Modern technology is great. It’s brought us smartphones, a fine and growing corpus of funny cat videos, and augmented-reality computer glasses from the future so we can, I don’t know, tweet with our eyes or something. Okay, to be fair, technology has also made for sweeping improvements in science, health, industry and — my pet interest as a journalist and editor — communication. I’m particularly fascinated by how the ever-spreading shoots and tendrils of the Internet have tugged the Pringles lid off our brains, revealing what often strikes me as an instinctive, obsessive need to express … well, anything and everything. Give us a platform — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp — and we’ll fill it. Size doesn’t matter. Snip out a custom void — six seconds of Vine, a self-destructing Snapchat pic — and we’ll happily howl into it. Today’s Internet reveals, over and over, what primal communicators we’ve always been.
Now, crowdsourcing hunks of our personal lives is fun and useful, but I probably wouldn’t, oh, say, tap the restless hive mind of my social media circles on how to perform emergency open-heart surgery (sorry, Facebook friends). It’s just not a good idea for some things. And while determining where to get the best slice of pizza isn’t necessarily a life or death question (though you have to admit, it’s pretty close, I mean, come on: pizza!), sometimes it’s best to rely on those in the know. But in a sleek, fast, flat world where the populist roar trumps the lone voice of the expert — where we drag life’s questions to Quora and graze Yelp for dinner recommendations — who do we trust? Everybody, which is to say nobody in particular. Maybe we’re living in the twilight of the expert.
Before I make a dubiously glib transition into the standard curtain-raising plug for our fourth annual Best of the City issue — driven by the brainpower and enthusiasm of our expert lovers of all things Las Vegas — I should point out that our collective embrace of the wisdom of the crowd is not without it seams and shadows. There’s weird local action afoot: Witness the methodical hollowing out of the Review-Journal at the hands of a new slash-happy CEO; the shuttering of alt-weekly CityLife (startup incubator for yours truly), a longtime font of uncompromised reporting and edifying snark; and the cloudy future of the Pulitzer-winning Las Vegas Sun as factions seek to yank the plug on its life support. That means fewer reporters, fewer editors, which means what? Reporters are our specialists, snipers, intrepid moles; editors are our tribal elders, sentinels, human hard drives loaded with institutional memory. When you consider what stories about Southern Nevada won’t be told as this great thinning plays out, yeah, you start to see the value of experts. (Silver lining moment: Amid this slow deflation of local print media, Desert Companion has been fortunate enough to make some modest expansions; we welcome new staff writer Heidi Kyser, who’ll help us continue to bring you untold Southern Nevada stories and in-depth features that probe beyond the vanilla churn of the news cycle.)
Now for that dubious transition: Our fourth annual Best of the City (p. 49) taps just such expertise from our longtime contributors whose job it is to love Las Vegas — its culture, its cuisine, its shops and leisure spaces, from the gritty urbs to the shiny ’burbs. Of course, we value your opinion, too (you’re no madding crowd!), and we highlight your most passionate picks for your personal bests in our eye-popping readers’ survey outtakes (p. 61). Whether you’re looking for the most outrageously umamilicious burger or the best park for letting the kids go feral for a while, we’ve got expert answers. The wisdom of our crowd? Like!