I'll be wrapping up my recent Vegas vacation trip report in the near future. (The final installment is not that exciting.) But this can't wait.
As somebody who has worked as a newspaper reporter for far too long, you would think I would have a firm grasp upon what freedom of speech/freedom of the press permits, and what it doesn't.
But I don't.
I don't spend a lot of my free time following freedom of speech/information cases related to the media. I'm not exercising my rights to public data often enough, in part because I could work 75 hours a week and not run out of things to do. I do a little of almost everything as a newspaper reporter in 2020, and waging battles for public data is just not something I can afford to do very often. And I'm smart enough not to get my newspaper into legal trouble over anything I report.
Therefore I'm not in a position to comment upon the outcome of the legal battle between the Sahara casino/hotel and Vital Vegas, the most popular blog in Sin City, as best I can tell. But I will anyway.
For the record: I have read the blog for years, I have blogged in response to topics its author, Scott Roeben, has written, I have met Scott more than once and I have been fortunate enough to have him as a guest on my non-Vegas podcast.
Scott has garnered plenty of followers over the years, and developed an anti-fan club over the years, as well. Some joined the club in 2020, others flash membership cards dating back several years.
I watch the barbs and insults, the comments and the criticism -- from both sides -- without getting in the middle of it. I don't have enough time to pursue my passions in this world, (thanks to that damn journalism career, which ain't much of a passion at this point in my life,) and therefore I don't have a lot of time to defend or criticize Scott's tweets, be they brilliant or cringeworthy. I'm not above criticizing, but sometimes you need to leave that to others.
All that said, I have casually followed the legal battle between Scott and the Sahara. If you're reading this, you probably know that not so long ago, around the end of July, Scott shared a rumor that Sahara was looking to shut the place down due to the lack of foot traffic in the casino and hotel. That resulted in the Sahara seeking legal relief from the claim.
I seem to recall that the rumor claimed Sahara might shut down in September. The original post is no longer available via the blog, and I'm not going to search for a bootleg copy, so I can't review the original claims Scott made.
Those claims were attributed to a trusted source. Some will refute Scott has any of those, but he knows a lot of people who work in the industry, and his blog is well known as a source of inside information, from sources that he protects. Again, some will refute that.
At the end of the day, Vital Vegas is a blog. It's not a comprehensive news source. The blog posts run the gamut from industry rumors and inside information to reviews of local restaurants and attractions to features on interesting shows and attractions that aren't always found in the tourist publications. (Look up his blog post on the Wheel of Misfortune if you need an example.)
His blog's website suggests it's a source of news, tips, deals and WTF, although I don't recall any Vital Vegas deals being floated to his readership. (I'm always looking for a deal when I'm planning a trip to Vegas.)
The internet has spawned plenty of questions, and lawsuits, about what is legal and what's not when it comes to disseminating information. Anyone with a computer and internet access can create a blog, or post a rumor, via many platforms.
I'm not surprised that the Sahara's claims against Scott were in vain. I'm no legal expert, but I didn't expect Sahara to prevail. Like Scott, I'm of the belief that their defamation claim was an intimidation tactic, a tactic that may well have worked against many bloggers who don't have the willingness, courage or financial wherewithal to stand up to such a claim. The Sahara lawsuit obviously failed, thanks in large part to Nevada's anti-SLAPP law that protects folks like Scott.
The end result of this moment in legal history leaves me with two thoughts.
One: How credible are Scott's sources? I have always assumed he has well placed sources that he can trust. His rumor mongering doesn't always pan out, but why should it?
If you hear a rumor that your employer is thinking about reducing the vacation accrual schedule of its employees, but doesn't, does that make the rumor false? If you're not part of upper management meetings, how would you know if the honchos are or aren't considering it?
Should your co-worker, who is sleeping with one of the bosses, even be sharing that information with you? No, of course not. And by sharing it, all s/he did was worry you about not earning that fourth week of vacation next year.
Was there any truth to the Sahara rumor? Unlikely any of us will ever know. And Sahara's lawsuit, or continued business operations, doesn't indicate one way or another that there wasn't strong consideration to pulling the plug at the property.
I have no reason to dismiss Scott's sources, or his trust in them. Yes, he floats rumors about property sales and other business dealings that don't pan out, but I have to believe Scott's source regarding Sahara was a legitimate source. Scott has pretty much pimped Sahara, and its SLS predecessor, whenever he could, and I don't recall him ripping the joint very often. Perhaps he mocked that goofy statue that once stood outside SLS, but other than that, I only seem to remember him promoting the restaurants he enjoyed, or reporting on the demise of restaurants and businesses that didn't survive during the failed SLS experiment.
It seems unlikely that he'd open the door to the wrath of Sahara, or people on Twitter, by tweeting and blogging a rumor about Sahara's demise from a lousy source. Perhaps to you that's a play within Scott's range, but it seems unlikely to me. Given the fact all his eggs are in the Vital Vegas basket these days, it seems like being a source of bad information is the obvious play to avoid right now.
Two: The fault I have with what happened is that he didn't follow one of the golden rules of journalism, even if he's just a blogger. (Remember, he is a source of news, according to his website. Although in fairness, he's a source of WTF, too.)
I remember being told this many times, and following the rule, during my collegiate days of journalism school: Always have two sources.
At some point, I learned that you could get away with a one-source story, in some circumstances. I recently wrote about a new recreation area that was created within a national wildlife refuge. It's a simple feature story, and not meant to be heavy on details. I spoke to a representative of the wildlife refuge. Only one. And that was all I needed. I didn't need to ask the same questions to another government employee, although I'm sure you can argue that I should have. The reality is that I just don't have the time to do it, and in my judgment, it wasn't necessary for this story.
You can argue that a blog site and Twitter account sharing news and rumors doesn't need a second source. And Jehovah knows Scott enjoys being the first to titillate the masses with a juicy tidbit, but in this case I think there should have been some sort of attempt at reaching out to Sahara for the standard denial. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Legally Scott was free to share the rumor without the standard, corporate denial, as the lawsuit proved. But given that his blog has a substantial following and his information spreads like wildfire across Facebook and Twitter, the rumor reasonably had the potential to create a sense of panic among those who are connected to Sahara, either by employment or room reservations. Floating the rumor doesn't accomplish a whole hell of a lot, other than rile up the masses, so it would have seemed like something to treat as news, rather than WTF, in my uneducated opinion.
Many people hate Vital Vegas, (at least 10 that I am aware of,) and will continue to do so. More power to them. I tend to ignore the things that don't interest me, and pause for those that do. Whatever the future holds for Scott's blog, podcast and Twitter handle of the same name, I hope that the end results are better for this recent ordeal. I do wish that for him.