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Editor column: We report from Washington what matters in Utah

By terry Orme

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 04 2014 02:20 pm • Last Updated Apr 05 2014 11:16 pm

To truly cover Utah, you need a reporter in Washington.


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• More than 70 percent of Utah land is controlled by the federal government — national parks, monuments, forests, and 30 million acres of BLM land.

• The state’s congressional delegation includes one of the most tenured, and therefore most powerful, senators (Orrin Hatch). Our junior senator is a charter member of the tea party and architect of last fall’s federal government shutdown (Mike Lee).

• Utah’s economy is dependent on decisions made in Washington, from the fate of Hill Air Force Base to all those tourism dollars spent visiting public lands and to subsidies for our transportation systems.

• Two of Utah’s favorite sons were presidential candidates in 2012, and one of them came within four percentage points (and 126 electoral votes) of the White House.

One of the many things that distinguishes The Salt Lake Tribune from other Utah news organizations is that we do report from Washington, D.C. Our man in the halls of Congress is Thomas Burr, a journalist who knows Utah (he’s a Salina native) and, after nine years of great coverage, knows Washington.

While most of his readers are in Utah, his work also gets honored around the country. He has received the National Press Club’s regional reporter award three times. A year ago, he became the youngest reporter ever inducted into the Gridiron Club and Foundation, a group that includes some of the best-known print and broadcast journalists in Washington.

Burr covered the Romney and Huntsman campaigns. He reported on such issues as Mitt Romney’s hesitancy to release personal tax information because it would detail his LDS Church contributions. (The candidate eventually did hand over some of his records.)

In working his congressional beat, Burr uncovered an interesting fact about Sen. Lee — that the newly installed senator, upon leaving a lucrative law career for Washington, found himself in financial straits and was forced to sell his million-dollar Utah dream home in a short sale. This after railing about the government’s inability to live within its means.

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These are just two of hundreds of examples of the sort of reporting Burr does day in and out for Tribune readers. And there’s more. Each morning, Monday to Friday, he, with help from intern Topher Webb, produces Political Cornflakes, a breezy must-read for insiders and anyone interested in the affairs of national, state and city governments. Read Cornflakes first thing and you are up to speed on all things political in Utah. It is delivered to thousands of email boxes by about 6 a.m. MDT, and is posted on the political blog at sltrib.com.

Burr talks about Utah and Washington politics on Salt Lake City public radio station KCPW, 88.3 FM, each Friday at 5 p.m.

Burr’s reporting partner in Washington, Matt Canham, has returned to the newsroom in Salt Lake City, bringing back his investigative and project reporting skills. We remain well-served in D.C. with Burr going it alone.

Today, Burr’s biweekly column gets a new name: Washington Insight. The goal is to give readers the perspective of a journalist who is approaching a decade of experience in covering Utah in D.C. There will be emphasis on analysis, anecdotes about what our delegation has been up to — reporting that you will get nowhere else.

That’s why Burr is in Washington. To keep his eyes on things that matter in Utah.

Terry Orme is editor and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune. Reach him at orme@sltrib.com.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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