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When A Blogger Gets In Bed With PR

By Chuckmonster on Thursday, 21st August 2014 4:52pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 64

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Ever wonder what happens when a blogger gets in bed with Vegas PR? This.

Scott Roeben Maria Roncal Wedding Photo

Geotagged inside the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, this is SLS Las Vegas social media PR employee Maria Roncal (left) and VitalVegas.com blogger Scott Roeben (making the "selfie face") They're a cute couple, aren't they? I love your dress, Maria.

I do have a question, though.

When SLS Las Vegas finally lifts their press embargo on information culled during pre-opening playdate staycations, will Scott will express journalistic credibility and tell the bad along with the good, throwing the dice on the very real possibility of an embargo of punanny? Or will he reveal his conflict of interest and refrain from writing about SLS altogether? Or will he do his bidding as an agent of public relations and write glowing profiles with enthusiastic promotional language.

To clarify, the choices are: A) exhibit journalist credibility and tell the truth while admitting a conflict of interest B) reveal conflict of interest and refrain from reviewing altogether or C) do bidding as PR agent and write an effusively positive review with little or no mention of his serious conflict of interest.

I'm going to go with choice C - do bidding as a PR agent - something he does every day in his job working in Public Relations for the Fremont Street Experience.

Fremont Street Experience represents 9 casinos (The Plaza, Vegas Club, Fremont, Main Street Station, The California, Binions, Four Queens, The D and The Golden Gate), but doesn't represent neighbors Downtown Grand or El Cortez, writing about any of these nine of these casinos is a conflict of interest. Due to his relationship with Maria, writing about SLS Las Vegas is also a conflict of interest. We can add to the conflict of interest list all of Caesars Entertainment's nine Las Vegas casinos (Rio, Planet Hollywood, Paris, Ballys, Cromwell, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Quad/Linq, Harrah's) as he worked in PR for Caesars Entertainment for about a decade. This narrows the field of conflict free properties to (as far as I know) - all MGM Resorts properties (Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand, NYNY, Monte Carlo, Aria, Bellagio) Venetian/Palazzo, Treasure Island, Wynn/Encore, Stratosphere, Hooters, Casino Royale, Tropicana, Westgate, The Cosmopolitan, Plams, Orleans, Hard Rock, Gold Coast and maybe Riviera (until Derek buys the rest of it).

To recap: conflicts = 20, no conflicts = 24.

To his credit, Scott mentions a few of these conflicts somewhere beyond the one click chasm that separates the hundreds of interest conflicted articles he's published and the uncharted wasteland known as an "About" page. Who reads the "About" page anyway?

Maybe Scott will realize that his interests are conflicted, I do wish that for him. I find it doubtful, as a recent remedial lesson on journalistic integrity offered to him on Facebook by his hero FiveHundy fell upon incapable ears, attached to a post where Scott railed against the power of casino PR departments. No, I'm not joking.

"But seriously Chuck? He's so funny and nice in the Five Hundy Facebook group!" Yes, he is... this isn't personal. I've had PR people I never met before give me a hug and a kiss saying "it is so great to see you again!" Scott himself was all smiles and participatory on opening night at VIMFP last year, mingling and taking photos. Then, minutes later, he rebroadcasted girlfriend Maria's social media insult of VIMFP being a "circle jerk" sending metric tons of steam to erupt from Tim Hundy and Admiral Hillegas' ears. I wasn't surprised by the sentiment, but wondered about Scott's motivation. Who pisses on a birthday cake?

So, when you read VitalVegas' rave reviews about SLS (or anything for that matter) I hope that you'll keep in mind that the author's greased fingers are literally in the pocket of SLS public relations, and everybody's.

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody

- "Gotta Serve Somebody" by Bob Dylan

There is grace and class in admitting - and acting accordingly - when a conflict of interest arises. It proves that your love of the craft of news gathering is more important than your love of the intoxicating feeling that public acceptance and reaction gives in return (a conscious heroin!) It also proves that your stewardship of the trust your readers place in you as part of the unspoken, unsigned journalistic contract is indeed the "somebody" that you serve, not yourself.

Lessons liked yet unlearned.

Oh and nice rip-off of Roger Thomas collection furniture.



Tagged: sls las vegas   public relations   



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Comments & Discussion:

Ouch!

You pee on someone else's birthday cake when no one will come to your birthday party.

I didn't hear about Maria's VIMFP comment at the time but hearing it now makes very me sad. Especially reading that Scott rebroadcasted it. But maybe she meant the circle jerk comment in a different way. Maybe she hadn't seen an erect penis in a while. And maybe he was just trying to help her get laid. I dunno. I'm just trying to see both sides.

I'd be lying if I didn't say this stuff bothers me.

I was somewhat reluctant to post a comment because it would be so easy for this thread to get personal and mean and really lose sight of what I think the point of this post is.

As someone that used to do a lot more of this kind of writing myself, I personally believe that once you amass an audience you have a responsibility to them and part of that is disclosure and potentially recusal. Write whatever you want but if you do have even a sliver of a conflict, disclose it and let the reader make the call... and if you really don't feel like you can be fair, recuse. Your audience will respect you for it. Hell, just publish photos without the editorial if you have to.

There are some people who will say "oh, it's just a little blog, who cares?" but I actually think it does matter and as media is disaggregated, the voices of all of us matter a lot more than they used to.

This problem is not unique to Las Vegas - it occurs across all media - but one of the reasons that sites like this exist is because of how pervasive it is in resort towns like Vegas. The local media is often more like a megaphone for the resort industry. I want more up-front and brutal honesty, not less.

There are some publications that work extra hard to get this right. Read Kara Swisher's elaborate disclosure statement that is linked and excerpted on every post she writes (she covers tech but doesn't cover Google due to personal relationships).

http://allthingsd.com/about/#kara-ethics

I'm convinced that doing this sort of thing gets you more than you have to give to make it happen.

For the sake of completeness regarding the VIMFP tweet re-broadcasting thing, Scott apologized to me when he found out how it had offended us.

Nice (and classy) post, Admiral.

I like New Chuck.

Jake - Or is this Old Chuck... I recall he said that he had a few items to post despite the timing of his hiatus. This could be one of those that was in the hopper.

However, a local talk radio host always says to think of the timing of a controversial post/article/leak, etc. Why now? Granted, Occam's Razor would say that the timing is in conjunction with the SLS. But removing SLS from the equation still leaves 19 conflicted properties and 24 non-conflicted.

So why now?

Could this be a preemptive VIMFP move?

I think the timing of Chuck's post is almost as intriguing as the subject of this post.

Chuck is the walrus.

We have already established what you are we are just negotiating on the price. It looks bad so it is bad,

This will go down deep in the anals of Vegas Mafia dickpunches.

hehe, you said "anals"

re: the birthday cake, I think a better analogy is "if someone invites you to their birthday party, you don't pee on their cake."

As for journalistic integrity -- I think that's why people come here to VT. I don't want to read stuff put out by someone who doesn't disclose their conflicts. I can't trust those people. And if you're in the business of burning trust, you have to be wary of it backfiring and destroying your career. Maybe the readership goes away, maybe an employer gets wind of some bad press and decides to cut their losses.

If someone doesn't want to disclose their conflict, I don't think they should be fed to crocodiles. But I'm not gonna read them.

Maybe he is slowly getting into bed with all the casinos, which at that point - no harm, no foul. Right?

@Keith2728 i thank you for spending your time with VT and listening to the Vegas Gang. There is a code of ethics in journalism to avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest. Scott's relationship with casinos (he works for them) violates the code of journalistic ethics (writing about casinos he works for, or their competitors blog).

Do you think that someone who works for The President of The United States should be the very same person who reports the nightly news about The President of the United States? Do you think they'll be fair in reporting positive and potentially damaging news about the President? What if you were the someone had the complete opposite opinion than the President of the United States, would you think that it is fair for the President's employee to be writing news about you or the President, particularly on issues where you disagreed?

Here's an example.

Would Scott ever report some really damaging news about one of the casinos he works for, potentially putting his job in jeopardy or burying a story that his readership deserves to hear? Conversely, Is it fair for Scott to report really damaging news about casinos his bosses are engaged in heated competition with given that he is employed by their competitors? In both of these examples, Scott's interests are conflicted... he has to choose what is the right thing for him - serving his readership or serving his employers.

There should be absolutely no of conflict of interest... a real, or perceived.

Scott is a PR professional, he knows exactly what he's doing is wrong, or at the very least can be perceived as being wrong - a conflict of interest. The name Scott The Shill was given to him by Tim Hundy, because Scott perpetually crossed the lines of Tim's journalistic ethics.

You can't work as a reporter (cub or otherwise) and also work in Public Relations in the industry you cover. There is no middle ground, at least for anyone who is truly honest.

I look forward to seeing you and discussing this with you at VIMFP.

I hope to discuss this with Chucmonster at VIMFP as well. I don't quite understand this.

@detroit1051 i think it comes down to the old "you don't shit where you eat" adage.

the issue is that scott's mealticket, his paycheck, comes from casinos. his "personal" blog (vitalvegas.com), while entertaining, is not exactly dishing out politically unbiased information since scott isn't going to jeopardize his or maria's relationships with casinos and/or his or maria's jobs. end of the day, he's not giving you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, by way of omission or otherwise.

@Detroit1051 you should take a gander at the NYU journalism handbook: http://journalism.nyu.edu/publishing/ethics-handbook/potential-conflicts-of-interest/

Imagine if all gaming news coverage at The Review Journal or the Las Vegas Sun was written by Alan Feldman, the Executive Vice President of Public Relations for MGM Resorts. While he may make every attempt to report fairly, his interests [1) reporting news for the paper 2) his job at MGM 3) being an $MGM stockholder] are conflicted - he will be forced to choose between spinning everything MGM positively or reporting that the rebar at Harmon is fucked up.

If Alan whitewashes the news to give MGM positive press, he puts the trust the public has in the idea of an honest, ethical and free press in jeopardy. If Alan writes the truth about hurtful MGM news, he puts his day job with the attached salary and security in jeopardy. Alan Feldman is forced to choose between two interests that are conflicted.

A secondary argument could be made for MGM Resorts International competitors... will they be treated fairly by a reporter who is being paid by one of their competitors? Do you think competing casino owners would sit down and shut up if Alan Feldman replaced Howard Stutz at the RJ AND kept his job as MGM PR? You bet your balls they wouldn't.

Moreover, conflict of interest ethics go one step beyond actual conflict... they state that there should be no "perception" whatsoever that any possible conflict of interest is present.

What if Howard Stutz started working as PR agent for Las Vegas Sands Corp (owners of Venetian/Palazzo.) Is it ethical for Howard to keep his job reporting global gaming news? Do you think he'd report bad news about Sands Corp. earnings and lawsuits? That there is even any question that he may or may not, means that it isn't ethical. He can't do both, and the RJ would have to give him notice or risk losing their credibility.

What if local dining critic John Curtas was hired by Caesars Entertainment do public relations for their restaurants, is it ethical for him to continue writing reviews of Caesars dining options or those of his bosses competitors knowing that he now has skin in the game? No, it is not.

Since John Curtas' blog is self-owned, who is going to tell him that he has a conflict of interest and that he needs quit? The answer lies in the "Vegas Locals" podcast Facebook post screenshot above, David and Alicia Ivy's responsible conscience and desire to protect the trust and credibility they've built up over years as producers of media drove them to choose ethics over a conflict of interest. Just last week, Scott Roeben "liked" their decision, which is exactly the same decision he should've made.

Scott is employed by Fremont Street Experience to act as a public relations agent - he talks to people like you and me in order to convince us to do stuff and spend money at FSE member properties. This includes promotional photography for member casino attractions, preparing public relations documents/strategy as well as managing their street level interaction via social media amongst other things.

In his capacity as FSE PR, he personally coordinated with a FSE member hotel a comp given to a group of VT10 visitors after having a bad experience at a member hotel. I've read the entire chain of emails - from Scott's tweets as FSELV to the member hotel's PR and resolution by management. Scott gets paid every day to promote FSE properties, and, by extension, keep people from visiting and spending money at non-member properties.

On his blog, Scott has reported disparaging information about the closest non-member neighbor of FSE - Downtown Grand. This is akin to Alan Feldman reporting in his RJ column that there are roaches at Cosmopolitan. It may be an indisputable fact, but there is a perceptive possibility that these posts could be informed by Scott's relationship with Fremont Street Experience (or by Alan's bosses beachhead to beachhead combat between MGM properties and Cosmopolitan.) It is curious that that Vital Vegas contains no disparaging posts about his employers - what @meltyrselfdown referred as "shitting where you eat."

- - -

@keith - this is the place to discuss this, publicly, so everything is out in the open. I don't post stories I'm not willing to defend and the discussion of journalistic ethics and accountability in our information addicted world is as important as it is timely. This isn't personal about Scott, he's just the guy who made the decisions that landed him in the poop, it could've been anyone.

I disagree with your point about Scott not referring to himself as a journalist - he acts, writes, and behaves as if he is working on behalf of a news and information gathering organization called "Vital Vegas." A quick comb through of posts and tweets reveal lots of mis-use of the pronoun "we" when he should be saying "I". "We" infers he is part of a larger entity, which he isn't but wants readers to think he is. Unless the other person in "we" is his girlfriend Maria, which makes the situation doubly fucked up - she's an employee of Vital Vegas and does Vegas casino PR at SLS? The deceit here is deep and tendered by omission.

Additionally, Scott has a long long standing personal photo blog which would be perfect for "a guy who enjoys taking pictures and sharing them." It is also worth noting that the content of his articles have been picked up by local newspapers as basis for actual journalism. To their credit, The Las Vegas Sun revealed Scott's potential conflict of interest and mentioned that he is a former Caesars Entertainment employee. To their discredit, they omitted that he currently works for FSE and that his girlfriend works for SLS (who were part of the subject of the article) as he didn't disclose this, perhaps purposefully?

- - - -

Las Vegas is a town built on a bizarre mix of trust and dishonesty. We believe that we're getting a fair gamble in the casino, but the odds are in the house's favor. We're quoted prices for goods and services, only to later find out that prices have hidden fees that in some cases double the original quote. We're led to believe that a celebrity chef is cooking (or at least overseeing) our dinner, yet the fact is the only times the Chef showed up was when the contract was signed and the grand opening.

The line is thin and fragile. When we allow our primary defender of this line - news gatherers, be it a blog, newspaper or podcast - to skirt standards of ethical behavior, we deserve a media where truth and honesty are hidden behind the smoke and mirrors.

Selling ads and being a direct employee of a casino are not the same thing. Does not every newspaper in the country sell ads? As long as the ads do not dictate the content I see nothing wrong here. If I remember correctly, Caesars pulled their affiliate status from this site when Chuck refused to bow to their pressure. Also, in the past when Chuck has been comped, (I believe in a Wynn stay once), he very clearly disclosed this in the post.
The main rub with Scott's blog is one of disclosure. He is in the direct employ of an organization and posts disparaging reviews of a related business not in the organization without disclosing his position. It's sleazy.

@keith2728 you are mostly correct, but let me clarify. If you are working in a news gathering journalistic capacity (which is what both VegasTripping, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NBC News, CNN and Vital Vegas do) the ethics of journalism apply. I didn't make up the rules, they've been a public work in progress since the the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. It is worth noting that Scott has already admitted by his actions that my arguments are valid - he has begun to mention his relationship with Maria and her job as SLS PR and the conflict of interest therein.

Regarding advertising, there are ethical guidelines for the separation of advertising and editorial as well, publishers call this "the separation of church and state." Our editorial content - the actual articles - are not advertisements in disguise. Have you ever seen "Sponsored Post" on the internet or "Special Advertising Section" in the newspaper? These are ways publishers sell "editorial content" as advertisements. VT does not do this. Furthermore, all of VT's advertising sections are clearly marked as such, you counted them in your first comment. Lastly, VT has no control, knowledge or insight as to who or what advertisement our 3rd party advertising agent (Google) serves to you at any given moment making it impossible for an advertiser to influence the content of our articles. Advertising is a $170+ billion dollar per year industry that fuels the entire economy.

I do see the conflict of interest points of view, but, regarding the "disparaging information" on the DTG.....was the points that the property was either closing or scaling back operations at some venues not truthful? If so, how is that disparaging? Vital Vegas has a recent entry which points out some things that DTG was doing to help lure visitors in....not exactly disparaging stuff here.

I guess I'm just not as sensitive to this kind of stuff and appreciate the material that both VT and VV provide. And I've never been one that gets swayed by advertising or promotional material.....I like to check out new venues in Vegas, and appreciate the information that whoever provides. I'll go check something out, and whether I choose to continue my patronize of said venue will be my own call, not some advertisers.

@hailtoskins - bad word choice perhaps? would "negative" have been better?

@keith - Consumer Reports charges a subscription fee for access and accept donations. Would you pay $10/month for an ad free VT? Or just donate out of the kindness of your heart?

@keith I certainly appreciate your dogged dedication to making this argument a referendum on advertising/publisher relationship with side order of name calling, as it proves that all other fact-based logical arguments refuting my points have been exhausted.

@keith2728: Perhaps you're not totally clear on how the ads on VT work? Chuck (or any other publisher that uses Google AdSense) doesn't pick the ads or negotiate with the advertisers or have any contact with them at all. It's all automatic - Google's system determines what ads to show based on many signals including the content on the page (hence you'll often see Vegas-y ads).

The two circumstances are not the same at all. If Chuck was publishing what's known as 'native advertising' (posts sponsored by advertisers like at Buzzfeed or some NYT stuff recently) or moonlighting as a hotel PR person, that would potentially be an analog but simply hosting ads that he has no direct control over doesn't seem anywhere near the same universe to me.

Honestly, if I can think of anything that comes into conflict territory with the stuff that we (VIM) do, it'd be running VIMFP and then covering Derek's properties but in those cases if you go back and look, it's commonly either disclosed or written by someone other than Chuck and on top of that you'll find places in those pieces where 'room for improvement' is noted as well - it's not all rosy. I'd suggest those are generally examples of proper tactics for this sort of thing.

... but the ads argument doesn't make any sense to me either.

Chuck, when your post first appeared on August 21st, I was the first to comment with one word, "Ouch!" I said that because the entire post, starting with the headline, seemed to me to be a bitter, personal attack on both Scott and Maria.

I have never been to VIMFP and had no knowledge of the "circle jerk" comment. Disclosure: I really don't know Scott and Maria, but I did meet them once for an afternoon drink when both were in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year.

I read all sorts of news, blogs, tweets and other information (except Facebook) on casinos and Las Vegas because I've been interested in both for 35 years. I'm a layman, but I consider VegasTripping, VitalVegas, VegasGang and other sources to be interesting, informative opinion pieces, not hard journalism.

Some excerpts from Merriam-Webster's definition of journalism:

Collecting, writing, editing news stories.
Direct presentation of facts or description without attempt at interpretation.
Writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest.

In my opinion, blogs fall in the last statement. Most people can certainly differentiate between hard news reports written by Howard Stutz and information posted on VegasTripping, VitalVegas or in PR releases.

Chuck, you wrote, "Who reads the "About" page anyway?" I do, every time I click on a link to a story about any subject. I do this so I can learn the writer's agenda, if any. I suspect many readers do the same as I.

I'll obviously continue to enjoy VegasTripping, VitalVegas and everything else I can find, but the tone of this post did disappoint me.

Thanks.

I met Scott like once, he's an alright comedian and seems really into LV, and what he does on his blog with taking pictures through security barricades reminds me of a thing some guy did on a blog somewhere once, and I'm glad to see it continue.

I guess I've never been under any false impressions about his blog, though. He isn't really journalism, he's doing a hype blog. Nothing he's going to blog is going to suggest that you shouldn't come to Las Vegas, or that it is a bad deal for money. He isn't interested in leading the charge against resort fees, but in taking pictures of the newest shiny thing.

And I guess he has never bugged me in that way casino PR usually does. I gave Pulse Of Vegas a subscription in my RSS reader for some time, though I renamed it "Harrah's Blog" so I wouldn't be confused about the source. He actually talked about properties not owned by his company, which is increasingly rare as the boulevard slowly turned into West Strip Corporation VS East Strip INC. And it wasn't like, "Bellagio has bed bugs, come see the fountains from Paris", so I didn't mind it.

The one critique I'll disagree with a defense is Downtown Grand. He's been slamming it lately, but when they brought in new chefs a few months after opening, his post about it was almost breathlessly revolutionary about a comfort food coffee shop. At the time I thought it seemed a little too business-y, but if that post was financially motivated, I don't know about the negative ones now.

I dunno, man. His writing doesn't always ring with me, particularly w/r/t the elements of town that puts women on display as eye candy, but I also know that's the sort of cheerleading that sort of product demands. And cheerleading is more or less what he does. It's obviously how he's able to wear both hats, sidestepping the political/business elements of the business by just being Man (Paid To Be) About Town.

Do not mistake this for a passiinate defense, it is actually apathetic as fuck. I can understand as a blog that runs negative pieces, and leaks and exposés over the years that you could get mad about the lack of distinction. But it's sort of like Jon Stewart and old-fashioned news: you can't make an argument about journalistic integrity if no claim to it was ever made to begin with.

@detroit1051 It sounds like perhaps you and I have different levels of trust in readers ability to figure this stuff out on their own... I have no idea about VV but on TWHT, maybe 1% of the readers would look at the 'About' page... so at least in my example, the vast majority of folks only saw what was presented right in front of them, which is why a lot of news gathering and reporting sites do disclosures in the header or footer of the actual story, along with something else on an 'About' page. Personally, I'd double-underscore this for topics where there's potential for significant conflict (i.e. if I wrote a post about my wife's job, personally I would feel like I needed to be overwhelmingly up-front about that important bit).

You say that 'Most people can certainly differentiate between hard news reports...' but I'm not sure that's really true, especially now that the lines of 'hard journalism' have significantly blurred. Information doesn't come to people every morning on copy-edited, voice-of-god imprinted newsprint anymore, it comes from the Web and blogs and Twitter and Facebook and other places.

In this new and changed media world, I think it's important for readers to be able to tell immediately if you have entanglements, unless it's just so comically obvious that you're not trying to present anything unbiased (i.e. The Onion should not have a disclaimer ; Misnomer posts should not have a disclaimer).

That's the kind of presentation that I hope for from the people and places that I use my time to consume and I don't think it's inappropriate to ask these sorts of questions and have this sort of dialog.

@detroit As I stated, this isn't personal about Scott or Maria, but I can't really make the point without identifying the players and circumstances. The last time I had interaction with them before her "circle jerk" comment was when I asked Scott for Maria's address to send her flowers and gifts thanking her for her work on VIMFP in 2012. I mentioned this to illustrate - with three examples - that the smiling face of public relations isn't the truth.

Yes or no, would it be ok for me to work as public relations agent for MGM Resorts International's Las Vegas casinos and continue to operate VegasTripping without any conflict of interest?

What do you think Jeff Simpson would say?

@minvegas - you mention on one hand that he's a man about town taking photos, then you mention that he's reporting news about chefs etc at Downtown Grand. These are both news gathering activities - photo journalism, or journalism journalism. As an employee of Fremont Street Experience, he shouldn't be writing about any of them - or their direct competitors - positive or negatively in a journalistic or photo journalistic context. That you accept his cheerleading message because it appears harmless is even more troublesome, have you never heard the story of the Trojan Horse? When it comes to ethical behavior, journalistic honey is ok but vinegar isn't?

Scott was one of only a handful of people I ever deleted from my Facebook account. His writing's and posts on there showed me a very different side to "Drunk Scott". The guy's a two faced douche. You Scott are the "circle jerk". Can't wait to see everyone at VIMFP!

All this arguing is a real downer. When I think of Vegas, I want happy thoughts. I'll catch y'all later.

@dorian c'mon man. let's keep this civil.

Chucj, it was less news and more third-person press release. That's my point. That's kind of how hobby news works.

I honestly think most hobby news doesn't really fall under the category of journalism as written by people covering world events. Best example: I play a lot of video games, and "gamers" are a pretty contemptuous bunch, usually a lot of loners striking out at the world online. The past week there has been an absolute witch hunt in the name of "good journalism" when it turned out that a prominent person in the independent scene has had relationships with writers for blogs that cover that industry. She has had her privacy stripped awqy due to an angry ex, and the rest has been meat to the hounds in the name of "good journalism." Most decent people have spoken that we had no right to know about who is fucking whom to begin with.

I consider Vegas blogs to be punditry. And the Vegas Gang has had pretty good punditry for it's wages. To get any deeper than that, I'm afraid of coming across an ego-bruising asshole online and this would be easier to talk about on VIMFP, but hobby bloggers need the business they look at more than the business needs them. There's a reason Nintendo stopped holding private parties for those "games journalists" a year ago and began introducing future games to the whole public at once via YouTube video packages: because those men in the middle are not as necessary as they were 20 years ago, and they get in the way of controlling the message. Apple really doesn't need MacWorld (magazine) like they did in the "evangelism" days, either.

VT exists because people like to connect socially with other people who have the same interest, and the posts here facilitate bringing new topics into that feedback cycle of the community, and staff can present their trip report content with media embeds not supported in the board or this space.

If you think you're Jeff Simpson or Howard Stutz, well, I don't know if your audience would agree. There's things to learn from both guys, but they're career professionals. Jeff knew the difference between an op-ed space and newswire writing, and I think VT falls into the former. Maybe Scott falls a little more into the Robin Leach category, where a writer is basically writing the story as their contacts want it to be told. So long as I'm aware of his own biases, namely his FSE job, I don't have a huge problem with it.

But again, I was introduced while he was still a HET employee and made no bones about it. POV didn't hide the fact that it was a blog from the minds at Harrah's, and maybe Vital Vegas should have a space in the layout for the same. "This blog is owned by Scott R, an employee of FSE" or whatever.

Of course, the one word I get wrong AND autocorrect lets through in the above touchscreen novella is a typo of Chuck's name.

@minvegas When Tim Hundy gave Scott a Journalism 101 on the Facebook, Scott replied:

"I guess a case could be made it should be mentioned in every post. I think that would be sort of annoying and repetitive."

Disclosure, honesty, transparency, ethics and integrity "is sort of annoying and repetitive."

I can certainly understand why it might be annoying and repetitive, he's got a helluva lot of conflicts.

Another thing to mention in regards to Google Ads is that there is a lot of targeted ads based on the sites a person visits. For example, one of the ads I'm seeing right now is for T-Mobile, who happens to be my cell provider. Here. I've seen ads for Hulu Plus, Think Geek, Lowe's as well as for car dealerships in my area. All of these ads are because I visited those sites on my computer. I'll go to a non-Vegas site and see ads for The Cosmopolitan and other casinos in Las Vegas.

^ Well that explains all the ads for lubrication that keep showing up here.

I constantly get ads for Snickers on VT. What the fuck, Chuck?

When did you sell your soul to Mars Incorporated, huh.

@keith, if anybody really cared about any of your disclosures, do you think that they'd be okay to know that you run a "cell phone blog" that covers every cell phone company even though you actually work for one of the companies?
Why is this so hard for you to understand?

Really? Years of super positive comments and compliments and and now i'm not being civil? Ok, my apologies, please remove my post. Perhaps I went a little too far, but if you saw the fb posts that he commented on you might tend to agree with me. Bummer...

@dorian your thoughts are valid, which is why i didn't (and won't) delete your comment. my intention is to prevent a pile on. you are in the clear.

Quite honestly I don't care for Scott's blog, the fake stories and trying to hard to be funny stuff bugs me. But, to go after him because his girlfriend compared VIMFP to a circle jerk? That isn't right..... I listen to Vegas Gang mostly because of the knowledge Dr. Dave brings to the table, and I listen to fivehundy because Tim and Michele have a great chemistry and share a lot of information...... But, when it comes right down to it the majority of ORIGINAL content comes from the review journal and Vegas Chatter. Vegas Tripping is no longer relevant. Maybe it can be once again, but it will takes some effort. I am sure it is difficult filtering out PR BS in a town that is run by the casinos and their PR departments that can cut off info to people that don't drink the Kool-Aid. BTW, what was Maria's circle jerk comment that got Chuck's panties all twisted?

@domeboy It goes well beyond the "circle jerk" comment. Why do you even care since this site is "no longer relevant" in your highly respected opinion? Go post on the content farm and stolen content that is Vegas Chatter........

@domeboy once the rest of the readers deem us irrelevant, we'll stop doing what we're doing. cause we (collectively) bust our ass to produce quality content here that is above the same shit that's shoveled at chatter and the local news rags. and I have first hand experience with that bullshit. the RJ quoted me in the article for Aria's opening. I was second below Murren quoted in the article. I articulated to the reporter why I was excited for the architecture and design that had gone into CityCenter. he chose to use a one liner about me finding a Crazy 4 table to sit at instead. original maybe, but relevant my puckered asshole.

its honestly people like you that make some of us here want to go away and stop writing because no matter how hard we try, you're truly pleased more by the excess that flows into the drain than the gems people mine for that far outshine the rest of the trash. if you don't like us, don't read us. end of story.

oh, and if your family got together for a reunion, and a friend seriously called it out as a "circle jerk" amongst those who come together because they love, value, and enjoy each other's company, wouldn't you be a bit pissed too?

The basic point still is you cannot be objective dealing with a subject/place/business if your major source of income is derived from the place you are talking about. It violates the very principle of journalistic behaviour and like it or not blogs are now considered part of the fourth estate. As for the 'circle jerk' comment it shows a lack of class in so many ways.

I stand corrected. I was out of line with the no longer relevant charge; I was just a little pissed that it appeared the website was being used to personally attack Scott Roeben. I am still not convinced there was not some of that going on, but the ethical question still is very serious and true. I think at this point, Shill Scott can only be excused if he totally discloses his affiliation on the home page of his blog, and volunteers to be pivot man at VIMFP. Sorry for any disrespect.

Interesting discussion, and it's probably flamed out a bit (in a good way) but I have to chime in. Vegaschatter is a preference, really? I'd rather read rewritten PR notices (oh wait there's a site for that too).

Credibility and integrity is one of those things, that in my opinion, isn't noticed by the average person, by the time they realize it isn't there or there are issues with it, it's fairly easy to just rationalize it away. I understand the thought process that there is nothing wrong with it when it comes to a blog, but I disagree that it matters little.

In my opinion the reasons that we tend to enjoy content from FiveHundy, VT, Jeff Simpson, Dr. Dave, and Ratevegas, is because of that credibility and integrity. Without it, I don't think you'd find the passion of the fan base. I think most take it for granted though.

In today's world we've gotten further away from standards for credibility and/or integrity when it comes to writing and ultimately we all suffer a bit for it.





I never comment on but often read the VT stuff...until today. This post was scintillating. I'd been wondering about Drunk Scott's presence (or lack thereof) on Five Hundy's podcasts and found it odd we hadn't heard from him in awhile. And then as I read this I thought that I'd just gander at Vital Vegas and see if anything presented itself...and I have to say, the tone of the "12 Things Most People Don't Know about SLS Las Vegas" article is more PR than casual observer. While there are hints of Scott's humor in there, it reads as a "sell" piece to me. The VV banner says "Essential Las Vegas News..." so there is a purportion of journalism.

As I read more and more of the posts at VV, I couldn't help but see the need to disclose the evident bias. Celebrate the obnoxious large slot machine zip line as we lambast the (admittedly) ridiculous Veracruz show whereas in truth the unnecessarily flamboyant and kitschy rating on either has got to be near the same...but one is from FSE and one not.

For me, not disclosing conflicts just makes me more aware of them. I've always thought it was a dangerous venture to be a blogger and a marketing employee for conflicting entities...this just seems to have brought it to the surface.

I am curious about that comment made by Maria though...why would anyone say that? Seems poor behavior for a PR "professional". All I can say is I hope the best for everyone...after all, Vegas.

I don't know enough (or really care to, honestly) about this guy Scott's background or if he's even relevant to anyone himself. But I wanted to throw in why I visit Vegaschatter. The actual articles are clearly not very good, I basically use it as a pseudo-RSS collated headline alert system. In other words..I visit it because it's updated pretty regularly with news bits, and if the headline is interesting enough I'll hit up Google News to find the real source written by a real writer. Basically the only thing it has going for it is that it's updated regularly. I know Vegas Sun has their own gaming section, but I've found that lacking in staying up to date. I'd been out of the Vegas news loop for a couple years up until very recently (no prospects of visiting up until recently, and it's depressing reading about Vegas when you can't visit Vegas), so that's been my makeshift go-to news strategy, if you can even call it that.

I dig Vegastripping for the unsurpassed room reviews mostly. Also Chuck's writing is pretty great.

One thing I wanted to ask though is about VIMPF and the prominent D association. Couldn't that not be seen as playing favorites? Or is this more about the lack of disclosure? It's just a little head-scratching that Chuck is being so vigilant here, yet I'm assuming VIMPF is heavily subsidized by a hotel people would assume would be covered as impartially as any other property.

Jumping in wayyyy late to this discussion. Not much more to say about the blending of PR and journalism that hasn't already been said in this thread. Fascinating stuff.

Hopping onto Hank's last comment above, however -- I do think the relationship among VegasGang / VT / FHBM and The D is a bit troubling. Chuck, Hunter, Tim & Michele, et al are pretty obviously now personal friends with Derek Stevens, and that's slightly concerning. I know this topic has been beaten to death in the past, on both Five Hundy and on VT when it comes to the Trippies.

Still, from an objectivity standpoint, I would have liked to see VIMFP hosted somewhere other than The D this year. (And no, not at the Golden Gate either.) There's a little bit of a danger to at least the perception of objectivity if The D becomes the more-or-less permanent home of VIMFP.

I'm not saying that will happen -- it's only been two years, after all -- but a sort of "rotation," where no one could excuse the Mafia of playing favorites, might be a good idea.

Having said that, I also realize that there are dollars and cents at play here, and if Derek and The D are offering VIMFP attendees the most bang for their buck, I understand that's hard to turn down. (Full disclosure: I've never attended VIMFP, though I'd love to.)

To address some of the above comments as people have brought this up on other parts of the interwebs as well...

Derek Stevens is the first casino owner/operator to 100% embrace the fanatically independent bloggers and podcasters that are this site, FiveHundy and VegasGang, respectfully. We can't pretend to be independent and based out of a spare bedroom and then, behind the scenes, tell PR that we're actually backed by a major travel magazine you've definitely heard of and subsequently, get the keys to a casino's kingdom.

VIMFP attendees are not your regular downtown patrons. We dine at Andiamo and have breakfast at DuPar's - once late at night to ward off a hangover and again in the "morning" whenever that actually may be. We drink Longbar dry. We fill the host hotel, but we stay in suites. And when we take over a craps table, you can see the pit sweat because they don't usually get the action we put down. Consequently, our readers and listeners get to see who's on the forefront of downtown's resurgence and are vocal about it. Mr. Stevens took a risk on us and I'd say just from an outsider's perspective, it's paid off.

That said, when my room at Golden Gate, which I'm paying over $500 for that weekend, isn't up to snuff, I will be taking an enormous VT-style shit on it.

To add to MikeE's comment, the first two editions of #VIMFP were held at Caesars properties and there was a lot of chintzy stuff that the folks there tried to pull on Chuck and Hunter. To Caesars Entertainment, the VIMFP attendees were no different than any other group getting together at one of their properties. They really didn't go out of their way with the attendees and The D has really gone above and beyond what was expected. In 2012, there originally weren't any plans for stuff going on after the Main Event on Saturday afternoon. Then on Thursday, The D extended an invite to the VIMFP attendees to come down on Saturday night for the Bret Michaels concert and hang out in the VIP section in front of the stage (A few of us were already planning to go anyway as we had won VIP passes via Twitter.). That left a very positive impression on the group that saw them win some Trippies their first time out of the gate. I made an offhand comment on the FHBM FB page right after VIMFP that after the love The D showed the group, that it ought to be held there the following year. Little did I know it would actually happen. The bar got raised significantly last year and there were briefly rumors that VIMFP would take a year off because topping it would be tough. The number of reader awards The D got this year for the Trippies is the result of the efforts put forth by the ownership and staff of The D. The D is also one of the few properties to promote those wins extensively (A few put mentions on their websites and their marquees, but The D took out print ads.).

I understand The D has been a great host for you guys, but that doesn't really explain what smacks as a double standard when journalistic integrity is harped upon. I think it's just more obvious when an article like this is written, meanwhile VIMFP hosted by the D is promoted nearly throughout the entire year, with its logo as the graphical focal point nonetheless. It's a bit wanting to have it both ways.

I don't consider VT a strict news site, so I don't expect pure impartiality, but wanting to act as a bit of a watchdog for potential impropriety doesn't really play all that well if you're going to be accepting sponsorship/subsidization/gifts/whatever from a property you also cover.

Totally understand why hosting VIMFP at the D is a good deal for both the Mafia and The D. Makes logical sense, and makes the event that much better for the attendees. I get that. However, does the relationship make me look a little more closely at reviews / articles about the D on FHBM, VGang, and this site? Absolutely.

I don't expect pure and total objectivity from any of these outlets. The line between "journalism" and "entertainment" (as Homer Simpson would call it, "infotainment") is blurrier than ever. But I don't expect VegasTripping (or Vital Vegas!) to be the NYTimes, or even the Review-Journal. Different tone, different audience, and you guys have to build these personal relationships (with Derek Stevens, with Seth Schorr, with whoever) to gain your access. Totally get it, support it, and love it.

But in the end, what Scott does at VV really isn't all that different, and I think that's why I have a bit of an issue with the tone and content of this post.

I might lose my Chuckmonster Noogies at VIMFP for saying this, but I have two filthy confessions...

1) I actually like VegasChatter somewhat? Like,they were the only site also on Luxor's No Photos Anywhere policy when I was doing Strip Walk and, like their people, becoming grumpy that casinos were becoming none too kind to the Construction Wall Report style of updates. And their initial review of Picnic, where they found a whole bunch of kids and then two lesbians performing a sex act in the pool, was one of the most amusingly bizarre Vegas blog stories I've read.

I get they stole an exclusive from VT or five Hundy or something, but I barely noticed. All at once it was like the people I hang out with started dumping on another site I read and found useful. It was sort of odd. But I'm also sort of a satellite member of the community these days, so I roll with it.

2) I'll confess the amount of D-Sucking since Trippies is tiring. And yeah, I just really wanted to use that phrase. :v Devoting the entire food section as a love letter to Andiamo's after like what, one or two visits? I chalk it up to early enthusiasm, but then I also started noticing the Stevens's being close to people in this sphere in social media.

I know VT knows to disclose if they were comped, so I don't have any problem there. But you don't get to play "they catered to our niche, we're just showing the love back" and complain about people who get PR freebies. They are also getting catered, the difference being that your perks come from the executive suite instead of the PR department.

I don't complain TOO highly (I once basically called y'all sellouts on Facebook before deleting the post) because I know that in any fan community connections happen. Film critics become friends with certain directors. Business writers become friends with someone at a major company. And yeah, sometimes a guy who writes about things in town dates a PR person.

And that's why I've probably been so defensive about Scott in these comments. Chuck's concern is at least partially well placed, but his headline and opener ignore the basic premise that we don't deserve to know who is sleeping with who, in the most literal sense. That it is none of our goddamn business. It's almost TMZ-esque to open on that. And it makes it feel like this journalistic ethics talk is really just lashing out at someone who didn't like VIMFP.

The reason I wasn't totally turned off is yeah, there is a point in Vital Vegas really needs to have a disclosure box somewhere in its design (sidebar, footer, wherever) that discloses where he works. Even if it's just "this website operated by Scott R, an employee of FSE. The works here are not the opinions of FSE LLC" or something like that.

Anyway, you guys are a great group still, but that vent had been waiting in the wings for months.

I'm glad someone asked about VIMFP, it is a valid question and one I'm happy to discuss. Regarding FHBM and the Vegas Gang, I cannot speak for them as those organizations are run independently by other human beings. I can speak on behalf of the event known as VIMFP as I am half of the organizational team that mounts it (with Hunter).

Conflicts of interest are inevitable. Local Las Vegas TV reporter Jon Humbert did a story on my response to the nastygram Wynn Resorts sent us five years or so ago. At the conclusion of his televised report, he disclosed that his wife worked for Wynn Public Relations. His interests were conflicted and he disclosed them. Hooray for you, as you now know there is a relationship and can make your own decisions based on the disclosure. Two months ago, I posted a poll about whether or not Derek should buy the rest of the Riviera, there is little to no editorial content contained in the poll description yet I disclosed the VIMFP relationship in there anyways. Hooray for you, you know there is a relationship and can now make your own decisions based on the disclosure.

The point is to disclose conflicts transparently or recuse yourself from situations where the conflict may be too great. There are dozens of D & Golden Gate news stories, visits and reviews I didn't post this year because I recused myself from writing about them. Hooray for you, I quietly did the right thing.

When you can't impeach the message, impeach the messenger. Questions about journalistic integrity should be directed towards the dude who is actively playing both sides of the fence as PR agent for nine Las Vegas casinos and an objective publisher of "essential news" about the casinos owned by his employers. In the real world they call this propaganda, I welcome you to enjoy it.

I guess my point is that I don't really care about this guy, he doesn't seem like a guy I would like to hang out with (that's about as civilly as I can put it). But I respect your writing and commentary and analysis Chuck, but the heavy association with the D makes me wonder if you found a pube like you did in the Flamingo review whether it would be something you'd highlight as much as you did in that review. The pube test, if you will. Or furniture scuffs..maybe that's a better example since it's something that would be a lot easier to justify not including. It's human nature to not want to bite a hand that sometimes feeds you, so I don't mean to intimate anything actively nefarious.

And you're right, the relationship you and the rest of the gang have with Derek is well noted, and I will make my decision on whether I can fully take a review or a news story at face value. But, that's something I never had to do before at VT and it kind of sucks. The independent irreverence is what made me a regular visitor way back when, and there's one part of Vegas where I'll have to consider that nonexistent now.

Sorry, had to go back and double check, it was Mirage that had the pube. Same point though.

What's the lesson here? Clean those stray pubes yourself, before you check out.

This is the kind of thing that probably merits a VIMFP week discussion, but I guess I'll just ask: what kind "journalistic integrity" do you expect? You aren't Time, and you aren't The Economist. You're Car & Driver, Good Housekeeping, etc. You're T+L and Conde Nast, though you aspire to do a better job than them covering this town's particular niche visitor, natch.

You're covering travel. That's one of those sections of the newspaper, along with autos and real estate, where newspapers that report wars and police corruption throw their standards out the window and talk up the positives of every hotel, every cruise, every test drive is wonderful. That's why I said you hope to do better, because the USA Today travel page doesn't talk about bathroom pubes.

@Hank I remember when Cosmo opened a few years ago, there were folks that posted similar concerns because of all of the positive content posted here in the lead up to the opening. Cut to opening night and the shitshow that followed. There weren't too many nice things said about the place as a result.

http://www.vegastripping.com/news/blog/3784/the-cosmopolitan-hotel-fiasco/
http://www.vegastripping.com/features/feature.php?feature_id=216&page=1
http://www.vegastripping.com/news/blog/3904/the-cosmopolitan-hotel-fiasco-two-months-later/
http://www.vegastripping.com/features/feature.php?feature_id=223&page=1

There has been some content in regards to The D that was not entirely positive. Last year, Misnomer was staying at The D and was given a room someone else was already staying in (Which was briefly covered in his review of one of The D Suites.).

http://www.vegastripping.com/features/feature.php?feature_id=242&page=1

I know not everyone here is on Facebook, but over on the FHBM FB group, there have been discussions regarding less than positive experiences at The D. Of course a few folks have had to get in a snide comment or two regarding Tim and Michele's relationship with Derek and Nicole. Sure, the less than positive reports could have easily been deleted from the page, but much like here on VT, such comments aren't censored.

@Vespa But that kind of proves my point. The Cosmo has never hosted VIMFP (as far as I know), and Chuck paid for those rooms out of pocket both times. Deep down I truly don't think the snark or biting commentary on a new hotel's hiccups would have flowed freely to that degree had similar issues arisen at the D.

I'm not looking to make this a huge thing..and I have no interest in getting into the whole FB scene or who are personal friends with whom, but I think if I've made a fairly obvious observation like the seemingly cozy relationship this site has had with the D that many readers/lurkers have as well but probably haven't said anything. I mean, the hotel's logo takes up nearly half the above-the-fold front page.

Also I wanted to point out that I don't think the google ads advertising point has any sort of play here. Newspapers and magazines have had ads since their inception. That's certainly part of the whole deal and has been generally accepted for decades. However..if The Verge (random example.. fill in the blanks yourselves) had their heavily promoted annual big bash sponsored by Apple, I think a lot of eyebrows would be raised and coverage of Apple's products would be looked at with a substantial amount of skepticism that we're getting the story warts and all.

And one more point, I think what Five Hundy does is clearly different. They're coming from the point of view as frequent tourists for the most part. Theirs is a much more casual form of coverage than what VT has been. Chuck is known for his hard hitting commentary and in-depth reviews. Tim & Michelle will sometimes rant, but it's clearly of a more free-form, spontaneous nature.

- - - just a note... keith2428 asked to have his account deleted, thus the weird gaps and missing parts of the discussion where his comments used to be - - -

Hank, I'm going to have to disagree a bit, I think many people forget that a large part of this and fivehundy's group (through facebook page) is a forum. A lot of the love for the places is typically posted by members (which we could also argue that VIMFP is really about catering to the readers, not the host, but that's another discussion).

In any review that's happened since the D hosted things or when Caesars hosted vimfp, I'm pretty sure there has always been a disclaimer at the top of the page or in the article stating the association.

As has been pointd out, conflicts of interest happen, they are inevitable, as Chuck pointed out when you are working for someone and then putting out 'news' that's really called propaganda.

Its unfortunate that keith went that way. Discourse and discussion is always welcome in a civilized way. I hope there wasn't anything negative thrown upon him.

I want to clarify that I really do love this site and have for many years. I don't think Chuck is a dishonest person at all and, while I stand by my main points, I hope my comments didn't allude to that.

If anything, Chuck can probably be seen as being more honest than most, causing this discourse due to his transparency where others aren't quite as transparent. That's a good thing in the end.

Somehow, the recent events around the NFL has brought me back to this discussion. As a big NFL fan, I will tell you that I, (along with countless others), will continue to watch my favorite team each and every week despite my opinion that the owners and their Commissioner are at least hypocrites, if not absolute liars who have pimped the game out on so many levels.
I am also a big Las Vegas fan. Vegas has me. I am her bitch and that will never change regardless of how many other casinos are built around the rest of the country or world for that matter. That is because of brand loyalty, similar to the hold that the NFL has on its fan base. The spirit, culture, and history of Las Vegas has given the current operators a leg up on people like me. That’s why this site and others are important to my Las Vegas experience. I now know how to find people who can call BS when they see it as it relates to Las Vegas. For me, that’s what makes this exercise in journalistic credibility important. It’s not personal, it’s just important to know who is working for who when it comes to reporting anything.
Hope to see everyone at VIMFP.

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