Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vegas' Wet -- and Silent!?!? -- 100

Beyond Howard Stutz' puzzling decision to allow an anonymous source to issue a potentially devastating allegation against U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, today's paper offered some other interesting bits worthy of comment. Ben Spillman's piece about a poker blogger detained and banned from the Cannery Casino intrigued me because the bottom line is that casinos are not within their lawful rights to force you to surrender or delete your photos. And Keith Rogers has a totally poachable piece about a Vegas man who may have finally found out, 65 years later and against all odds, how his father died during World War II.

But the most interesting topic was today's Wet 100 "expose." In a massive front-page story, reporter Henry Brean outed the alleged top 100 water users in Las Vegas that includes the list, the addresses and even aerial views of the single-family homes that guzzled the most in this drought-stricken town. Many are notables, including: eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (No. 2), Greenspun Media Group bosses Danny Greenspun (No. 3) and Brian Greenspun (No. 59), Station Casinos chief Frank Fertitta III (No. 4), Danny Gans (No. 5), Wal-Mart scion Nancy Walton Laurie (No. 9), Phil Ruffin (No. 16), various Wynns (Nos. 15 and 20), heavyweight champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. (No. 47), ex-LVS President Bill Weidner (No. 70), Sheldon Adelson (No. 79), and Don King (No. 96.) King, according to Brean, was tops in terms of usage per square foot. Surprisingly, Siegfried & Roy's lush Little Bavaria isn't on the list.

An eye-catching piece, to be sure, but it shockingly lacks one important element of good journalism: Brean evidently did not attempt to reach a single one of the homeowners whose names, addresses and water-usages are published. Nowhere in the nearly 2,000 words is there any indication that any of the people being shamed were offered a chance to comment. I understand the data came from government records, but government records can be incorrect. And outraged readers -- myself included -- had to be thinking, "What do these people have to say for themselves?"

What's funny is that the subheadline for this package reads, "Top 100 users consime enough water to supply 1,950 homes, but that's only half of the story." Right-o! The half of the story that is missing? The listees' side! Surely in 100 people, there were a few willing to explain, apologize or something. Instead, the only user given a chance to respond was a lady featured in her own little sidebar (which is not linked-to anywhere on the page of the main story, natch) because she apparently kept the bathtub in her mobile home running at full blast for years. She declined.

There's also a public safety concern here. Sheldon Adelson, for instance, was until recently the wealthiest Jewish man in the world and remains perhaps the largest private supporter of Israel. He employs a phalanx of security because he receives lots of death threats. The newspaper today listed what they claim to be his home address. Yet the county assessor's records say the property at that address is in the name of the Paul G Roberts Trust. Roberts is Adelson's lawyer. So it could be Adelson's property or it could be his lawyer's. So either a man who has sincere security reasons not to have his home address published has now been outed or the wrong person has been identified. Ick either way.

Could there be others here who do not live or even still own the property ascribed to them? Who's to know. Nobody asked any of them.