There is an old saw in journalism — and in politics — that if a reporter — or a public official — is being attacked from both sides of the political spectrum at the same time, then he or she must be doing something right.
I’ve never really bought into that. But Thursday afternoon, a pair of emails landed in my inbox and those of some others who work at — well, these days, work for — The Salt Lake Tribune. One at 4:50 p.m., the other at 6:15 p.m. And, if you buy the idea that both sides hating you means you are doing it right, well, then, The Tribune is doing it really, really right.
From the early one:
“What is the matter with you? Do you not realize that at least 50% of your readers are Conservatives who approve of our President and love what he has done for our country? You recently printed only ONE editorial [actually, a letter to The Public Forum] that supported a Conservative view point and the next day a rebuttal which was totally mean spirited and not factual. You print nasty derogatory things about Trump, constantly. Today (April 15) three little disgusting blurbs about Trump, the Buffoon. Do you ever print anything factual, or just your liberally biased information that comes from where? Do you ever print any of the good things Trump has done? For instance, do you ever read The Wall Street Journal?”
I have been known to read the news coverage by The Wall Street Journal. It’s good. But I have given up reading their editorial pages, which basically exist to hold the hands of rich people and reassure them that being rich is morally superior to not being rich and they have nothing to feel guilty about. And is written, it often seems, by people who do not read WSJ news coverage. Or they would know better.
From the later one:
“Effective immediately I am cancelling my subscription to the Salt Lake Tribune. For you to promote this appalling story about some pseudo-cowboy Couy Griffin parading through the streets of Salt Lake City on behalf of “Cowboys for Trump” is not news, it is partisan BS. How about you actually cover the mistakes, the misdeeds, the lies, the racism, the p***y-grabbing and utter incompetence of our morally bankrupt President Trump?”
This one had me going. I looked and searched and googled and, though his description of the photo of a man riding a horse down State Street in Salt Lake City, Utah Capitol in the background, carrying a large American flag, 7th Cavalry-style, rang a bell, I couldn’t find it. Until a couple of our editors explained to me that it was among the photos we post on The Tribune’s Instagram account.
The photo and caption that so offended our ex-subscriber weren’t in The Tribune’s print edition or on its website. Though, on a day when there was neither COVID-19, earthquake aftershocks or a special session of the Legislature, it might well have been. Just because it meets the definition of news, subcategory, “Well there’s something you don’t see every day.”
Though it might surprise my regular readers, I am more inclined to agree with the email calling us out for not respecting conservative views than I am with the message berating us for taking note of Cowboys for Trump.
All the bad stuff the second message says about the president has been in The Tribune almost daily for the last four years. And it is flat true that the opinion pages of The Tribune have more liberal content than conservative views, especially if you only count the letters to The Public Forum and the local commentary contributions and leave aside the syndicated columnists.
That is a reflection, not of my editing decisions, but of the submissions we receive. Folks in these parts whose views run to the liberal side feel welcome and accepted in our pages and come to us for a soapbox to stand on and a shoulder to cry on. Those on the other side have other resources and outlets.
Also, these are strange days indeed. The traditional liberal/Democrat vs. conservative/Republican divide has been seriously upsot by the coming of a president who heads the Republican Party but is in no way conservative. He is better described as a fascist and a conman, and true conservatives who see that — columnists George F. Will, David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens and, maybe, sometimes, Sen. Mitt Romney — are at least as repulsed by him as are the most liberal Democrats.
We would be more than happy to have more letters and commentary from the other side of the traditional ideological divide. From supporters of the president, if they can express opinions not based on palpable lies. And especially from good, old fashioned Reagan/Romney conservatives who, like their liberal neighbors, may look upon The Tribune’s opinion pages as a port in this political storm.
George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, is an FDR-style liberal who finds himself missing Richard Nixon’s environmental policies.