A little town in the eyes of the big city guys

One of the major differences between Las Vegas and Reno has always been found in the media – or not found in the media as the case may be.  Las Vegas has found its way into the national and international media for 60 years with a regularity that belies its size and economic importance.  Reno on the other hand rarely makes the cut with editors, even when a Reno story gets picked up by a wire service, it does not often find its way on to the pages of many newspapers, no public interest, no entertainment value and no potential to sell more newspapers; Reno is just plain boring.

The Las Vegas stories have always had more sex, glamor, excitement and more titillation; so even when a reporter was berating Las Vegas for its lack of morals or common decency, there was usually a little twist, innuendo that made the story intriguing to the average reader.  Las Vegas helps sell newspapers, Reno does not – Vegas excites, Reno bores.   And why not? Reno is a small town that grew up around a river, ranching,  railroads, divorce and it had some casinos; but when the famous divorcees quit coming to Reno, so did the newspaper reporters.  Las Vegas is a monster and a monstrosity in a desert wonderland, it is important enough for the president of the United States to include it in a policy speech.  People go to Las Vegas; federal and state officials go to Las Vegas for conventions; famous and rich athletes and movie stars go to Las Vegas to be seen and to spend and display some of their wealth; businessmen with disposal cash and girlfriends go to Las Vegas to play; and everyone who goes to Las Vegas depends on the city to keep their secret: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

A long, time ago in the 1930s and 40s famous and rich people, movies stars and socialites went to Reno, but to lose a husband or a wife rather than to play in the casinos.  Since then only ordinary people have come to Reno – just common people who liked to get away from home for a weekend and gamble a little.  Poor Reno – but then, no one really noticed Reno’s fate – the nation watched Vegas, but ignored Reno. There are exceptions to the ignoring of Reno; 10 or 15 years ago the Wall Street Journal sent a reporter to gather information on Reno; the conclusion was brutal – Reno is about the worse place in the country to do business – the reason?  The city council – the Journal found the council so dysfunctional that no project could ever get done there – no bank would risk putting money into Reno.  Then there was a national story about Reno and its river redevelopment – the conclusion of that story was not brutal but it was condescending – Reno was an okay little town, a nice place to float a kayak, ride a bicycle or play a nickel slot machine, but not much more.

Neither story spurred tourism, the Wall Street Journal story probably discouraged a few investors – but that is about all.  Well, this weekend Reno hit the national media jackpot again – if one could call the media attention Reno gets a jackpot.  The New York Times found Reno, I cannot image why, but it did.  Like the other two major media stories on the city, the New York Times article will not bring any customers or investors to Reno.  It does, however, paint a pretty accurate picture of the state of Reno’s downtown, the casino industry and Reno’s problem in the midst of a recession.

The Times tells its readers – here I picture the Sunday Times readers sitting, eating their breakfast, drinking coffee and listening to classical music – it tell those sophisticated New Yorkers that Reno is trying to reinvent itself after losing its once reliable gaming revenues to Indian casinos in California.  And what, those business savvy and city dwelling readers ask, is Reno doing to reinvent itself?  “Lean closer,” the writer whispers, “it is using bowling and Apple.”  Yep, that is it bowling and Apple, not an ordinary apple or the Big Apple, no it is that Apple.

The Times does not mention of the famous river with its kayaks or bicycles, no mention of a city council without a plan, just bowling and a billion dollars from Apple.  The article alludes to a “mid-town” development, but provides no details, it mentions the existence of a university, but does not tell us what part it is playing in the reinvention.  Actually, I think someone just saw an article from Reno about Apple investing a billion dollars in the town (a billion dollars may be a little number for New York, but it is a really big number for us country folk) and sent a reporter to investigate this place where Apple wants to put its money.

So what is the conclusion of the Times article – nothing so clear as in the other two stories, it really just looks at Reno – “the other Nevada city” – and describes it – sort of.   If there is a conclusion, it is in the subtext – which, if you will pardon me for taking the liberty of decoding it and my apology in advance for my errors in interpretation – the subtext of the article is a question, not a statement.  What is Apple thinking – Reno, Nevada – really?   Hey, wait a minute, we have both hot and cold water, indoor plumbing, paved streets, schools and even an orchestra.  I could even read and write by the time I was 16 years old.   Okay, I am overreacting, a little too sensitive, but what country boy, provincial, hick, if you will, likes to hear what the big city guys think about his town?


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July 2012
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