Old Hollywood movies often provide great wisdom. In Gone with the Wind (1939), the Ashley Wilkes character has survived the Confederacy’s crushing defeat during the American Civil War. Because of the subsequent post-war chaotic breakdown and revenge on the South, the despondent Wilkes cannot face the disintegrating civility of this new world. For him, nothing is more important than honor.
In the end, aren’t our identities all we have? Our good names and reputations define us, our jobs and the companies that employ us.
I worked in operations and public relations for the amusement industry for 15 years. I then turned to journalism as a new career, but pledged to limit the “spin” to always be honest with the facts.
Sadly, those days when readers should expect facts, even if “spun” a bit, are almost gone. Taking aim at my professional counterparts, I believe many journalists have deemed themselves the news arbiters who often do not worry about accuracy.
In late October, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and destroyed billions in property while devastating the lives of hundreds of thousands. Once again, New Jersey governor Chris Christie ordered the closure of Atlantic City’s 12 Atlantic City casinos.
When the sun returned 36 hours later, the extraordinary damage missed the casinos. Within four days of cleaning up, the casinos reopened for the weekend.
However, the national news mistakenly reported the Boardwalk’s destruction, which overshadowed news of the casinos’ lack of damage. Actually, only a small Boardwalk section away from the casinos and slated for replacement, broke loose.
This inaccurate reporting has cost Atlantic City dearly, particularly during off-season. Two weeks later, 41% still believed the Boardwalk had washed away; 21% still thought Jersey’s shore was closed. This negligent reporting threatens revenues and salaries throughout Atlantic City and surrounding towns.
I reject reporters’ – not columnists – personal agendas spilling into their news copy. Since the $2billion-plus Revel opened last April, one Philadelphia business reporter has consistently disparaged the property. Whether by “coincidentally” interviewing more dissatisfied customers than happy ones, or comprehensively quoting union leaders over management – Revel rejected union workers – this individual has come short of labeling Revel a failure during admittedly shaky times.
Out in Las Vegas, we often see the same scenario. This year, two of gaming’s most visible executives, Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, received the “punching bag” treatment from many in the media because they loudly voiced their wishes and spent their own money to oust the Obama administration.
Many outlets portrayed Adelson as a rigid old guy trying to buy the election. “No one listens to Steve Wynn,” one Nevada journalist told me.
Wynn rejected a Las Vegas project that would create 10,000 direct and 30,000 indirect jobs. He blamed what he considers an anti-business climate, saying he doesn’t need the aggravation. Incidentally, Nevada still has the highest unemployment, but voters chose the status quo.
When did Las Vegas visionary Wynn become someone “no one listens to?” Employing 12,000 in Las Vegas, don’t his own employees pay attention? If not, why? I submit it is a consequence of negative press over straight reporting.
Wynn and Adelson are now focusing more on the possibilities and successes in Macau.  However, both have used some of those very profits to support their Las Vegas ventures. Does the news coverage of that commitment to personnel equal the negative? It should.
Katty Kay, the G2E keynote speaker and Washington D.C.-based BBC America news anchor, discussed the need for objective reporting and analysis. Interesting, considering the nuances of her language that morning and regular commentary on her talk shows of choice clearly put her in one camp.
During the Q & A, I asked Kay why, considering that recent research reveals that 60% of the American public has contempt for the media, the national news outlets continue to select whether to even report on major stories, despite their importance.
I offered one example of several crucial stories omitted from the national newspapers and networks that week. She responded with the vague comment that the media must improve its examination of policy and news over politics. You think? These people can make or break careers, businesses and lives by what they determine as facts.
Gaming already confronts enough challenges. Because perception becomes reality, we must hold these people with their vast public platform accountable for inaccurate and/or biased reporting. If we don’t demand the facts, our industry’s economics and reputations may suffer.
Happy holidays! Have a great new year.