Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation between Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson:
Bagley: This week Val Lambson is at an economics conference. To pick up the slack, BTL has invited a guest to share his views on last week's cartoon about West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder's moonlighting stint as a citizen journalist. Thanks for being here, Mr. Burwash. Mind if I call you Richard?
Burwash: Mind if I call you an insignificant cog in the liberal media elite propoganda machine?
Bagley: I've been wondering, Mr. Burwash, what is life like for a "good news" citizen journalist, such as yourself, who resides entirely in Mayor Winder's imagination?
Burwash: I run wild a lot. I enjoy access to information and sources that traditional journalists can only dream of. For instance, face time with the mayor is as close as the nearest mirror.
Bagley: Mayor Winder complained that local newspapers, especially The Salt Lake Tribune, were making West Valley City look bad because of the crime coverage.
Burwash: You wanna know what's criminal? That a good man like Mayor Winder, acting with only the purest of intentions, should be subjected to a high-tech lynching by the lame stream media simply because he put a positive spin on stuff he made up. Hey, the mayor loves the First Amendment and free speech as much as the next anonymous commentator on Disqus.
Bagley: Don't Mayor Winder's actions display contempt for journalists and journalism's highest standards?
Burwash: The mayor has a great respect for journalists who do their job. I know this from personal experience. Not once in my reporting career has he ever called to complain that I got my facts wrong or that I misquoted him.
Bagley: Isn't being too close to one's "story" a possible problem?
Burwash: How so?
Bagley: You're sleeping with the mayor's wife.
Burwash: I'm deeply offended at your insinuation that sharing the same bed with the woman whose husband I am doing stories about could somehow compromise my impartiality! And besides, she fully supports my reporting as well as being one hundred percent behind the mayor's policies.
Bagley: Are you sure the mayor doesn't mind?
Burwash: Let me ask him ...
Bagley: Moving on ... what are your plans going forward?
Burwash: I'm thinking of sticking with journalism. So what if I put words in peoples' mouths? So what if I exaggerated a bit? So what if I got people riled up? ...
I figure all I need is a few drawing lessons.
Bagley: Sorry, the position's taken.
The comment section last week was lively, informative and refreshingly civil. Many compared Mitt Romney's "evangelical problem" to their own problem living as non-Mormons in Utah. Being viewed as weird and exotic is hard on the outsider. The following top comment sums up the sentiment of many on the discussion board.
Wouldn't it be refreshing for a candidate and come out and say "I'm not going to discuss my faith. If you're interested in my beliefs, judge my actions and figure it out for yourself"