Monday, October 1, 2007

"Fire the Cannon"

I would like to know how others felt about the article titled Deseret News editor's speech raises questions.

I agree with Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, who said, "I have problems with journalists ever attending something and saying that it's not as a journalist or not acting as a journalist, Journalists need to be very clear - either stuff is on the record and it is open for being recorded or it's off the record. The bar is even higher when the attendees are public officials and former public officials..., Whenever you have high-powered people who are paid by taxpayers, there is an even higher threshold to allowing those people control of what you cover."

I also agree with Weber State University journalism professor Allison Barlow Hess who said, "a role in educating the public whenever possible, including politicians and partisan groups. But Cannon's promise not to cover an event at which he is speaking is questionable."

Ironically the the last editor of the Deseret News was John Hughes, a Vietnam reporter who won the Pulitzer. He may have been a conservative, but he was also a bonafide and serious newspaper reporter. He also had the credentials to run The Deseret News unlike Cannon whose jobs since 2001 was to lead Utah's Republican Party as the Republican state party chairman.

Why Deseret News board president Ellis Ivory made the decision to hire Cannon is unknown to me, but in Utah the name of the GOP game has been to influence local news without any regard for the fundamental tradition that newspapers are there to report the facts, and only the facts. When a editor, or any other reporter for a major local paper makes accommodations for a select group of citizens then one should ask, who does this person really work for?

I think McBride statement, "That Cannon promised council leaders he would not write about what was discussed should alarm his readers because he is shifting his loyalty from them to powerful government insiders" completely hits the mark.

"To have an editor agree to that [confidentiality] sends a really bad message that [journalists] are willing to play by their terms..., and that our loyalties are with them and not with our audience. In letting [the council] set the rules and the agenda of who you can quote and who you can't quote - that says to the audience that these people are more important than you."

If the Deseret News wants to continue to be viewed as a citizens newspaper and not a partisan rag sheet then they should read the Society of Professional Journalist's Code of Ethics sheet that states:

Act Independently
Journalists should be free of obligations to any interest other than the public's right to know.

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.

Seek Truth and Report it
  • Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting.
  • Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open..."
The Deseret News Board should consider being vigilant and courageous by finding a editor who actually understands that there are ethics associated with the job. It might be wise to also hire someone who is actually has some experience.

Wake up Deseret News and "Fire the Cannon!"