Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday Evening News Roundup

A critical Ogdenite reads between the lines

By Dan Schroeder

This reader, at least, found plenty to think about in today's Standard-Examiner.

First, as already noted in an earlier post, there's the massive fundraising effort to restore Ogden High School. This is indeed a worthy cause, both for Ogden's historic legacy and for the future generations of students who will be educated there. But I have to wonder: If the school district needs so much money to restore OHS, why did it just voluntarily hand millions of dollars over to Mayor Godfrey?

The other front-page story that caught my eye was about the mayor of West Bountiful, who apparently had a link from the official city web site to his personal blog, which contained information about his current reelection campaign. The Lieutenant Governor's office even got involved, calling city officials and telling them that "public funds cannot be used for anything campaign related". Really? That's news to us here in Ogden, where the use of public funds for political campaigns has become routine.

Speaking of campaigns, on page 3A there's an interesting wire service story reporting that our new governor is opposed to campaign contribution limits. The article says Utah is one of just a handful of states that put no limits on campaign contributions, and that a commission appointed by former governor Huntsman is fine-tuning recommendations that will call for such limits in all state-level races (e.g., no more than $4000 to candidates for governor, and $2000 to legislative candidates). But Governor Herbert has already received over $20,000 from the Utah Association of Realtors for his 2010 campaign. (Also, Herbert is apparently laundering most of his contributions through a political action committee, and thus avoiding some reporting requirements.) It will be interesting to see whether the Standard-Examiner editorial board weighs in on this proposed legislation, as it has in the past. When the Ogden City Council recently introduced and passed an ordinance establishing contribution limits, the editorial board remained silent. (The Standard-Examiner web site is also running an informal poll on contribution limits.)

Page 1B, as on every Saturday, carries the editors' navel-gazing column, written this week by Managing Editor Dave Greiling. More often than not, I've noticed, the editors use this column to belittle readers who complain about the paper--and today's column is no exception. Of course, anyone who calls to complain about the paper's lack of coverage of a topic, when in fact the paper has covered that topic in considerable detail, probably deserves to be belittled. But must it really be done in public? Also, for some reason, these columns rarely seem to mention the legitimate reader complaints. I'm still waiting for the day when one of these columns will try to defend the paper's failure to report the Godfrey Administration's role in raising money for Envision Ogden. (Executive Editor Andy Howell told me over the phone last May that they don't need to report on Godfrey's role because he thinks "everyone knows" about it already.) I'd also love to see the editors' explanation of their unbalanced coverage of the current City Council At-Large Seat B race.

Also interesting to me was the wire service article on the Business page about the Gale Norton corruption probe. And finally, I'll mention that Friday's paper carried a brief notice of a meet-the-candidates event in Riverdale, sponsored by the Lions Club. I find this noteworthy because the Standard-Examiner failed to print such a notice when the Sierra Club informed them of our extensive candidate questionnaire web site. Double standard? You decide.


Curmudgeon said...

Agreed on all above, particularly the coverage [politely so called] of the At Large B Ogden Council race. But your criticism of Mr. Greiling for publicly taking on the Glen Beck-induced callers who complained about the SE when it turned out the callers did not take the paper and had not read the coverage they were complaining about.

Yes, that should have been done in the public prints, in the column. The SE has a displayed a consistent and absolutely proper contempt for what are known as "astro-turf" campaigns to affect public opinion through local media. These involve things like a national organization drafting a letter-to-the-editor and then having its representatives in cities across the country submit the letter under their own name to their local papers. It involves also encouraging people to make calls complaining about the content of newspapers they do not read.

The SL Trib reader advocate [though she's not that by any stretch of the imagination] did a column much like Greiling's on this. Both were right to expose the callers for being dishonest [when you complain about something you have not read while implying that you have, dishonest is what you are being]. And they were right to do it in print.

On all else above, Dan, your comments are absolutely on target. But not on that one.

Dan S. said...


I'm not gonna try to defend astroturfing in general, or ignorant complaining readers in particular. I agree that it's appropriate for the editors to publicly expose astroturfing. (In this regard, I loved today's Grondahl cartoon.)

What rubs me the wrong way is how the editors have repeatedly used this space to publicly belittle readers who complain. When they do that too often, they end up discouraging reader feedback of all types.

Ray Vaughn said...

Since Governor Herbert believes in allowing unlimited campaign contributors lets do it the modern way. I suggest we simply sell elective offices on ebay. We could close bidding 2 days before the election date. This way we will know who bid for a politican and how valuable the official and their elective position is to the unseen contributors. At the least this would remove the illusion that Utah has or enforces any limits on campaigning.

Bill C. said...

Dan, Herberts response should come as no surprise, afterall, he was notified of the bogus/illegal Envision Ogden stuff right as it was happening.
What's missing is the full jest of his take: we in Utah don't care how much money or where it comes from or how it was raised.

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