Deseret Connect: Whom Can You Trust? | Buzz Blog
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Deseret Connect: Whom Can You Trust?


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Many of his constituents don't get it. Those who admire Mike Winder, the once up-and-coming mayor of West Valley City, don't readily fathom the upset over his penning four articles --- that were published through Deseret Connect in the Deseret News and on under the nom de plume of Richard Burwash.

The mayor also admitted getting articles published in the Oquirrh Times under Richard Burwash's byline.

He justifies the deception by arguing that staff cutbacks at the Deseret News had resulted in scaled-back coverage of positive stories about West Valley City, so he was attempting to fill in the void.

Winder tried reporting under his own name in May of this year (luckily, a few weeks later, a smidgeon of journalistic integrity kicked in when Deseret Connect determined that those holding or running for political office could only write opinion columns for the paper).

But why the change of heart? Why did he lose the pen name to try to write openly as Mike Winder? According to a Nov. 11 Trib article by Pamela Manson, it was in the spring, "after Mark Willes, CEO and president of Deseret Management Corp., told him that Deseret Connect preferred that its writers not use pen names."

Did we read that correctly? They "preferred" that writers not use pen names? It isn't written in stone?

And does that also mean Mark Willes, who runs the parent company overseeing all LDS Church-owned news media, was in on the caper?

We're finally starting to see the disturbing cracks in the plaster of the D-News makeover since non-journalist Clark Gilbert took over in 2010. In his mad pursuit to wrangle the digital frontier, the CEO refuses to be shackled by the high-minded code of ethics embraced by the Society of Professional Journalists. Policies at the media company appear to be made up on the fly, and those that they have allow writers to trick the system.

Upon being named president of the D-News in the summer of 2010, Gilbert laid off 43 percent of the workforce and announced plans for a citizen-journalism Website known as Deseret Connect. In an August 2011 D-News article, he described it as "an innovative system to collect writers and editors who will provide high-quality, relevant stories on a regular basis.

"'The content will be qualified, edited and peer-reviewed,' said Gilbert. 'We have attracted people from across the nation with impeccable credentials and the highest respect of their peers.' Deseret Connect will complement journalists working at the Deseret News."

You see the part about "impeccable credentials," right?

Ironically, as this story is now going viral, Winder has achieved his goal of garnering astonishing publicity for West Valley City, only it's the kind that makes most people cringe.

Here we have an elected official who wants voters to trust him. And here we have a newspaper that promises to tell the truth. Both have duped the public. How many other lies has Mike Winder told? How many other writers has Deseret Connect published who haven't been adequately vetted? Who can answer that? Whom can we trust?