West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder's deception tests a news industry in transition

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  • JohnJacobJingleHeimerSchmidt Beverly Hills, CA
    Nov. 18, 2011 6:27 p.m.

    "Noodlekaboodle | 1:32 p.m. Nov. 18, 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Amen, The Deseret News refuses to take responsibility for their role in this whole fiasco. "

    This naive email was forwarded to me of Deseret connect to it's "contributors" and really shows why letting go of so much staff was a bad idea:

    "We understand that media is always susceptible to those who desire to push an agenda - a fact for which we are constantly vigilant. But we also choose to be optimistic and extend trust to you, our valued partners in this endeavor. We believe that nearly all of you have a passion for writing about topics and communities that matter deeply to you for all the right reasons. We applaud you and welcome your continued involvement and commit to you our best support and guidance as we move forward."

  • Noodlekaboodle Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 1:32 p.m.

    Amen, The Deseret News refuses to take responsibility for their role in this whole fiasco. This is what happens when you lay off 1/3 of your reporters and try and replace them with free or low cost bloggers. The other issue is that they use this content in a way that doesn't separate the Deseret Connect stories from stories by real reporters. The only difference is For the Deseret News in the by line instead of just the reporters name. In my opinion it is one thing to use these types of contributors in a non-journalistic setting, IE Mormon Times and Church news, but it is another to try and pass these people off as real journalists. But thats just my 2 cents.

  • Cameron Eagle Mountain, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 1:24 p.m.

    Commenters keep saying things like sticking to other, more "reliable" sources. Where are they? There's a reason newspapers are in a downward spiral, why the Trib's owners are bankrupt. News media is in flux, and this Winder story is one of the many bumps in the road as they try to figure out what model will work.

  • John Harrison Sandy, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 12:41 p.m.

    Modeling yourself on the Huffington Post, which publishes little worthwhile original content and is know for exploiting contributors isn't a great long term business model for a newspaper. Unless the goal is to become a trash but profitable blog.

    The Deseret Connect feature is obviously ripe for abuse. It is inevitable that some portion of the contributors will have an agenda or less than ethical motivation for contributing.

    The Deseret News is evolving into some sort of strange Mormon echo chamber. That isn't my impression of what a newspaper should be.

    Winder was wrong in doing what he did, but justifiably angry about the lack of balanced coverage of his community. What is the Deseret News doing to address this issue? Does the Deseret News really want to model itself on the Huffington Post?

  • rnoble Pendleton, OR
    Nov. 18, 2011 12:05 p.m.

    i really have to know why the witch hunt---are there some material facts wrong or something else about the articles written?---i also wonder if the same stories would have seen the light of media day if the winder name had been used as author---our society has always cared more for the actions and wisdom, than the name; often using the name only after notoriety was desired as in this case---

    Nov. 18, 2011 11:43 a.m.

    Leaving aside Mayor Winder's actions for a moment (though I agree this episode calls into question his fitness for his position), I find this article troubling. The intent seems to be to excuse the Deseret News from responsibility for its decision to run the pieces in the first place. Paul Rolly today describes how LaVarr Webb, a former DesNews Editor contacted current editorial personel after the first piece appeared, questioning its standards of journalistic professionalism. And yet, the Burwash pieces continued to be published.

    The reporter of this piece seems to want to portray the use of citizen journalists as mainstream by highlighting all the publications that do so. However, this comes off as a way to excuse the News for its lack of proper vetting of "Mr. Burwash."

    Clark Gilbert has come to town with a very unusual vision for this paper. I understand the reasons why such an approach may be appealing, but unless and until it can be shown that a quality, journalistic publication can result from it, I will stick with more trusted sources.

    In the meantime, an acknowledgement of responsibility and an apology would demonstrate that Gilbert and his staff understand what readers expect.

  • JohnJacobJingleHeimerSchmidt Beverly Hills, CA
    Nov. 18, 2011 10:58 a.m.

    The bigger question here is how cutbacks of staff has resulted in this embarrassment that was allowed to occur because a real reporter was not on the beat. Citizen journalism will continue to be plagued with problems and like this situation, will not reveal itself until much damage is done. In my opinion, it reduces and news sources credibility and undermines the public trust.

  • Shawnm750 West Jordan, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 9:09 a.m.

    @DeltaFoxtrot - I don't think anyone is questioning WHAT Mayor Winder did, but rather HOW he did it. There's nothing wrong with using the media to promote the good that your city or business is doing. I would go so far as to say that there's nothing wrong with a pen name (take Dear Abby for example.) But being a public figure, he should have know better than to take someone's image off the internet (a semi-prominent person no less) and use it to create a false identity. The responsible thing to do would have been to pay someone to submit the articles under their own name. What he did, while not entirely wrong, has damaged his credibility with the media, and most importantly with his citizens.

    Furthermore, it has nullified much of what he set out to do in the first place. It was a poor decision by a well-intentioned mayor. I think the honorable thing for him to do would be step down. Let him still submit positive stories because after all, what he was saying about the city wasn't untrue. Unfortunately though, I doubt the media outlets will want much to do with him.

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 8:52 a.m.

    Why should he resign? What's so wrong about writing under an assumed name? People have been doing it for centuries.

    I say kudos to Mayor Winder for being intelligent enough to use the media propaganda machine to his advantage.

  • Once Upon A Time Salt Lake City, Utah
    Nov. 18, 2011 7:32 a.m.

    It is just hard to trust people like Mayor Winder. One can only guess what he will be up to next. I don't want him representing me in government. I guess it is time for him to step down or to be kicked out. Either way he should not be in office.

  • Baron Scarpia Logan, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 6:43 a.m.

    Winder should resign as mayor. Or the good citizens of West Valley should initiate a recall.

  • JohnJacobJingleHeimerSchmidt Beverly Hills, CA
    Nov. 18, 2011 2:27 a.m.

    "Deseret Connect's publicly posted policy, created in October 2010, requires all members to be transparent, forbidding pen names."

    Worked like a charm.