Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tabloid Baby's 2009 Journalist of The Year

Steve Friess

We had our first encounter with Steve Friess a week after the death of Danny Gans. He'd written a column in the Las Vegas Weekly explaining why the sudden, mysterious passing of the Strip superstar was not a story worth covering. We emailed him to ask why he and his fellow Vegas journos were not doing the basic legwork on what, to all appearances, was a major cultural, economic and news story.

Within minutes, he emailed back:

""Uh, because until the toxicology reports come back it would be irresponsible and inappropriate for legitimate reporters to write baseless speculation? Because a man is dead and a family is in mourning and the state of the nation is not dependent upon exacerbating their grief? Because Pulitzer Prize winning newspapers have better uses of their resources than to 'investigate' something that public documents will reveal soon enough anyway?

"I looked over what you've been 'reporting.' It's all beneath contempt. Ginning up Robin Leach's 'rumors' when the rumors he's referring to have nothing to do with Gans' death, implying an inappropriate relationship with Alicia Jacobs, attacking the local press for having a modicum of dignity and restraint on a story that will come out anyway ... I need to go take a shower now. Blech.""

Then he whipped off a blog post that referred to our editor as an "asshole" and "vermin."

And so began our relationship with the Vegas blogger, New York Times stringer, hearing-impaired music reviewer, Gay Vegas author, comp queen and concert producer that culminates in our naming Steve Friess Tabloid Baby's 2009 Journalist of The Year.

In the weeks and months to follow our first correspondence, Steve Friess made an attempt to close down our site because we ran his photo (forcing to use fascimiles), began a disinformation campaign to lead us and other journos off the track, and was revealed to have close ties to many figures in the Gans story, including Gans' boss Steve Wynn and Alicia Jacobs, the beauty queen-turned-local entertainment reporter who was Gans' close friend and the first person informed by Gans' manager of his death.

Then there was the Michael Jackson story. After writing that "Michael Jackson’s untimely death was the best thing that could ever have happened to Michael Jackson’s music," and while covering the Vegas angle of the criminal investigation into Jacko's death for The New York Times, Friess inexplicably announced that he was producing and promoting a Jacko birthday "tribute" concert at the Palms Hotel, where he and his local NBC producer husband had honeymooned.

“In Las Vegas, when left to our own devices,
we do things a little differently.”
--Steve Friess, Las Vegas Weekly

In both the Gans and Jackson cases, Friess attempted to cover his tracks with unintentionally hilarious apologias in the Las Vegas Weekly.

So why does it matter?

Steve Friess, with his tendency to hurl insults, hold grudges and get himself into local gossip columns, is not merely a Vegas combination of Perez Hilton and Louella Parsons.

He is perhaps the most powerful journalist in Las Vegas.

As a freelance correspondent for major news organizations including The New York Times and USA Today, he is the filter through which distant editors can determine whether a story in Las Vegas is worth covering. In the case of Danny Gans, Friess made it clear that the story was not worth covering. And if his relationship with Danny Gans' boss Steve Wynn, or his even closer relationship with staffers on the local NBC affiliate (including his second "husband" and their BFF Alicia Jacobs) created a conflict of interest, so be it.

Steve Friess has no qualms about swinging his conflicts of interest in public, whether it's his political activism, favoritism, foul insults or kneejerk shouts of homophobia against anyone who questions his intentions or positions.

When local Greenspun Media laid off many reporters, editors and columnist earlier this month, Steve Friess, who attends fancy openings of hotels, gets himself and his family members free admission into any show on the Strip whenever he wants, squirrels away opening night mementos and souvenirs that one day will be worth thousands on eBay, kept his job. But then again, Steve Friess, who poses as a brave, independent journalist, is the ultimate courtier to the powerful whose blogsite always displays a link to his interviews with Steve Wynn.

Read our coverage of Steve Friess here.


Anonymous said...

Steve Friess is a great choice for jorno of the year. He has all the making of a network Journo.
I am sure he would agree with NBC coverage of the Sean Goldman story.
Hiring a plane is exactly how Hard Copy would have pulled off the scoop.-Thanks---Edwin Jennison

Mike Weatherford said...

I finally figured it out. Friess IS the Tabloid Baby. It's like the ending of "Psycho" or "Fight Club." He created this self-loathing alter-ego. Creepy, but now it all makes sense.