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New York Times reporter wrote dumb Vegas hit piece

Aren’t New Yorkers the worst?

Yes. Obviously. They’re awful human beings, and there is nothing redeeming about any of them.

Now wait a minute. I don’t actually believe that. I would be an uninformed fool if I didn’t take into account all of the good and friendly New Yorkers before I damned their entire city.

And yet, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times just wrote a hit piece that damns all of Las Vegas without taking Vegas’ full truth into account, in a story that ran atop the front page of the Sunday Times. It went like this.

First paragraph: “LAS VEGAS — There are many cities across the country that are beginning to see the first glimpses of the end of the recession.” Second paragraph: “This is not one of them.”

Oh, really, Adam Nagourney? Visitor numbers are up. Gaming revenue is stable. New restaurants are opening. Nightclubs and poolside-dayclubs rake in more money than God. And hotel rooms are being filled again.

Room rates may be cheaper than before, but people are coming here. Tourists and locals aren’t spending as much cash as they did during the fat years, but they are spending enough to keep recession survivors in business.

What I’m telling you, Adam Nagourney, is the market has stabilized.

I realize that if your New York Times story had led with the more boring truth (“The market has stabilized”), then your editors may not have given front-page placement to your story of five high-ranking sources (the mayor, two UNLV researchers, a Moody’s vice president, and a tourism ad exec).

I am not accusing you of falsifying observations and statistics. Yes, Vegas needs more gambling whales and economic diversity, duh. And unemployment statistics are (as you say) “a stark contrast to the 3.8 percent unemployment rate” of a decade ago. Bravo for comparing recession numbers to boom numbers, Captain Obvious.

But you, Adam Nagourney, decided to cast Vegas’ complex positives as simple negatives.

For instance, high up in your story, you cite the closing of the Plaza, and its layoff of 400 people, as empirical proof Vegas is doomed. Meanwhile, the Cosmopolitan is opening in December, bringing 5,000 jobs to the Strip. Deep down in your story, you bury news of the Cosmopolitan’s opening, but you don’t mention the jobs. Nope. You shade the whole hotel as a bad thing, because it will bring more rooms to Vegas, and thus will cause more room competition for other hotels.

Even worse, you don’t mention restaurants, shows, nightclubs and other economic life forces of Vegas hotels.

Most shows are thriving or surviving. Donny and Marie have done boffo. Cher has wall-to-wall crowds. Cirque is making it. Even famous millionaires have trouble finding tickets to see the always sold-out Garth Brooks. And this weekend, Vegas hosted an entire record label of sold-out acts at the Palms; a Rolling Stone magazine weekend at The Mirage; plus touring acts galore across the Strip.

I’m surprised you didn’t write about our restaurant scene, because it would have given you the chance to talk about the closing of Fleur de Lys at Mandalay Bay.

Then again, Vegas has also opened new restaurants, like Todd English P.U.B. (which is always packed) and Kerry Simon’s KGB burger bar.

I am not surprised you didn’t say a word about the economics of nightclubs, because clubs and pool-dayclubs have been pretty immune to the recession, and that fact complicates your story.

In fact, one club or another has shut down due to drugs and sex (a result of being lucrative); or suffered staff shake-ups in the midst of Paris Hilton scandals (a result of being lucrative).

Even the famous co-owners of club Pure, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, have sued Pure executives, alleging Pure has made so much cash that one exec used $1 million for his personal legal defense fund, while using Pure profits to open other clubs.

Many of us know all this if we have been lucky enough to have survived the recession in Las Vegas since the 2008 crash of the stock market (which is based in the New York Times’ economy-wrecking city of New York).

As those of us who grace the Strip regularly know that, in the past year, everything from car traffic to foot traffic has gone from dismal to jamming.

Any decent journalist could have discovered all this if she came to Vegas for a week to report a front-page story for the New York Times.

Did you come to Vegas to do your story, Adam Nagourney? It appears as though you must have, because you used a Las Vegas dateline in your lead, although you wrote no firsthand observations from the ground. I e-mailed you Sunday, asking if you wrote the story from here as indicated in your dateline.

If I sound a tad frustrated with you, Adam Nagourney, it’s because your story discounts those of us who have been working very hard, for two years, in the face of recession, and we can see things are getting better.

That is, just like people in the rest of America, many people here have been working 60 hours a week, six days a week, on skeleton crews, to get the job done. We’ve been grateful to have jobs. And unlike a New Yorker or two, we smile while we do most things well.

So on Sunday afternoon, I went to my neighborhood Starbucks. I saw your dumb story screaming at me from a stack of unsold New York Times that no one wanted. (By the way, the Review-Journal was sold out.)

I read your stupid lead. Then I went to the grocery store. It was packed as usual with we who work hard in this town every day to make things happen.

And what did you do, Adam Nagourney? You sat on your brains and peed on us.

To the New York Times: Journalists in Las Vegas have said for years, “The New York Times hates Vegas.” Thanks for not disappointing us with another parachute hit piece.

I would also like to remind everyone that, in the 1970s, journalists tried to paint New York as a doomed shell of yuck. And after Hurricane Katrina, national journalists questioned whether New Orleans should even exist. But look at New Orleans now, rebuilding.

And today’s vibrant Vegas is in a much better position to rebound than New York was in the 1970s, chiefly because Vegas doesn’t smell like urine.

Doug Elfman’s column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 702-383-0391 or e-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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