Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Review-Journal's #6 local story of 2009

"Throughout the paper today you'll find our annual Top 10 lists --
top news, top sports, top business and entertainment.
It is that time of year. Time to reflect on the past
and contemplate its lessons for the coming New Year."
--Thomas Mitchell, Las Vegas Review-Journal editor

Around a week before the end of every year, newspapers fill space left vacant by vacationing reporters with the year's Top 10 lists, ranging from notable deaths to top stories-- lists almost always written even farther in advance of the end of the year, and always missing some major passing or event that takes place in the weeks after the space-filler was written.

The Las Vegas-Review Journal is no exception. This morning's Sunday edition would have gone directly into the fireplace, if not for a bizarre anomaly among its list of the Top 10 Local Stories of 2009: The #6 story is one they barely covered and never investigated!



"Impressionist Danny Gans had been a fixture on Las Vegas marquees for more than a decade when his wife found him unconscious and not breathing in their bed in the early morning hours of May 1.

"Despite the efforts of his wife and paramedics to revive him, the 52-year-old never regained consciousness.

"Entertainers and fans mourned Gans, who had just begun a run at Encore after eight years at The Mirage, while medical examiners tried to determine what killed the star.

"Five weeks later, the coroner's office blamed the accidental death on a combination of heart and blood diseases along with a powerful prescription painkiller used to treat chronic pain, hydromorphone. Gans had battled a painful chronic shoulder injury that required surgery five months earlier.

Odd that editor and McCloud impersonator Thomas Mitchell, (who doffed his Stetson in respect to the holidays and womenfolk for this edition) would choose for the Top 10 a story that his rootin' tootin' team avoided covering or investigating in such a deliberate and embarrassing manner. The paper's obvious complicity in a coverup was even made public when the Review-Journal's publisher, Stephens Media, made a deal with Gans' family within a week of the local superstar's death to publish his autobiography!

Odd as well that "The King of Pop"-- the death of Michael Jackson --would rank two slots above Gans' death on the list. Not only was Jacko's passing an international story, but the initial coverage in the hours and days after he died showed how good, hardworking journos can investigate and answer questions about a celebrity's (and in Gans' case, business and religious leader) unexplained death without having to wait for a coroner to sort out the official story-- in direct contrast to the lax coverage of Gans' death led by Mitchell and his crew.

In the Las Vegas media, the Danny Gans story was the great unexplored story of 2009, and for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, whose publisher Stephens Media made a deal with Gans' family days after the tragedy to publish his autobiography, the great conflict of interest and missed opportunity.

From the morning Gans' death was announced by his manager Chip Lightman and boss Steve Wynn, the Review-Journal (and other local media outlets) remained at a distance from the story, as if the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy, athletic, prominent Born Again Christian family man who was a decade-long major economic force and most unique Vegas showman was somehow a private matter that did not even warrant a chat with the responding paramedics.

Just click here and peruse the past seven months of Tabloid Baby coverage to get an idea of the Review-Journal and cowboy editor Thomas Mitchell's crimes of omission.

So why would it make the Top 10?

And then we get to that problem of compiling Top 10 lists while there are still weeks left in the year, because the Review-Journal's neat encapsulation of the story misses the latest, explosive chapter: Lightman's recent interview, in the "competing" Las Vegas Sun, in which he contradicts the official timeline of what occurred on the morning of May 1st and opens the door to the possibility of a new inquest and investigation.

It was a timeline that the Review-Journal took at face value. It will be interesting to see whether the journalists at the paper will follow this latest lead, or if the Review-Journal is even in business to compile next yar's Top 10 list.

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