John L. Smith talks with Nevada Public Radio's Dave Becker about being on the same wall as Mark Twain and legendary journalist Ned Day; his interest in a Black Mountain Institute panel event later this week, and plans to cover the Global Gaming Expo, which is being held in Las Vegas.
On being part of the newspaper hall of fame:
At least, on one small wall in Carson City, I am in the company of Mark Twain and Ned Day and Hank Greenspun and the whole gang.
It was a very proud moment for me. So, if I'm mowing lawns door to door in the next few weeks, have pity on me and hire me.
What was the ceremony experience like?
When it comes to journalists, we like to pat ourselves on the back because no one else will.
What I took away from it was a really amazing, really heartening feeling, a really wonderful energy, not just from some of the established old horses that they're putting out to pasture - I'm from that generation now - but there was this incredible energy from young reporters there. A lot of award winners and they were excited about that for sure, but the stories they were producing and the time and effort they were putting in really gave me an optimistic sense that despite all the talk about newspapers fading and faltering, that at some medium, whether it's newspaper or website or what have you, that there is a lot of good work going on in Nevada.
I was really proud to be part of that.
On what that energy from the young reporters says about the newspaper industry:
You're hearing complaints from people about the newspaper business from people who don't read the newspaper. That's a shame.
Whether they're getting their news from a different medium or whatever it is the bottom line is for all of its failings and faults - we could devote an hour to some of that - there is a lot of good work being done as well.
It was exciting to see the young reporters not just happy to win their award but happy to strut their stuff with their exposes and with a lot of that stuff that holds government to account, focusing on big business, focusing on different offenders from different groups.
It's really what our job is all about.
It features not just best selling authors such as William Vollman and Jonathan Gottschall, really, really quality writers, but people who have spent a lot of time and who have a lot of insight into the issue and essence of violence in America and some of the things that contribute to it. What is biological? What is social? Where are those things at crossroads.
It's really going to be worth your time.
On the Global Gaming Expo:
It's a reminder of how big the industry really is. When you go there, it is a city within a city. It is just brimming with creators of games and of course the casino executive crowd.
A lot of big issues this week. I'll be focused on sports betting.
There is one section that is devoted to product. And there is another section that is devoted to the issues and so you get folks coming in from all over the country and indeed from all over the world to listen to a wide range of speakers.
On the demise of Albert "Mokey" Faccinto :
He really represented the whole arch of gaming in America. He started in Steubenville, which sounds like a dusty down in Ohio, but it really was a major center.
All the backroom gamblers had a stop in Steubenville and some lived to tell the tale. You have him growing up really cutting his teeth on those card games and dice games.
And like a whole generation of guys who were in the gambling business when it was not licensed - as in illegal - he moved to Las Vegas. When he got here, Las Vegas was in its golden era, which was at times controversial.
And Faccinto was a major player. He came through Jackie Gaughan's El Cortez just like anyone who is anyone worked for the great Jackie Gaughan. He wound up as a major player at Caesars Palace at time when Caesars really did, for its generation, what Steve Wynn's Mirage did for the next generation and that was define the Vegas Experience, the class and character and magic of it all.
This is a guy who knew the business. That's what's interesting about that generation. They really, really understood gaming. They may not have always understood the nuisances of marketing, but the fact is he knew the business from the carpet to the penthouse.
As a special treat for fans of John L. Smith, we coaxed him into reading one of his best-known columns from his career at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
This column telling the story of Eddie Simms ran on October 18, 1995, and it drew the attention of James J. Kilpatrick, who in his syndicated newspaper column wrote: "Readers of Smith’s column could see the old man reminiscing of the time he took a punch from Joe Louis. Smith let us smell the smoky arenas of the 1930s. We could hear Simms playing his accordion for old friends. Here was a writer at work.”
The book in which this essay is contained, "On the Boulevard: The Best of John L. Smith," is still in print thanks to Huntington Press.
John L. Smith, commentator
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