Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Another day, another feud

David McKee seems like a nice fellow. He's certainly a good blogger over at the Las Vegas Advisor's spiffy new site. I even have it bookmarked. And he even quoted me in a piece he wrote a long while back about the Broadway-to-Vegas trend for Las Vegas CityLife. Plus, he contributes nicely to RateVegas.Com's VegasGang podcast. Check it out.

So I had fairly warm feelings about the guy. Well, I did until some of readers pointed me to this really offensive, totally out-of-line comment he wrote in the comments section of said blog last night. A poster had questioned how McKee could be such a fan of "Winner Takes All" by Christina Binkley after having read the extensive list of factual mistakes I set forth in last week's Las Vegas Weekly column. And this was his baffling response:

"Eh, if memory serves, Friess found some ticky-tack goofs (like the "Gans/Ganz" discrepancy) and made a federal case of them. Steve Wynn is Friess' bread-and-butter guest on "The Strip Podcast"; Wynn has made his displeasure with "Winner Takes All" known and ... you do the math."

Now, there ought to be a code amongst Vegas bloggers, but there isn't. And since McKee opted to write this on his open forum, I thought I'd respond on mine.

Dear David:

How about not "going on memory" but instead actually reading what I wrote?

In my USA Today review of Binkley's book, I praised it extensively and specifically noted her even-handed portrayal of Wynn in all his contradictions: "
Wynn, developer of the Mirage, Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas, is seen as filled with contradictory traits. In anecdote after anecdote, Binkley illustrates his magnanimity, egotism, eloquence, weirdness, humor, insecurity, pettiness. The fact she had terrific access to him did not tilt her evenhanded portrayal. At times, she is deliciously dishy in a way that is unlikely to get another interview, as when she implies Wynn had cosmetic surgery."

Even in my Weekly commentary, I also had nice things to say about the book overall and still recommend(ed) it. But the fact is that there were an unforgivable list of very serious -- not "ticky/tack" (what does that mean, anyhow?) factual errors that I find inconceivable from coming from a Wall Street Journal writer. Any two or three of these mistakes would have had her benched at many of the papers you and I have written for. (Well, if you've written for the Las Vegas Sun, perhaps not. They don't seem to mind.)

Binkley invented at least one phone call, pretends that airplanes can land at airports they can't, has people as parties to deals they didn't make. And since the book came out and this list was published, there have been a long list of further mistakes that have been brought to my attention.

She also seems to have crafted a book entirely around not detached news judgment but who gave her access. I have very little problem -- in fact I was delighted -- by her portrayal of Wynn. He's complicated and her rendering is also complicated. But her ignoring of Adelson? Her minimizing of Lanni? Her infusing Loveman with responsibilities and accomplishments that weren't his alone? I was much more indignant about her treatment of other Vegas figures. When she's on the topic of Wynn, her work largely sings -- even with errors so baffling and careless that they must force the in-the-know reader to wonder about the accuracy of other parts of the tome.

Yet what's most offensive is this weird implication that I'm a lackey for anybody, much less Steve Wynn. Do you actually read my work and listen to our show? Do you know how many times I have been on the receiving end of Wynn's ire? Sometimes our interviews are cordial, often he finds me obnoxious. C'est la vie.

Listeners and readers have often thought that perhaps Wynn just likes my spunk, likes being challenged. That could explain how we met in the first place; I wrote a scathing review of the new Wynn resort for the Chicago Tribune and he called not to bawl me out but to invite me to let him show me the hotel himself. OK, he bawled me out, too. But after a two-hour discussion in which I defended myself point by point, he decided to give me the walk-about. Something tells me that wouldn't have happened if I had cowered and quivered before him.

For the record, I obtained a copy of WTA in December, but it was an uncorrected galley proof and I believed it proper to give Binkley the fix to correct many of the glaring errors in the final product. But she didn't. Then I had to wait for my USAT review to run before I could expand on it in my Weekly column. So that explains my timing, not some errand being run on behalf of a pooh-bah. I've taken guff from the GalleyCat blog for that approach, to which I've responded. And so it goes.

But you make it sound as if Wynn called me up and said, "Stevie boy, ya gotta go after this broad." Are you serious? Or are words just that cheap? I do give Wynn -- and Adelson and Lanni -- a chance to respond to the book in tomorrow's Weekly column, but then I give Binkley the last word as well.

I expect non-media people to "do the math" as you say. They're unaware of how journalists actually operate and aren't expected to do their research before they make off-handed remarks.

You, Mr. McKee, are a lot better than that. I do encourage folks to read your blog. It's excellent and clearly takes a lot of work. I just wish you'd taken an extra millisecond to think about what you were saying about a colleague before you insulted my reputation.


P.S. And yes, I did enjoy "Double Or Nothing" by Tom Breitling. It was a surprisingly well-written rendering of an interesting and specific Vegas tale. It isn't anything more than it purports to be, a subjective memoir, and is benefits from lower expectations. As opposed to Binkley's effort, which is harmed by the extremely high expectations we rightfully have for a journalist of her stature.


Anonymous said...

As a big fan of both writers, this makes me extremely uncomfortable. I hope they meet, and move forward as soon as possible. I am also concerned that Steve will become known more for his fighting than his writing.
However, if this increases readership, than keep feuding. I'll be all for it!
Jeff Leatherock

Joey said...

I think it's important for Steve to stand up for himself. this remark is completely out of line. if it had been made in private, then it should've been handled in private. but it wasn't.

also, what's that thing around that guy's neck?

David McKee said...

I don't read the Weekly, so I hadn't seen Steve Friess' column there, just the USA Today review, which a reader expressly asked about.

Steve is too modest to say so, but one or two of his photographs ran in the LV Business Press, back when it was still an autonomous paper.

Anonymous said...

Steve is modest? Our Steve? WHAA??? I'm not even sure he'd say that. Is McKee taking yet another shot? HAHA


Umm, to paraphrase Sheldon Adelson reacting to the first draft of Binkley's book in which she called him "eccentric and paranoid", "Modest? If you were to characterize me as anything, I'd never think of the word modest."

In fact, *I* am probably eccentric and paranoid. Definitely paranoid.

David McKee said...

Yes, sincerely modest (IMO) and, alas, unaffordable ... which is a reflection upon Stephens Media, not him.