Many U.S. journalists often get cold-shoulder treatment from government officials, but Utah reporters may find a warmer reception from the state's top administrator.
Gov. Norm Bangerter says he has a deep respect for local journalists. "Integrity is the most critical element in our lives and I admire that in anyone and everyone. That quality is deeply found in Utah media. They are honest and forthright, even though I may not always agree with them."Speaking Friday at a high school journalism workshop on the Brigham Young University campus, Bangerter said, "There are two points of our society that probably have more impact than anything - politicians and journalists."
He said journalists often come out in bigger numbers and pay greater attention to negative events, which gives a pessimistic impression of the country. "I want you to think about that. America needs a good dose of optimism.
"It's your job to make sure that people receive the best information possible. I look to the media to get information to the public. You are their eyes and ears."
He said many Utahns fail to attend public meetings and that makes it critical for the news media to carry the information to them.
Bangerter said a good reporter looks for balance and accuracy.
"If I'm critical of the press, it is of getting the facts straight. That's important in your business. We rely on you to see that information goes to the public correctly."
A basic error that many journalists make is taking information from another reporter's story, he said. "Verify your own set of facts. That is the best service you can do for yourself. And don't take answers out of context.
"You ought to be tough and ask the hard questions. Know your own information is from the very best sources and what you are printing is exactly what they said."
It is also necessary to have common sense and good humor. "Do not take yourself too seriously. Say you goofed when you do."
Bangerter said good reporters won't ask sensitive questions if they know the person doesn't want to talk about the issue. Journalists should learn to wait for the right time and place.
Almost 600 students from Utah high schools attended the workshop.
A number asked questions about cold nuclear fusion and why state leaders decided to fund the research so quickly.
Bangerter said, "I believe we have to send to the world a message that Utah is at the forefront of the discovery. We don't want to be left behind because we don't have the money available. You are never too far ahead of anything."
Utahns who say they will be embarrassed if the research fails should be ashamed, he said. "This has been very good for us. Everyone has heard of Utah now. It has not hurt us one bit."