“Disguising himself with an alias, the mayor of Utah’s second-largest city has been writing upbeat freelance articles about his town for area news outlets because he claimed the media spent too much time on crime coverage,” the AP reports.
West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder revealed himself as the writer of stories that appeared in the Deseret News, KSL-TV’s website and a community weekly over several months, insisting that balance was needed.
“I thought about all the people just reading about crime in our city and nothing better,” West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder told AP. “I’m trying to stand up for us because we do get the short end of the stick negative stories.”
Winder told AP that crime stories made up 56 percent of the coverage of West Valley City by the Desert News over three months earlier this year.
In a state that is struggling to attract business and jobs in this bad economy, one might understand why the mayor tried to spruce up his town’s image.
But, as a Deseret News executive told the newspaper, there is a deep concern that someone may purposely misrepresent himself in order to influence the public, which is what the mayor did.
Moreover, this person writing under a pen name may feel free to falsify information and quotes, which goes against all journalistic ethics. Falsifying information and quotes could spell disaster for a paper today. With already few people paying for news, people would lose trust in the integrity of the newspaper and cancel their subscription.
In this way, the story of a Utah mayor using an alias to drum up business in his town speaks to the heart of the problem in journalism today. Because of the bad economy, newspapers are consolidating with affiliated television and radio stations or closing.
According to the AP, Deseret News, the paper Winder wrote for, began accepting contributions after cutting its newsroom staff and consolidating operations with affiliated television and radio stations.
Though Winder told the AP that his stories, even the ones in which he quoted himself, are “100 percent factually correct,” one must wonder how many other contributions that newspapers are accepting and printing today are true. With the state of journalism today, lies may become news.
In a previous post, I spoke about how the media plays too much a role in the presidential election.
To recap, republican presidential primary candidate, Herman Cain, came out of the woodwork to unexpectedly win the Florida Straw Poll a week after receiving the media spotlight for his “9-9-9” federal tax plan. After the straw poll and more media attention, Cain surged ahead of nominees Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in a national poll to the head of field of the republican presidential nominees.
However, Cain’s relationship with the media has recently soured with the exposure of multiple sexual harassment allegations when Cain was the CEO of the National Restaurant Association. (Read a quick synopsis of the sexual harassment allegations at NPR’s News Blog “The Two-Way.”)
The former media darling is now bashing the media for investigating the allegations. But the media continues to investigate these allegations further as the alleged victims come forward with their stories.
Is the media however snooping where they shouldn’t? Is the media playing too much of a role in the presidential election?
In this case, I don’t think so. I think the media is doing it’s job by holding politicians, especially presidential-hopefuls like Cain, accountable to the public. The media is helping American voters to be more informed, so voters may fully comprehend the weight of their vote.
Now some might argue that politicians need some privacy too. But if they wanted privacy they shouldn’t be in public office.
In the last week, the media has done an exceptionally good job of exposing wrongs in government and public institutions. The Washington Post uncovered that the Air Force dumped military remains in a landfill. The media also brought to light allegations of sexual assault against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
It is in these cases that the media is not overstepping any boundaries, but is doing its job: exposing the truth and holding people accountable for their actions.