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article imageSam Novak talks 'Vegas Goes Dark,' proud moments, and digital age Special

By Markos Papadatos     Mar 24, 2020 in Entertainment
Las Vegas - Veteran blogger Sam Novak chatted with Digital Journal about Las Vegas going dark as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. He also opened up about being a blogger in the digital age and shared some of his proudest moments.
His recent article "Vegas Goes Dark: – The Beginning of the End…or a New Beginning?" in Vegas Unfiltered is brutally honest and it went viral, after the closures on The Strip following overwhelming Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns. "It’s a very surprising and humbling experience," he said.
"Normally, I plan what I’ll be writing days and weeks ahead but this was something completely different. After Nevada’s Governor issued the mandatory shutdown of non-essential businesses, my friend and I took a drive from my neighborhood to the Strip. We wanted to see what it would be like for one of the most famous tourist spots in the world to be vacant," he said.
Novak continued, "Looking at all of the darkened landmarks, iconic casinos, and empty sidewalks was quite numbing. There was definitely a feeling of dread and 'post-apocalypse' about it all. I was unable to sleep that night and thoughts were racing through my head, so I grabbed a laptop while still in bed and started describing my thoughts and reactions. When the sun came up I was finally sleepy. hit “publish” and woke a few hours later. By that time, the article already had thousands of views, within three days it was seen by over a million people in about 200 countries, It’s clear that the piece struck a chord like nothing I’ve ever published before. The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, thank goodness, but I’m still getting used to it all."
On his advice for people during this Coronavirus pandemic, he responded, "There’s no way to know how long this will last or how it will change our lives in the years ahead, But for now, keeping a level head is crucial. We're reading reports of panic, grocery-store brawls, and hoarding. Instead, we should be reaching out to our neighbors to offer assistance, and perhaps extra supplies in exchange for something they may have in excess. When all of this blows over, those people we’ve rarely talked to will still be there. The ways that we’ve helped one another will be remembered, and it will lift us up as a society."
Novak acknowledged that he sees a silver lining in all of this. "The pandemic may be the best opportunity we’ll ever have to take stock in the great facets of our lives. Friends, family members, personal interests and hobbies have been handed back to us on a silver platter. We tend to accept our position in this world with a bit of a shrug. Now that the distractions have been lifted, there’s a terrific opportunity here to re-evaluate our destiny, take control of our place in the universe and fix the things that haven’t been optimal," he said.
"In a way, this quarantine is a bit of a gift," he admitted. "It’s really easy to say “I wish I had the time to _____. Now we’ve gotten our wish, and there’s no reason to miss out on it. We can take those naps we’ve wished for, tackle household projects or even learn a new language or musical instrument. Enjoying the comforts of our homes isn’t a negative thing - it’s something we long for all the time."
He shared that his blog Vegas Unfiltered will be celebrating its fourth anniversary this summer. "It was born out of ongoing frustration that I wanted to turn into something positive. I was working for as Deputy Editor for a now-defunct site that lacked direction and cohesiveness. There was no sense of unity or purpose among the team (most of us had never even met one another) so I decided to go solo and share my thoughts with the world."
"It didn’t matter to me whether the blog gained a large following or even generated income," he said. "I just wanted to create a place where readers would get honest (and sometimes unpleasant) opinions born out of a passion for Sin City. As the site has grown, I’ve expanded it to add light-hearted fare from my freelance gigs and featured guest authors, too. But the most popular entries by far are always the ones that cut to the bone."
On his proudest moments with the blog, he said, "There isn’t one particular 'proudest moment' for me with Vegas Unfiltered, but several that have affected people on a personal level. I've gotten to meet the parents of entertainers I’ve profiled and the creators of shows I’ve reviewed. When they personally thank me and say that I’ve captured the essence of their family member or production... well, you just can’t beat that feeling."
For young and aspiring bloggers and journalists, he said, "Put your ego into a shoebox in the attic, write from the heart and do it with integrity. Not everyone will like what you have to say and sometimes negative feedback is going to sting. But ultimately, it’s your name that’s associated with those words and they’ll be there forever. Have diligence in your research, be respectful of others, but don’t be afraid to involve your emotions in what you have to say. Words are powerful, so use them to make a lasting impact."
On being a blogger in the digital age, Novak said, "I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to reaching so many people from my living room couch. The ability to correspond with readers who want to share their reactions is a powerful tool, too. The visionary writers that I enjoyed as a teen (Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells) never could have imagined the power, reach, and impact of digital media."
Regarding the title of the current chapter of his life, he responded, "Thanks to the pandemic, I’d probably call this chapter 'STASIS.' Just about everything that I write about has been mothballed. Restaurants, shows, hotels, construction projects...they’re all dark. I’ve been laid off from my freelance gigs as well until things rev back up, I’ve been revisiting previous entries in the blog, updating them as needed and republishing them with a fresh point of view."
Novak continued, "I’ve also been focusing on the people in Sin City through social media, spreading the word on support groups and individual efforts, especially those relating to animal rescue and adoption. Las Vegas is a fascinating and cohesive local community, small by typical big-city standards but amazingly strong. If you followed the aftermath of the 10/1/17 mass shooting, you know that Vegas citizens are incredibly resilient. Some of them have invited me to be their voice, and I’ll continue to do that proudly."
On his career-defining moments, he said, "While writing for a commercial site, I was contacted by a performer from Australia whose work visa was coming to an end. He asked me to chronicle the contributions he’d made to the Vegas entertainment community in a profile article that he could present to the courts. It helped his case, and now he’s a U.S. citizen with a wife and child."
"Since then, the most joy I’ve gotten is from writing profile pieces," he said. "Whether the subject asks me to pen one on their behalf or it’s one that I’m driven to write, it’s always a gratifying experience."
On his concluding thoughts on Las Vegas during this pandemic, he said, "Right now, the city is on the verge of total collapse. There’s no question about it. Tourism had already been flattening and visitors are pushing back against the current business model. Exorbitant fees, unnecessary surcharges, lofty food and beverage prices, along with a significant reduction in customer service, are discouraging people from returning. As a result, thousands of residents have been either temporarily laid off or permanently terminated."
"Las Vegas was once a unique experience where everyone felt like a high roller. Having a city-wide shutdown offers us a single opportunity to push the 'reset' button and return her to her roots," he concluded.
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