The Reader Advocate

Published September 6, 2008 1:45 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dozens of you called and e-mailed this week expressing dismay over The Salt Lake Tribune's coverage of the Republican National Convention. Several of you intimated that The Tribune is run by the political left.

Those who voiced negative opinions said the fact that the paper used news stories by staff members of The New York Times showed we were too liberal-minded.

OK, let's take that last assertion first. The New York Times may be liberal on its editorial pages, but it provides some of the best national and international coverage on the news side. While their writers may hold the record for the longest first paragraphs in the history of modern journalism, they report what they see and hear and verify.

In some instances this week we used Times stories in our print edition. The national and international news stories on our Web site, http://www.sltrib.com, are provided by the Associated Press. New stories rotate in as they are written.

To enhance political convention coverage for our readers, we had staffers - including Tommy Burr, Matt Canham and Robert Gehrke - at the conventions filing stories of special interest to Utahns. Some of you said that when The Tribune printed stories concerning the pregnant, unwed daughter of the Republican vice presidential candidate, the paper stepped over the line. "Why would you print that except to shame the Republicans?" some of you asked.

As a party, the GOP is on record as being anti-abortion and in favor of teaching abstinence as a way of saving sex for marriage. When a national political candidate who preaches abstinence, is against sex education in the schools and is opposed to abortion discloses that her unwed teenage daughter is pregnant, it's news.

Politicians especially attacked the media. "I'd like to thank the elite media for doing something that, quite frankly, I wasn't sure could be done: and that's unifying the Republican Party and all of America in support of Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin," said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to cheers in Xcel Energy Center. "The reporting of the past few days has proved tackier than a costume change at a Madonna concert."

All people, including politicians, have clay feet. Some folks admit their failures and inspire people by telling how they grew from mistakes and became better people.

As Matea Gold wrote this week in the Los Angeles Times:

"The angry denunciations by Republican leaders spotlighted a dominant theme of the 2008 presidential campaign: the charge that the news media are a biased referee. It began in the primaries, when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign complained about sexist coverage, and has continued through the general election with accusations that the media are in Democratic nominee Barack Obama's sway.

"Attacking the media is not a new political tactic, of course. Still, the intensity of the complaints rose to such a pitch this week that they dominated the narrative of the race.

"At nearly every turn, McCain's campaign challenged the reporting on Palin, particularly questions raised about her 17-year-old pregnant daughter, Bristol. Senior McCain strategist Steve Schmidt said the media were displaying 'a level of viciousness and scurrilousness,' and Cindy McCain called the coverage 'insulting.' "

Terry Orme, Tribune managing editor for News and Business, explains:

"Going into both conventions, we were cognizant that we had to treat each equally and fairly in terms of amount of space on the front page and inside pages.

"We did have two reporters at the Democratic convention, because it was in Denver and we felt it had regional importance as well as political importance. We had just one in St. Paul. If you look at the coverage of each, it would be hard for anyone to disagree that we have been fair."

The truth of the matter is this: Mainstream newspapers, including The Salt Lake Tribune, try to report the verifiable facts in a dignified manner.

The Reader Advocate's phone number is 801-257-8782. Write to the Reader Advocate, The Salt Lake Tribune, 90 S. 400 West, Suite 700, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101. E-mail: reader.advocate @sltrib.com.

This week's stats

* 91: Number unhappy with GOP convention coverage

* 23: Number who like Tribune blogs

* 15: Number who cannot read the bridge hand

* 17: Number who want more international coverage

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