USA Today: We Built This City on Tired Cliches

This morning, USA Today posted a Jon Swartz story on Zappos’move to, and the revitalization of, downtown. If you’ve read any other story on the subject (or simply stuck your head inside the Beat for five minutes or so), you know what it says: Tony Hsieh is investing a chunk of money, a bunch of startups are moving into the Ogden, etc.

The things that interest us about Swartz’s story are the things we didn’t know. We didn’t know that Commonwealth, the bar now under construction at Sixth and Fremont, is really a restaurant—and our parent company, Wendoh Media, is the one building it. We didn’t know that the Ogden is
“one of the neighborhood’s only luxury high-rise condo buildings (sic).” To be fair, it is the only one … besides Juhl, Soho and the Newport.

We didn’t know that the only new businesses in downtown are Le Thai, Tech Cocktail, Coterie and The Smith Center. (Why did the USA Today writer cross the street? Answer: He didn’t, and apparently missed Emergency Arts, Insert Coin(s), Downtown Cocktail Room, Artifice, Bar + Bistro, Corner Store…) We didn’t know that Las Vegas is “not a logical destination for tech start-ups” and a place that only “gets its place in the sun” with the Consumer Electronics Show; thank goodness we have Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association, to tell us these things.

Also: We didn’t know that it gets hot here in the summertime. We didn’t know that Bugsy Siegel “helped put (this) desert outpost on the map in the 1940s.” And we didn’t know that any new venture in a town known for gaming “qualifies as a big bet.”

Parachute writing on Las Vegas is usually fraught with such clichés and half-accuracies, and sometimes we forgive them if the tone of the article is sufficiently positive. Swartz’s USA Today article is positive, and it makes Hsieh look great—but for all the legwork Swartz put into it (he even got a quote out of Edward Glaeser, whose book Triumph of the City is a Zappos/Downtown Project bible), it’s kind of a shame that his accounting of the new downtown Las Vegas is built on the framework of the many clueless Vegas stories that came before it. Coming up next week in USA Today: Boston has beans, and Los Angeles gets into other industries besides film.