Hello new readers sent to me by my venerable colleague Joel Campbell. Are you here to discuss whether or not I can objectively report on the LDS church in light of posts like this, this, this aaaand this? Oooh, I left out this one and it's important. So, you want to discuss journalistic integrity, yes?
Wonderful! Let's begin.
Let me first ask you, new reader, can Mr. Campbell objectively report on whether or not I can objectively report on the LDS church, you know, considering he is a Latter-Day-Saint who writes for a Mormon paper which touts itself as "for and about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"? For that matter, can KSL news and The Deseret News objectively report on LDS-related stories considering they are Mormon-owned and in the Deseret News' case anyway, Mormon operated?
But wait. Let me take you back. Aaaallll the way back to 2008.
When then prophet of the Mormon church, Gordon B. Hinckley, died I stayed late at work, poring over dozens of archive tapes from LDS General Conferences over the years (do you know how hard that is? do you know how similar every, single conference looks? do you know how long conferences last?) to find this humorous quote of his, that famous saying about temples he made, the time he joked about a hospital visit and that other time he teared up discussing the death of his wife Marjorie. And then! Putting it all together cohesively in an eloquent Remembering Hinckley tribute for FOX 13 News. And then, my goodness, tracking down specific LDS hymns (learned as a child) for editors that I knew would be appropriate with the piece and I would not, could not rest until I found God Be With You Till We Meet Again with which we would emotionally fade to black at the end of the piece... I've also written dozens of stories about the LDS church sending disaster relief to third-world countries and I've often suggested reporters cover LDS conferences in Salt Lake City and what they mean to Mormon faithful. Living in Utah, those examples are just a drop in the bucket of LDS-related issues we've covered.
But the Mormon church doesn't always earn kudos, oftentimes it elicits outrage, most recently, about Elder Dallin Oaks remarks at BYU-Idaho. Please allow me to direct you to FOX 13's coverage of LDS Apostle Dallin Oaks' controversial analogy comparing the backlash against Proposition 8 supporters to the tortures black people endured in the South.
An objective observer might find that FOX 13's coverage of this event is the most unbiased accounting in Utah media that day. I stand solidly behind our coverage, am PROUD of our coverage and I don't know that the same could be said for employees of other news outlets.
In the early evening newscasts KSL simply regurgitated Oak's speech, leaving out altogether his absolutely offensive and appalling analogy and the church's increasingly hostile stance toward gay civil rights. Later, anchor/reporter and LDS church member Carol Mikita (a veritable KSL institution) put together this piece. An objective observer might find KSL's piece nothing more than a rehash of Oaks' speech rather than a journalistic parsing of the controversial comments. The only soundbite from Mikita's report? Elder Dallin Oaks. Ours? Oaks, of course, and we sought reaction from an NAACP spokeswoman and a spokesman from Equality Utah, a gay rights organization. The ONLY reason Oaks' speech made top story/front page news in the first place was the controversial comparison to blacks in the south. In light of that I'd go so far as to argue that KSL's piece is biased. But hey, that's just me. I'll leave that for other journos to debate.
I also strongly urge you to read Scott Taylor from The Deseret News' display of journalistic integrity. If you're anything like me you may feel as if you've just returned from a Sunday School lesson. I'm hard-pressed to find the hard news value of this article. Please, new reader, picture Jerry Mcquire in your head and hear me when I shout SHOW ME THE JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY!
Yet you're here, questioning me. Why? Because the LDS church bullied me into taking down a tweet and I wrote about it. ON MY PERSONAL BLOG. I happen to think this says more about the church than my journalistic integrity but again, I'll let you judge for yourself.
My outrage regarding Oaks' statements would have been the same had the exact comments been made by, oh, say, Jay Leno. Admittedly, I'm a Letterman girl, always have been, but my point remains: my reaction was not because of my distaste for the LDS church it was because the comments are deeply offensive.
"These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest. As such, these incidents of violence and intimidation are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic. In their effect they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South".Dude. DUUUUUDE. Blacks were lynched and beaten and spit upon and denied the right to vote by the government. To compare that IN ANY WAY to criticism of Mormons for donating or voting for Prop 8 is ludicrous, offensive and quite honestly, a dumb move on the church's part. I don't care how many words of Oaks' speech Mr. Campbell counted that espoused church doctrine it was those words, no matter how few, that are outrageous.
"There are civil rights involved in this," Oaks said, "the right to speak your mind, to participate in the election," Oaks said. "But you don't have a civil right to win an election or retaliate against those who prevail." How dare this man speak of civil rights when the church he helps lead was instrumental in passing a Proposition denying civil rights to hundreds of thousands of loving couples. A civil right Oaks would have you believe is "alleged".
A second threat to religious freedom is from those who perceive it to be in conflict with the newly alleged civil right of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage.I smell damage control, but no, Mr. Oaks, despite what you'd like the world to believe, your church is not a victim of Proposition 8, IT IS THE PERPETRATOR.
I find it ironic that Oaks suggested that atheists and others are seeking to intimidate people of faith and silence their voices in the public square even as an LDS spokeswoman called me to bully me into removing a tweet I made while covering this story:
LDS apostle gives speech at BYU-Idaho. The contents of which has my head exploding and FOX seeking a response from the NAACP. More at Five.
No embargo was broken. I did not divulge the contents of Oaks super-secret speech. Seems to me it was the LDS church seeking to intimidate people NOT of their faith and silence their voices from the public square.
The point I'm laboring to make, new reader, is this: My personal animosity toward the church doesn't affect my ability to objectively cover LDS-related stories any more than that of an LDS journalist, such as our good pal Joel Campbell or the lovely Carol Mikita over at KSL. Any perceived bias a news viewer might infer from my blog would be the exact same perceived bias a viewer might have reading BYU professor Joel Campbell's piece, watching KSL knowing it is church-owned or watching Mikita's report knowing she considers Oaks to be a beloved, spiritual leader of her church. Hell, a a quick look at Mikita's bio has me wondering why more of you aren't questioning her journalistic integrity considering how many special interest LDS-related stories she's churned out since 1979. And what about the very talented Dan Rascon over at KUTV? Wasn't he or isn't he a bishop in the LDS church? Someone who espouses doctrine that I and many other nonmembers find as disgusting as you find my "ten vulgarities", Joel Campbell? Should Rascon recuse himself from all LDS-related journalistic endeavors? I suspect he, like me, would say a good journalist doesn't let his personal opinions get in the way of the story. A solid journalistic standard which I think, in this particular case, makes me a better journalist than a BYU journalism professor.
EVERYONE who works in media has a personal bias about something. Several on-air personalities at FOX 13 are devout Mormons who remain wonderfully objective about LDS coverage. Would I be surprised if a few of them have personal blogs espousing LDS doctrine or fervently documenting their testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet? No. Am I personally biased against the LDS church? HELL YES! Are many, many other local journalists biased in favor of the church? HELL YES! Do my feelings about Mormonism affect my ability as a journalist to objectively report on crowds gathering for general conference, the church's wonderful efforts to help victims of the tsunami in Samoa or Dallin Oaks ridiculous speech?
In a word: NO.
Much like a defense attorney who knows her client is guilty, I set aside personal feelings and do my job. And I do it well.
Other local media on this subject:
Santa, Objectivity and the Easter Bunny
Tweet, Ye Shall Not