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Deseret Snooze

The Deseret News may be innovative, but it isn't news.


As some may know, and as others may celebrate, I haven’t provided a column to City Weekly for awhile. My excuse: I was in Greece serving as host and tour guide for the first ever City Weekly “See Greece with John” tour. A group of 12 made the journey—pretty near the perfect size for what we did, but we could easily have accommodated more, and we did miss the two couples who bowed out just prior to leaving. They, and you, can see what we did on the trip on the Salt Blog.

For the entire time, I never once turned on a television or listened to the radio. I never read the paper. The only items I read online were reports of how the football teams of the University of Utah and BYU were faring. The Cougars lost twice, which brought most of our group great joy. One couple, though, were BYU fans tried and true, so mocking was kept to a minimum. Not to mention they were great travel companions whom I’d travel with again if the opportunity arose, and not just because they kept passing me their complimentary ouzo and wine offered by our Greek restaurant hosts.

Upon arriving home, Utah climbed into the Top 10 football rankings, which makes me think University of Utah athletic director Chris Hill should start paying for my vacations. I ran into him a couple weeks ago at the Willie Nelson concert at Red Butte Garden. I congratulated him on getting Utah into the Pac 10 and hinted strongly that I was repentant and would welcome my old seats back—the ones the Ute ticket office famously sold out from under City Weekly a few years ago, which prompted me to become a vocal and royally pissed former supporter of Utah football. I think Dr. Hill wants to see me beg. He just might get to.

Anyway, with two weeks of virtually no news from back home, I’ve been trying to catch up. I watched the gubernatorial debate and learned that Gary Herbert has a funny habit of slapping his legs in frustration when his opponent, Peter Corroon makes a fool of him or when asked honest questions by reporters. Hey, Guv—tell us again about how you don’t raise taxes yet allowed a tobacco tax to fly, about how you blew $13 million to a failed contractor, about your phony excuses about contributions and favors and about why you’re not beholden to the far right of your party that begat you. Oh, yeah, because you talk in Utah code, and that code answers plainly: Never mind all that, I’m a good Mormon and your option is that silly Catholic sitting next to me who will turn 163 years of good works into a wasteland of logic, accountability and ethical rule.

Other things have turned my head. Like, why would BYU, which can’t score, fire its defensive coordinator? Why did The Salt Lake Tribune endorse Gary Herbert without even the grace of a Corroon interview with the editorial page staff? Or how is it that a month after sacking half of its newsroom employees, the Deseret News—which used to be my preferred daily—retains any credibility at all? And why do people believe the nonsense espoused by the guy behind the hatchet job, President and CEO Clark Gilbert, who spews hooey about “disruptive innovation” as defense of his local media maneuvers? That the Deseret News turned to Harvard University (where Gilbert attended grad school) for its intellectual guidance is funny—I’ve read letters to the DNews for years, and know many readers despise all things elitist (i.e., some wanted Ted Kennedy dead while others have mercilessly mocked John Kerry’s Harvard cred). Gilbert is pure Ivy League bull. Liberal bias killed newspapers? See Exhibit A, the Deseret News, to undo that canard.

The Internet is the disruptive innovation—not the corporate response to it. If it were the Utah Transit Authority, the Deseret News and its soulmate The Salt Lake Tribune (see Herbert endorsement) would call it what it is: bottom-line downsizing. The releasing of professional journalists (and replacing them with the print equivalent of Twitter feeds and press releases) isn’t innovative, it’s throwing in the towel. If you want to trust the zitty kid next door regarding his movie opinions, fine; just don’t expect readers (if they matter in Gilbert’s scheme, they’re more like page viewers than people) to trust the Deseret News. What Gilbert offers is delusional propaganda, not disruptive innovation.

What explains this? On Oct. 3, speaking during the recent LDS General Conference, Boyd K. Packer—president of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—made statements, broadcast live, regarding same-sex attraction, same-sex marriage and how homosexuals can overcome whatever it is Packer thinks they should overcome. That’s all well and good. It’s his church and his belief. And folks are well and good to agree or disagree—given that they hear about it.

It’s Tuesday now, and Gilbert’s delusional propaganda machine has yet to mention the impact Packer’s remarks had both locally and nationally. It’s as though Gilbert has never heard of the Internet he’s innovating. Instead, the Deseret News merely buried a cursory summary of his talk and later published the official LDS position on gay marriage and homosexuality. Was that the news, Mr. Gilbert? And if so, how about you remove the word “news” from the name of your paper? Call your innovation anything but a newspaper, because it isn’t one.

Even loyal readers of the Deseret News might understand this: If Bronco Mendenhall fired his defensive coordinator and everyone was talking about it, wouldn’t you at least want to know that a game was played and what the final score was? Or is it really true that no questions are allowed?

John Saltas:

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