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Private Eye: Full Disclosure


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n Has anyone ever given you grief for working at City Weekly?
n Natalie May: Not that I can recall … most people think it’s pretty rad!

Brandon Burt: My family is convinced I work for a porn mag. Years ago, when I was dating a Salt Lake City police officer, he got all freaked out when he found out I wrote a column in CW. He sure was paranoid! I had to reassure him that I really wasn’t doing research for an exposé on gay cops.

Derek Carlisle: A salesperson for the Tribune voiced his disapproval for how the gentleman club ads are way too out in the open. When I inquired as to where they keep theirs, he said, “The business section. Young men don’t look at the business section!” I still don’t know what to make of that.

Justin Healy: Most people are hella jealous of me for having such a sweet job. However, I do always get the “I don’t like them cause they hate Mormons” comments. Then I defend us by saying that we hate everyone.

Blade Brown: Just almost every client I call to sell ad space.

Faith Burnham: Yeah, there’s a local dude who thinks we’re some crappy “franchise” paper that doesn’t publish anything worthwhile. I’ll refrain from mentioning which genuinely franchised “alternative” paper he got a cover feature on!

Lisa Hines: Never. I’ve had a few of my parents’ more conservative neighbors look at me like I’m Satan, but I find that reaction almost more fulfilling than the usual kudos, adoration and various expensive gifts I receive upon divulging my place of employment.

Jamie Gadette: Absolutely. It happens far less often now that I’m focused on music and art, but some people regard CW as an extreme left-wing rag for porno freaks and drunks. Of course, this isn’t the case, but I’d be happy to give them a voice any day.

Bill Frost: Only my personal assistant Jackie. Her cubicle next to my beer cooler is somewhat cramped.

Benito Chacon: Yes, I do get grief from some people. I get a look as if I said I was an attorney or that I worked for the IRS.

Stephen Dark: Grief about working at the Weekly comes from two directions. The people who never return phone calls for a story because they think we’re such a scurrilous rag is one, the other a number of Tribune hacks who turned their noses up at a party when I told them where I work.
nFor most of my adult life, I’ve worked with, or been associated with, an array of what many Utahns consider to be failed people: bartenders, waitresses, bookies, cooks, used-car salesmen, plumbers and priests. I’ve known my share of petty thieves, alcoholics, drug dealers and so-called “objective” journalists, too. Over time, the majority of those persons were able to rehabilitate themselves into useful human beings. Another set of them never quite overcame their particular demons but, nonetheless, established themselves as very decent persons at the core—flawed but good people deserving of love and understanding. Except for the journalists.

It used to be that in nearly any poll of trusted professions, journalists ranked near the top of the list, right behind anesthesiologists. Despite not being armed with anything larger than a Bic medium point, we now rank below proctologists. In poll after poll, journalists are uniformly packaged as people who cannot be trusted. Can you imagine how low we’d sink if our pens were the size of a medical penlight? Yikes.

It used to be that I could say I was a journalist, and people would buy me a drink. Nowadays, I mention it, and I have to make sure the bartender isn’t squeezing something other than limejuice into my margaritas. And the guy two stools down wearing the scowl? The last thing I need is to de-activate his anger management training with, “I’m a journalist, sir, and what do you do?” If he asks about me, I usually say something like, “Damn, I’ve always wanted to be a clerk at Wal-Mart! Yellow brings out the color in your eyes. Do they really pay for your vests?”

Here at City Weekly, we’ve actually never had a terribly awry credibility issue. After all, it’s a rare decade in which this community gives us much credit for anything anyway. You don’t want to know how many times I’ve heard, “Well, you’re a free paper, so you don’t have to get it right.” Or learn to spell. Or tell the truth. Or like America, Republicans or Mormons. Or whatever other predisposed and disparaging remark can come out of the mouths of nitwits. How bad is it? I remember during the last mayor’s race, one of our writers was interviewing the mayoral candidates, and he had Frank Pignanelli on the phone. I was standing nearby. (Full disclosure: I’ve known Frank since he was my 16-year-old bar back at Widow McCoy’s in the mid-1970s, and I do not consider him a nitwit. I still like Frank). Before answering any questions, he had one for the writer, which was, “How many Mormons work for John?”

A Catholic, Frank had put all of his eggs in the conservative and dominant-religion basket. I guess he thought we’d stiff him. He was perpetuating an anti-Mormon myth that no amount of disclosures could unhinge. (Full disclosure: I have a brother who is a Mormon bishop and am descended from Mormon pioneers and polygamists. I’m Greek Orthodox.) The reporter interviewing Frank was a card-carrying LDS Temple entrant, a devout Mormon. To say the least, Frank’s question was disappointing. Because, on that day, I learned that even people you think you know, you don’t really know. I forget where politicians fall on the “trustworthy” poll.

Full disclosure: I’ve known City Weekly editor Holly Mullen for more than a decade. I know Ted Wilson, her husband and former Salt Lake City mayor. I don’t know her stepdaughter and current mayoral candidate Jenny Wilson, but I did meet her once for about 30 seconds. I know some readers—and other mayoral candidates—think the fix is in. I’ve never pretended to be objective—and there’s an argument that, as a columnist, I don’t have to—but because that relationship is close to home, I’ve veered away. But, it’s not so easy for Holly, who occasionally shares Sunday pot roast with a woman who may become mayor.

Last week, Holly wrote about what several Salt Lake Tribune staffers had privately described as the nefarious process leading to that newspaper’s endorsement of Keith Christensen for mayor—the endorsement decision (read: Dean Singleton’s) apparently had been made before the editorial board had even interviewed other candidates. Full disclosure: I’ve met Keith—who asked to meet me last year after I wrote I wouldn’t support him since Rocky endorsed him. We had dinner. More disclosures: I’ve known Ralph Becker since he first ran for the Legislature. I’ve dined with Dave Buhler, who doesn’t deserve the poop heap Rocky stacks on him. Way full disclosure: I count John Renteria as a friend. I also love Mexicans and anyone from Bingham Canyon, Renteria’s hometown. Renteria’s dad worked for my dad. But, lately, I’ve not shared a bowl of menudo with John, any more than I have with Jenny.

{::INSERTAD::}We all recognize over here that Holly is in a bit of a pickle—what editor of a city newspaper can be expected to lay off a mayor’s race? It was my decision to allow Holly’s idea for a column last week to run. I decided that, despite Jenny being in the race, Holly’s column—replete with prominent disclosure—was more about a scornful process at the Tribune. (Remember the George W. Bush endorsement?) She was uniquely positioned to tell that story. Ethically gray? Maybe or likely, but we learn as we learn—sort of like discovering there are different grades of tofu. Had that story gone to another reporter, we risked losing those sources. As well, people who already think we’re biased for Jenny are going to think so no matter what.

This paper will not endorse a mayoral candidate—the only  mayoral endorsement we ever did was for Rocky Anderson in 1999—and look how well that turned out. Full disclosure: I regret it.