Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Troubles With Christina

Here's this week's Las Vegas Weekly column, the first of two about Christina Binkley's "Winner Takes All." Next week, I'll report reaction to the book from the likes of Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson and Terry Lanni. Read my USA Today review here.

April 2, 2008
The Strip Sense: Gaffe Factory
Noted WSJ writer nearly sinks book on Las Vegas through factual errors

by Steve Friess

A few days ago, USA Today published my review of the new book by Wall Street Journal columnist Christina Binkley on Vegas moguls. In it, I explained why I enjoyed reading Winner Takes All despite its enormous flaws, that Binkley almost despite her own sloppiness managed to render an intriguing and entertaining inside look at the past two decades of Vegas development.

In the context of a book review, though, it isn’t possible to delve into the really important factual problems presented in this effort. Longtime Las Vegans might be interested in the laundry list of mistakes I’ve been accumulating ever since I obtained a preview copy back in December.

But first, why be so intense about analyzing one of a zillion books due to appear about Las Vegas this year? Because Christina Binkley isn’t any ol’ author. She is arguably the most important national journalist ever to pay serious attention to Las Vegas. Before she took on the gaming beat in the late 1990s, the topic was—and still is at most national publications—viewed as an adjunct to the hospitality beat. That’s progress; for a long, long time it was just part of the Mafia beat.

So this book is her doctoral dissertation now that she’s moved on to become a columnist. And yet it’s rife with factual mistakes.

The accuracy problems begin with her clichéd title. One of the things we all know about Vegas is that there is never one winner who takes all. There’s always more, or else there would be no Elad, Station, Maloof, Landry’s, Tamares, Marnell.

But that may be seen as a subjective complaint. The following aren’t. Binkley ...



detroit1051 said...

Steve, you are one of the world's most prolific writers, and for that I am glad.
You found twice as many errors or questionable statements by Binkley than I did. Regardless, the book is an interesting read.
When can we expect a book from you on Steve Wynn? You've really gotten him to open up, and the real story on Steve would be a blocbuster.
How about it?

detroit1051 said...

"blocbuster" should be "blockbuster".
Another reason I read instead of write.

John said...

I really enjoyed Christina's book but I appreciate any diligent fact checking. You are right that someone who is at The Wall Street Journal should have had the facts checked. The book is fun to read but it's not that long that it could not have had New Yorker Magazine style fact checking. Christina should have sent a galley to Steve ( Friess ).

Someone commented recently that blogging is cheap but reporting is expensive because good reporters have to check out all the facts.