Sunday, May 24, 2009

SL Trib: Love Mayor Godfrey or Hate Him, He Gets Credit for Energizing Ogden

Added Bonus: "He Said, She Said Journalism: Lame Formula in the Land of the Active User"

Just to kick off some kind of on WCF today, we'll direct our readers attention to this morning's Salt Lake Tribune story, the latest from reporter Chris Smart, who recently replaced Kristen Moulton as the Trib's "Ogden Beat" reporter. If you're a fan of "he said/she said journalism", a modern psuedo-objective journalistic form of reporting, whereby reporters spill out a few conflicting quotes, report them as if they all carried equal weight and make no attempt to try to separate out who’s right from those who are wrong... you're going to just love this story:
Love Mayor Godfrey or hate him, he gets credit for energizing Ogden
We won't however be overly critical of Mr. Smart at this point. He's new on the Ogden scene, and obviously has plenty to learn. Moreover he probably had a tight deadline to beat. Nothing like a he said/she said puff piece to at least introduce the illusion of "fairness" and "balance" to the reporting of a heated and complicated debate... and still allow a reporter to make it home in time for dinner. And if a reporter like Mr. Smart leaves his readers helpless in sorting out which of his "sources" are faking it more... so what?

And while we're on the subject of he said/she said journalism, we're delighted to engage in another WCF-patented neck-snapping segue, and to shine the spotlight on a truly deep and profound article on the subject, which we googled up earlier this week. For a truly robust critique of this surprisingly popular reportorial style, with enough footnotes, links and references to choke even an old school journalist, you're definitely not going to want to miss this one:
He Said, She Said Journalism: Lame Formula in the Land of the Active User
We hope our readers will devote the time to plow through the latter article and offer their own comments and impressions on this topic.

In closing, we also present this highly instructive graphic image, gleaned from the pages of the most excellent

Don't let the cat get your tongues.


Ozboy said...

Try as I did, I could not find this insipid article in the dead tree edition of the Tribune. Not in the Davis County edition at least.

In the Trib comments on this article there was a silly letter, apparently from a Godfreyite groupie, that attacks the Weber County Forum.

I wrote the following comment therein as a response:

Nature Mom

Sure the Weber County Forum has its juvenile posters just like all other comment oriented blogs do. Just look at the huge volume of stupid and nonsense ridden comments that are made on the KSL site - which of course is owned by the Mormon Church. Would you call KSL and the Church the same names you put on the Weber Forum just because of the few idiots that post there?

The Weber Forum is the only Ogden based news and information source that even comes close to putting out the truth to the citizens of Ogden. Its regular posters include a number of Professors from Weber State in addition to some leading citizens and politicians who have one thing in common - they seek the truth.

In contrast the Mayor routinely lies to the public about practically everything he is involved with. He has squandered over a hundred million dollars of tax payer money on various loser schemes that are doing nothing for the citizens of Ogden except waste huge amounts of their tax dollars. He almost exclusively doles out large contracts on non-bid projects to his cronies who in turn make large donations to his campaign war chest. He regularly exploits holes and ambiguities in the laws that the city council has to scramble and make new laws to prevent his repeated exploitations. He is profoundly incompetent when it comes to the large number of business deals he has got the city involved in. The vast majority of the project he takes credit for are losers that cost millions of dollars that could otherwise go to the city's crumbling infrastructure. The bottom line is that the only people to benefit from his incompetence and dishonesty are his insider pals, some of who have made millions off the citizens.

It is too bad that this reporter didn't do any home work for this article, it certainly didn't even come close to the real truth concerning this arrogant, incompetent and dishonest politician.

C said...


Thanks for the link to the "He Said/She Said" article. It was very good. I particularly like the definition of what constitutes he said/she said journalism early on in the piece. And I particularly like its including this:

* The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them. That's a key element left out of some definitions.

Thanks again for the link.

Curmudgeon said...


I've noticed of late that the SL Trib sometimes puts stories up on its website a full day in advance [or more?] of their appearing in the print edition. That may explain why it wasn't in your dead tree edition. Presumably it will be at some point.

danny said...

Did anybody watch the Travel Channel last night?

Extreme Playtime

It's another "mention" of Ogden in yet another "minor" media outlet.

The Sal Center was featured for the first five minutes of the show.

Newspaper hacks should want to write this mention up as a major news story (Trentleman start typing) for the Standard E.

But a deeper review of the show reveals that all of the venues shown are PRIVATELY FUNDED except for the San Jose skateboard park and uh, the Sal Center. (And remember Godfrey wants taxpayers to shell out for a local skateboard park, as well as a velodrome, gondola, etc. etc.)

The real story is all over the country private business builds things people want. But here in Ogden, the taxpayers foot the bill year after year after year for non-economically-viable money pits.

Pop quiz: Why is Ogden's economy always on the rocks?
Answer: Because it's always so heavily manipulated by the government.

Ogden's "revitalization" came at the cost of $100 million plus, in new public debt, that will drag on our city for thirty years.

That's the real story. Godfrey has made a few things look a little better, but at a horrible cost. This story is far too complicated for a newspaper reporter to follow.

Thank goodness for the WCF, where we get the real story, for free.

Dan Schroeder said...

Cross-posted from the Trib web site:

Let's see, where to begin...

As examples of Godfrey's successes, this article offers the following:

1. American Can building -- hugely subsidized yet less than half occupied after about 8 years of effort
2. Junction -- stalled at about 2/3 complete, losing millions of dollars
3. Amer Sports -- definitely a plus, but so far only half as many jobs as promised

That's after Godfrey has been in office more than 9 years. Meanwhile, the River Project remains a failure 8 years after it was started. The gondola and ice tower haven't even been started, despite all the hoopla and tax dollars spent on design work.

Of course, there are many other good things that have happened in Ogden during the last 9 years. But rather than arguing over who gets credit for them, let's list some of the good things that happened (or at least began) during the 9 years before Godfrey took office:

* Business Depot Ogden
* Ogden River Parkway
* East Bench trail system
* Renovation of the Egyptian Theater
* Becoming a satellite venue for Sundance
* Eccles Conference Center
* Renovation of the Municipal Building
* Revitalization of 25th Street including Rooster's and many other businesses
* Lindquist Field (downtown baseball stadium)
* Intermodal transit hub

Let's face it, folks: At best, Godfrey has simply continued what was already happening before he took office. At worst (think River Project) he's promised wonders and delivered disaster.

sham promotions said...

Not only are many of Godfrey's projects a disaster, he has managed to run many of the City services to the brink of destruction, worn out equipment, a revolving door for employees, terrible customer service.

The only department that is growing and flourishing is the Economic Developement, and Code Enforcement.

Fines, and fees.

But oh well, 450 voters couldnt possibly be wrong now, could they?

Pistol Pete said...

Well, Hitler and Mussolini helped make the trains run on time, but there were other issues!

googlegirl said...

"For here’s another advantage to “he said, she said” from a media industry perspective: It’s cheap. Any intern can write a “balanced” story. You don’t need seasoned career journalists if that’s the kind of fare you’re producing. You definitely don’t need to pay their healthcare and pensions."

Is “He Said, She Said, We’re Clueless” Coverage Dying?

Marvin said...

"He said/She said" journalism seems to depend on the principle that a reporter can report anything that a source says, regardless of its veracity, provided that he reports accurately what the source has told him.

That's about it, no?

Curmudgeon said...


That's the worst of it, but it doesn't have to be that way, and on great newspapers... or ones that once were great [a moment of silence in remembrance of what The New York Times used to be, please], it isn't.

The excellent article linked above talks about what's been lost by newspapers [and tv news too] abandoning the much better model ---"he said/she said/ we say." It's the job of newspapers, where competing claims that can be fact checked, to let their readers know which claims stand up and which do not.

The article is also very good on what it calls [accurately] "regression toward the phony mean." That's particularly appropriate to science stories, e.g. those dealing with evolution or global warming. "He said/she said" journalism gives us reportage [politely so called] like this: "The great majority of scientists in biology and paleontology have concluded that evolution is so well established by many different lines of convincing evidence in several different fields that it's existence is not a matter in doubt. However, a few dentists and engineers and many, many preachers claim evolution is a myth. The truth lies somewhere in between." I have some sympathy with publishers looking to cut costs in the face of collapsing ad revenues, and as the article notes, "he said/she said" stuff can be cranked out by practically anyone with a decent grasp of narrative prose. But, unabashed democratic [small "d" please note] romantic that I am, I [along with Tom Jefferson, who had the good sense to agree with me in advance] look upon journalism as a high calling, not just a job, and a calling that must be fulfilled well if the Republic is to survive as a democratic and largely free one. He said/she said journalism betrays that calling... and the nation. [Told you I was an unabashed romantic about democratic government and the press's role in it.]

Sadly, locally, the SE's frequent unwillingness to fact check the press releases and public statements of elected officials [and candidates] often results in the kind of slipshod "he said/she said" journalism the article linked above decries.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Monotreme said...

I loved this quote from the comments section of the article Rudi posted above:

"Does the truth lie halfway between say, slavery and abolition, or between segregation and civil rights, or between communism and democracy?" -- John Walcott

Also, the jaw-dropping report from Matthew Yglesias' blog very much reminded me of the S-E. If Paul Kane of the freakin' Washington Post can't be counted on to call a politician on a lie (or at least, a hypocritical stance), then how can we expect the S-E to do it? It is truly a sad and troubling time in the journalism biz.

Curmudgeon said...


Thanks for the link. The reporter says it's "not his job" to check the accuracy of what politicians, only to report what they said. Jaysus, what the hell is going on in J-Schools these days? Is that what they're teaching them reporting is? Stenography and nothing more?


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