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The conservative Media Research Center this week released a study of how Utah's two major newspapers covered Sen. Mike Lee's role in the government shutdown. The conclusion of the organization that vows to "expose and combat liberal media bias" was not surprising: "Lee faced voluminous, and largely hostile, local coverage of his role in the shutdown," according to the study.
The MRC analyzed 116 news stories, editorials and opinion columns in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Mormon church-owned Deseret News from Sept. 17 to Oct. 31. The study found, for example, that by a margin of 33-1, "editorial opinion at both newspapers was harshly against the strategy of linking Obamacare's fate to government funding."
"Coverage in the news pages was scarcely more balanced," according to the MRC study, "with 32 news stories tilting against the conservatives' strategy, vs. just three in favor and 13 conveying a balanced debate."
Editorials and opinion pieces are just that: opinions. At The Tribune, they are conceived and written with no involvement or direction from the news staff.
We object, however, to the MRC's characterization of our news coverage of Lee's role in the shutdown as "tilting against" or "in favor" of the conservatives' strategy.
We report the news — including news of the shutdown and our junior senator's role in it — from multiple perspectives, and strive always to be fair and balanced.
The Tribune is the only Utah news organization with reporters based in Washington, D.C., who were present for debates, briefings and press conferences and had direct access to key players in the story.
As always, Washington reporters Matt Canham and Thomas Burr reported the news not secondhand or relying on wire services but as it happened. They applied professional and ethical standards to represent both sides and offer context and perspective that enabled readers to decide themselves whether Lee was representing his constituents well, whether they voted for him or not.
Yes, that means they reported — and at times began stories — with what critics said about Lee.
But they also reported comprehensively on Lee's record as a senator to date and talked to numerous sources — including Lee insiders and supporters — about what motivated him.
Here are the news stories the MRC study cited. You be the judge. Did we treat Lee unfairly in these or other news stories?
Lee, declines interview requests The Tribune and many other news organizations.
Regardless, our reporters will continue to attempt to interview him. They also will continue to report on his actions and record as our senator so you can make informed decisions come time for his re-election.