You might have noticed that I do a great deal of writing. Whether it’s the daily blogging, the articles for the Las Vegas Business Press, Casino Connection, and elsewhere, or the books, writing is something that is very important to me, both professionally and because I like to do it.
Since it means so much to me, I try to keep minimum standards in the quality of my prose. I’m not saying that everything I write is flawless, but it generally gets the job done and isn’t egregiously bad. You’ll notice typos in blog posts here, but that’s a failure in execution, not purpose. Generally, I strive to write well.
So imagine my surprise when this quote in the Jewish Times of Southern New Jersey, attributed to me, came into my mailbox:
Where would Atlantic City be if casino gambling wasn't authorized in 1976? Probably AC would be a ramshackle fishing village and a shallow summer retreat. Native David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, said in a recent column he wrote for the Casino Connection, "AC received a Second Chance with gaming, freeing the town from years of decline.The days before the rolling of the dice and the slot machine, were dark days but some residents didn't give up hope," wrote Schwartz, "since without gaming, they argued, the city could not reverse its decline. While casino revenues are down, gamblers are still coming here, in smaller numbers and some monies are coming in." It's still an uphill battle for the town but optimism has not been lost
I honestly couldn’t believe what I read there. Did I really pen something that dreadful? With a sinking heart, I checked out the original Casino Connection article, Second Chances, which was about the 1976 gaming referendum:
The city had fallen far from its former standing as the “world’s playground.” Jobs had disappeared, infrastructure was decaying, and tourism had dwindled. In 1968, at a testimonial for 500 Club owner Paul “Skinny” D’Amato, city power brokers first discussed casino gambling as a cure for the city’s ills. Within six years, they managed to get a measure on the New Jersey ballot.
The 1974 referendum would have allowed casinos to open anywhere in the state after a local vote. But gambling opponents, including clergymen, advised their constituents to vote no, and the referendum failed.
These were dark days, but some didn’t give up hope. A small citizen contingent pressed for casinos. Without gambling, they argued, the city could not reverse its decline. Some considered them impractical dreamers, but they refused to take no for an answer.
I was profoundly relieved that I hadn’t actually written a sentence like, “The days before the rolling of the dice and the slot machine, were dark days but some residents didn’;t give up hope, since without gaming, they argued, the city could not reverse its decline.”
Why am I writing about this? It’s mostly defensive. I don’t want one of my students who I’ve upbraided for poor writing coming back at me with, “Yeah, but at least I didn’t write about ‘the rolling of the dice and the slot machine.'” It’s also professional pride. I happen to still know many people in South Jersey, and I’d hate for something like that to go out there uncorrected.
Usually, when I get mis-quoted, the journalist makes me sound better than I really do: they’ll clean up something like, “oh well you know the uh casino industry, many times in the past, like 1978-82 or 1991-1992, they’ve had hard times, you know” into: “The casino industry, Schwartz claims, ‘has been through hard times before, particularly in 1978-82 and 1991-92.'”
There’s another issue here: I never sounded an optimistic note about “some monies coming in.” I ended the piece on my usual optimistic, slightly ambiguous note, as I said that without gaming, “it’s a fair bet none of us would be where we are today.” That’s true, because I can say with absolute confidence that if Atlantic City didn’t get casinos, there is no way I’d have decided to study gambling.
I ordinarily wouldn’t belabor the point so much, but again, it’s all about professionalism. I partially earn a living through my writing, and I can’t have anything that absolutely sub-standard being ascribed to me without protest. While you’re going to find some clunkers in the thousands of pages worth of stuff I’ve written over the last ten years, you won’t (I hope) find anything that as stupidly awful as that quote up there. Going through the few sentences I really did write, I can name at least five revisions I’d make if I had another shot at it. But at least it’s not moronic.
Much ado about nothing, I’m sure, I’m going to use this in class for a while, so at the very least this post has some real pedagogical value.