists is becoming a serious issue. Where does freedom of speech end and hate begin?


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