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Open Container: D-News Exodus



The Mormon Media Observer, Joel Campbell, leaves the Deseret News because of ethical conflicts. Senior political reporter Lee Davidson is also leaving.---

Joel Campbell (pictured) is moving to the Salt Lake Tribune, effective immediately, because he does not consider the bold, new direction of the paper as journalism. Campbell also said he is not alone, and that there are some other reporters leaving the Deseret News for the same reasons.

The new gig for Campbell will be a part-time news column about open government and GRAMA laws. He will also stay employed full-time as a journalism professor at BYU.

Campbell said that he's been concerned for a while, but the deal breaker was a front-page story yesterday written by Michael Purdy, the head of the LDS Church's PR department.

"I'm very disappointed in the direction the Deseret News is going. It came to a head when the LDS Church PR was writing a front page story. It's an anathema to journalism," Campbell says.

Campbell was also very critical of the way the newspaper executives handled the layoffs on Tuesday. He said that burying the layoffs six or seven sentences deep in the news release was offensive to those being laid off, and having a PR firm handle the reporting of the news was against everything proper in journalism.

"In the real world, the news staff would have been doing their own story," Campbell says. "Instead, they tried to control the message, including sending me an e-mail telling me not to blog about it. That's what I did: I blogged about Mormon media."

Lee Davidson also confirmed that he was leaving the paper to go to the Tribune. Because he will likely get a Deseret News severance, he was not willing to say anything besides "today is my last day."

Davidson spent more than two decades in Washington, D.C. as the Deseret News correspondent. He has been back in Salt Lake City for about seven years, covering politics and, most recently, immigration. (In full disclosure, I was Davidson's editor for about two years at the Deseret News).

It's worth noting that both Campbell and Davidson are active members of the LDS Church. Additionally, Campbell has been the "Mormon Media Observer" for Mormon Times, and would defend the Deseret News as well as eye coverage of the LDS Church with a critical eye.