By Sheldon Killpack
Utah State Senator: District 21Re: DNews' Ethical Dilemma
I appreciate the forum to state my opinion on a matter that is weighing on me. I also want to clarify that this is my opinion and not that of Legislative Leaders or the Legislature although if asked, the list of those wishing to sign on the bottom may be rather lengthy.
If you are reading this blog, you probably already know that over the past week or so Rep. Steve Urquhart
has been publicly criticizing Bob Bernick
and the Deseret News for a story Bernick wrote about Utah’s referendum law.
Simply put, Bernick claimed that “legislative leaders” intended to take on the law. The only problem with this claim was that it was not true. It was not merely a prevarication; it was not run-of-the-mill media bias; it was not even an inaccuracy.
It was a lie.
Newspapers have a profound influence on the public. They consider themselves having a long, proud and historic tradition in this country of educating the public about our government. This tradition has blessed us with a culture of knowledge, which in turn drives public opinion and – often – public policy.
So when reporters lie, the system gets polluted.
Yet another way to pollute the system is to confuse a reporter for a columnist. When I wake-up in the morning and read the Salt Lake Tribune, I know there’s a decent chance that Paul Rolly
or Rebecca Walsh
may have a column that blasts legislators (generally Republicans – just my keen observation) and, on occasion, me in particular. I accept that and consider it okay, because it is a columnist’s job – and those in power will always receive a large share of the criticism. Hello reality.
On the other hand, when I open up the Deseret News, I don’t know whether the Bob Bernick piece is opinion or news. Is it a political column or is it an “objective” report of the facts? The problem is not just that I can’t tell the difference, but rather that the Deseret News allows its most prominent political reporter to so cavalierly surf back and forth between each vastly different role.
The Deseret News allows Bernick to run story after story about Legislative ethics and open government. Yet, it allows this individual of great persuasion to ride the line of journalistic ethics day after day. This paper has several responsible, ethical and objective reporters who suffer the effects of this bad decision.
I realize that I am calling out Mr. Bernick - an individual with the ability to roll out the ink in large measure and I fully expect some sort of retaliation. Having said that, I sincerely hope the Deseret News deals with the growing Bernick problem. And I think there is more to this problem than the referendum lie of 8/19
, or Bernick’ s compounded lie of 8/20
, or the follow-up to the lie written by John Florez on 8/25
You just never know. Left in disrepair, this problem could eventually lead to a groundswell of civic opposition. Imagine thousands of Utahns joining an initiative process to ban themselves from reading the Deseret News.
At that point, perhaps even Bob Bernick would finally admit to the public that legislative leaders have no plans to undo the citizens’ process.