Monday, September 18, 2006

Media on Casino's Leno

Jay Leno came and went (post-game, Saturday, September 16, 4:00 p.m., Riverside Casino & Golf Resort).

So how did local media cover it?

Placement: Not surprisingly, the Press-Citizen decided this was the most important story in the world, the U.S., Iowa, and Iowa City. It was page one, column one, top of the page. Deanna Truman-Cook, "Leno Raises Casino's Stakes; TV Host First on Event Center Stage," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 17, 2006, p. 1A -- a placement consistent with the paper's prior promotion of the gambling casino that included, among other things, a special eight-page supplement, a gushing report of the opening/s, and another cover story and center spread on Leno's appearance.

The Gazette, by contrast, put the story well inside the paper, in the "Iowa Today" section, and on page three of that section at that. Mary Sharp, "Review: Leno Brings Audience Into Act at Riverside; Even Center Packs in More than 600 to See 'Tonight Show' Host," The Gazette, September 17, 2006, p. 3B.

Content: Because I wasn't at the event, I can't judge what was, and wasn't, reported. As "reviews," both stories were interesting and worth no less than a "B-" at worst. They repeated some of his jokes, told something of Jay Leno, had quotes from audience members, and made for a good read.

News: In Nicholas Johnson, "Press-Citizen's Casino; Gazette's E-Frosty," September 14, 2006, I suggested there were some real news stories here worth pursuing.

Jay Leno is quoted as saying he thinks the $100 and $120 ticket prices "seem high" and goes on to say "but that has got nothing to do with me." Who chose that price, and why? Was it just, on this first major event, to communicate the idea that the Riverside Casino is a Vegas-type, first class establishment -- more designed to attract the poor and middle class to the slot machines than the wealthy to see Leno?

How many tickets were actually sold to audience members at that price -- as distinguished from being "purchased" in bulk to then be given away to the high rollers the Casino flew in, gave free football tickets, and entertained in the Casino's skybooth during the game? How many of those in attendance had comp tickets: investors, board members, public officials, Casino officers and employees?

Neither story addressed those questions. But both did endeavor to provide some information about the size of the crowd. The Gazette headlined that the Casino "packs in more than 600," and the story concludes that the event "drew more than 600."

This is a bit of a contrast with the Press-Citizen's report that, "Though it wasn't a sellout, the casino sold 750 tickets at $100 and $120 each. The room seats 960."

Whether "more than 600" or "750" it was a room only 2/3 to 3/4 full for what the Press-Citizen acknowledged was "one of the biggest names in comedy."

For background, see:

Nicholas Johnson, "UI Football Promoting Gambling?" September 16, 2006
Nicholas Johnson, "Press-Citizen's Casino; Gazette's E-Frosty," September 14, 2006
Nicholas Johnon, "Royal Flush," September 7, 2006
Nicholas Johnson, "Gambling and Paternalism," September 4, 2006
Nicholas Johnson, "Gazette Shames Press-Citizen," August 31, 2006

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