Remember last week’s item about Steve Friess‘s highly nuanced opinion of Winner Takes All, a history of the conglomeratization of Las Vegas? Friess told one group of readers the book was “marred by some mistakes,” but for another audience, he said it was “rife with factual mistakes.” Friess says he needed the space to fully express himself, and you can take him at his word, but it turns out there was a fundamental question that should have been raised at the beginning: Are there really any mistakes in the book? Or at least any major ones?
Soon after the first of Friess’s reviews of Winner Takes All ran in USA Today, author Christina Binkley emailed FishbowlNY to say “his list of purported errors are themselves largely erroneous, misleading, or his own theories.” Noah Davis passed the message on to me, and I called the WSJ columnist at her home office in Los Angeles yesterday to find out more.
“I don’t want to blow this up into a brouhaha,” she said over the phone. “It’s not a big book. But it’s my book, and he’s putting out information about who I talked to and didn’t talk to for it that’s completely wrong.” In the USA Today review, Friess claims that Binkley got no face-time with Terry Lanni, the CEO of the MGM Mirage. “Lanni spoke to me many times,” she counters, including conversations that took place in his office,” [and] I’m still trying to get Friess to correct that.” Given how often she directly quotes Lanni, she explained, the false allegation about the nature of their interviews undermines the book’s credibility in the public eye.
As for the other errors, “you can argue trivia about Vegas into the night,” she says, and the “errors” he picks apart are tangential at best to the main narrative drive of her book. “Whether it took ten seconds of twenty-seven seconds for the Sands to implode, for example—and I don’t think YouTube is the place to go for the definitive answer on that.” He did find one typo; impressionist Danny Gans’s name is misspelled once as Ganz, “Of course I regret that, and I want to get it fixed in the next printing,” she says, but, she adds, Friess makes it sound as if she got the name wrong throughout the book. “The nasty, blog-like style of these reviews bothers me,” she concludes. “The Drudge-like mudslinging is just ugly.”
On that note, Friess got another column out of the Binkley book this week, calling up the corporate bigwigs portrayed in Winner Takes All to see what they thought of her reporting. (Surprisingly, they take issue, with Steve Wynn describing the book as “the work of someone who is writing what is passed off as a factual, historical account, but it’s gussied up… shamelessly.”) And then, after a few more attacks on her credibility and her capacity to understand the recent history of Vegas, Friess claims he’s going to let the matter drop, and you can almost feel the waves of magnanimity he’s trying to project. On his blog, though, when he says he’s written “my last words on Binkley’s book,” he immediately backtracks: “Probably. You never know.”