Source: CVDaily Feed
“Those who don’t read a newspaper are uninformed. Those who do are misinformed.”
I have often referred to living in Utah as The Bubble. Many times I have opined how residing in a place with a dominant culture—and Mormonism IS a culture—can subconsciously make all Utahns have a skewed sense of reality.
Whether or not you are an adherent to the dogmas and theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church—and you only make that a proper noun regarding the LDS Church in Utah—has put its stamp on practically every facet of daily living inside the borders of the 45th state.
It is unfortunately logical that in such a place like Utah that any media coverage would be centralized and concentrated on the group that, as I prefer to fashion it, runs the place.
In the realms of television and radio, it might be acceptable to cater to the Mormon bloc. TV news stopped being relevant decades ago. They still report local murders, meth house busts and national stories of high interest—but, really, local news is nothing more than a 22 minute infomercial spritzed with weather reports and fluff pieces.
Radio can still have a potent effect on “hard news” through the lens of commentary and debate. The problem is that with radio lacking a third dimension, the talent of being entertaining is necessary to keep the attention of the listeners. Too much wonky news content can make it hard to stay with any radio show.
And that brings me to the last true rampart for pertinent, important information. Newspapers.
In Utah, newspapers can run many unnecessary columns, articles and blurbs pertaining to the LDS Church which I frankly think does not not belong in any inarguably unbiased newspaper.
While all newspapers in the state that are not run by the LDS Church appear to print these stories as legitimate news, my focus is squarely on the two main sources of information in Cache Valley. Namely, the Herald-Journal and the website this column is published on weekly, cachevalleydaily.com.
I have taken shots at both my own website as well as the “HJ” for stories that are nothing more than propaganda fluff pieces for the Mormon church. But I also applaud both for printing stories and opinions (like mine) that run contrary to the LDS playbook.
At times, it has been difficult to criticize both the HJ and CVD for running stories that appear to only cater to the “dominant religion” when I know the people involved at both organizations are professionals of the highest caliber. The HJ has to produce some fluff pieces because there are invariably too many slow news days in northern Utah; yet, the reporters at the paper are very good at beat reporting. When a breaking story is printed, newsworthy or not, I seldom get the sense of any slant, pro or anti, against Mormonism.
The problem with any public criticism of CVD should be brutally obvious. The editor of CVD is my boss! I have been given a broad swath of autonomy regarding what subjects I cover in this column and the stances I take on those subjects. Still, the old axiom of “don’t cross the boss” must be remembered.
Boldness and stupidity are often seated shoulder to shoulder at the kids’ table.
But the proof is there. Recently, CVD published a blurb about the Logan LDS temple having a new president. And the HJ printed pieces about the LDS Church starting a new mission for the city of Logan.
Four words: This is not news!
Four more words: I could be wrong.
Consider the words of a local reporter when I asked her if she had any problems reporting on stories with a very direct Mormon angle to them:
“I think it’s news. We have a high Mormon population, which influences media content.”
Simple truths can be found is such exactitude. Newspapers need to make money to stay in print. Given the rapid fall in circulation and, as a result, influence that newspapers have in 2015, how can the HJ, or any paper in Utah not print stories of interest unabashedly targeted at the high Mormon population? The result of such ignorance would be obsolescence.
For a contrary point of view, allow me to quote a gentleman I spoke to about this subject earlier in the week:
“If it does not affect every citizen of Cache Valley, it is not news. It is propaganda.”
Where was I offered that nugget of plausible rectitude? I was sitting in Caffe Ibis.
Ahhhh, therein lies the rub! So many of us that live in Utah who do not acquiesce to Mormon authority tend to be a bit rancorous when we pick up a newspaper and read church stories that just flat out are not germane to anything in our daily lives.
If Mormonism is the omnipresent culture of Utah, then in Logan at least, Caffe Ibis is the enclave by which the counterculture huddles around a single copy of the New York Times–which I and my fellow intellectuals communally share as if it were the last rotisserie chicken on Earth.
There are stories related to the LDS Church that are unquestionably newsworthy. The possible excommunication of Mormons for taking public stances on political issues that run antipodal to official church talking points is news. The sporadic manifestos released by the Church regarding church history and ideology is news. Any assertions or accusations of crimes committed by Mormons who use their faith as a tool in their schemes is news.
But new Mormon missions are not news. Neither is the announcement of a new temple president. And despite its scale and scope, nearly everything of what is discussed at the biannual LDS General Conference is not important to all Utahns. As much as it may be tragic to hear of the death, malicious or accidental, of an LDS missionary, if they were not from the general area of the newspaper which prints their untimely demise, it is not news.
Being biased does not mean you are wrong. But bias can cast an ominous shadow over truth and integrity. Those two virtues must be present at all times if any news outlet is to measure up to its important and vital responsibility to its readers. In that regard, Cache Valley is extremely fortunate. The HJ, CVD and, to a lesser extent, KVNU radio do an outstanding job in providing all of us with fair and accurate reporting of what is important to know. We are privileged to have the quality of journalism that exists here.
So it is that whenever an article that only is relevant to Mormons who faithfully adhere to their church’s doctrines appears in print that all of us who respect Cache Valley journalism consider such stories to fall significantly under the bar.
Such is life in The Bubble.
Every story that gets published should go through a process where it is weighed and measured to determine its newsworthiness. And not every story that gets published appeals to every citizen in our geographic area. As to the specific stories mentioned by Mr. Caines, the editorial staff at Cache Valley Daily feels they are relevant in that they appeal to a very significant portion of the population that we serve.
As an example, we do not report on every new mission established by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but when they establish a new mission specifically for Logan, Utah we consider that noteworthy. That means there will be more LDS missionaries on the streets and in the homes of local residents. This announcement by the LDS church means more residents of Cache Valley, Box Elder County and the Bear Lake area will be in contact with missionaries, whether or not they themselves are members of that church.
If we were to apply the suggested litmus test to each story that may or may not be published (will the story affect every citizen in Cache Valley), our content would diminish while significant and interesting news stories would go unpublished. For example, Wednesday we published a short article about Logan City councilwoman Jeannie Simmonds who missed Tuesday’s council meeting because she was injured. This clearly does not affect every citizen of Cache Valley, but it is an interesting story about an elected official (and we hope she heals quickly) who was recently named as the chair of the council but was unable to perform her duties.
There are countless other stories we publish that apply only to certain segments of our population. To those it affects, it is news. To the mass populace, perhaps not. So when it comes to publishing stories that affects a very significant population of Cache Valley, we strongly consider publishing it.