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smac97

Is the Tribune's Coverage of Mormonism Backfiring?

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A letter to the Trib's editor:

Quote

Lately, I’m having a difficult time figuring out if I’m receiving the right newspaper. I’m sure I’m not alone in getting extremely tired of seeing all the LDS-themed stories taking up so much of the front page of The Trib.

Last Sunday was no exception, with fully the entire front page and four of the first section’s 10 pages about FLDS girls marrying, and a woman being thrown out of BYU-Idaho.

If the plan is to attract more LDS readers, it’s apparently having the opposite result, based on letters from people canceling their subscriptions. I’m getting very close.

You’re not going to attract LDS to The Trib — you’re just pushing away us gentiles. I’m sure I speak for many in asking you to go back to printing real news — especially on the front page. We’re really not that interested in reading all the Mormon stories — we read The Trib to avoid them for a while.

If it’s important, fine — but most of the stories aren’t. If we wanted to read about those things, we’d subscribe to the Deseret News. There’s a reason we don’t.

I'm of two minds on this issue.  On the one hand, I do find the Trib's coverage of Mormonism to be . . . patchy.  It does seem to go out of its way to publish stories about controversies about the Church, some of which simply don't seem to be very newsworthy.  Take, for example, Peggy Fletcher-Stack's absurd story about the anonymous woman who was deprived of a temple recommend because she wouldn't cover up while nursing the foyer, and how this led to "Mormon feminists" launching "a churchwide letter-writing campaign, urging LDS officials to issue a 'statement of support for nursing mothers.'"  I've never met Peggy Fletcher-Stack, but I was actually embarrassed for her.  She seriously submitted this for publication?  This gossippy silliness?  A letter-writing campaign about "nursing mothers" is newsworthy? 

What's next?  "This just in!  Intrepid reporter Peggy Fletcher-Stack reports that Eliza Q. McMormon of Manti was just asked by his bishop to help with an assignment at the cannery!  With only two days notice!  Outraged supporters of Eliza are creating a Facebook page urging LDS officials to issue a statement to bishops telling them that at least three days notice should be given for cannery assignments!  Return to Peggy's column in the Tribune tomorrow for further updates on this developing drama!"

On the other hand, I genuinely do want to hear news about Mormonism, and there are times when the Trib's coverage is helpful.

But in the aggregate, I think the author of the above letter has a point about the Trib needing to "go back to printing real news."

Thoughts?

-Smac

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10 minutes ago, smac97 said:

A letter to the Trib's editor:

I'm of two minds on this issue.  On the one hand, I do find the Trib's coverage of Mormonism to be . . . patchy.  It does seem to go out of its way to publish stories about controversies about the Church, some of which simply don't seem to be very newsworthy.  Take, for example, Peggy Fletcher-Stack's absurd story about the anonymous woman who was deprived of a temple recommend because she wouldn't cover up while nursing the foyer, and how this led to "Mormon feminists" launching "a churchwide letter-writing campaign, urging LDS officials to issue a 'statement of support for nursing mothers.'"  I've never met Peggy Fletcher-Stack, but I was actually embarrassed for her.  She seriously submitted this for publication?  This gossippy silliness?  A letter-writing campaign about "nursing mothers" is newsworthy? 

What's next?  "This just in!  Intrepid reporter Peggy Fletcher-Stack reports that Eliza Q. McMormon of Manti was just asked by his bishop to help with an assignment at the cannery!  With only two days notice!  Outraged supporters of Eliza are creating a Facebook page urging LDS officials to issue a statement to bishops telling them that at least three days notice should be given for cannery assignments!  Return to Peggy's column in the Tribune tomorrow for further updates on this developing drama!"

On the other hand, I genuinely do want to hear news about Mormonism, and there are times when the Trib's coverage is helpful.

But in the aggregate, I think the author of the above letter has a point about the Trib needing to "go back to printing real news."

Thoughts?

-Smac

I don't subscribe to the Tribune, but perhaps they see themselves as a counterbalance to the Deseret News' consistently positive reporting on the church. I'm reminded of a Bagley cartoon I saw many years ago showing two newspaper front pages: the Tribune's lead was "California Destroyed in Major Earthquake," and the Deseret News' was "General Conference Opens." I know, it's not that bad, but even as a believing member, I felt like the Deseret News was too much the establishment paper, representing the views of the dominant religion, politics, and culture. 

I agree that the nursing mom thing was a bit of an embarrassment, but the Tribune has done some great work covering LDS issues. Don't forget that their coverage of rape, campus safety, and the honor code at BYU won a well-deserved Pulitzer prize last year. One of the recipients was Rachel Piper, whom I got to know doing an interview several years ago about my book. I talked to her again a couple of weeks ago about a story she's working on, and I was impressed by how good she is at getting people to talk about specific things. When her story is published, I'll be sure to post a link.

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The Trib has to cater to different audiences so it have articles that make some things in the church look good and some look bad.  The Trib is having problems like other newspapers.  Fewer people are subscribing and forcing layoffs and reduced content.  I have sympathy for those that work there because no matter what they do, some will not be happy on the stories they do and they need to keep as many subscribers as possible to survive.

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 I think we should discuss the New York Times vs the New York Post. And then there's the Daily News.

What do you think?

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Probably a slow news period, but I think PFS is probably following the blogosphere, Exmo Reddit, social media accounts of John Dehlin and other main people in the Progmo-Exmo world, and this was a story that got a lot of noise over the past couple weeks.

This story has been particularly annoying to me. It seems to be a remote, isolated incident where there's probably a dumb, local bishop and also I'm sure there's more to the story. This is not a global LDS issue. Dumb. 

 

 

 

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The Trib is near financial death. They'd thought the Hunstman purchase would save them, but the owners have clearly had second thoughts about such a financial drain this year. They're in a small market with two papers. The economics just are not good. They then put up a paywall but from what I've heard it's made things worse not better. These sensationalist LDS oriented stories seem pretty clearly designed to get click throughs to try and increase the subscriber base. I'd be shocked if it works.

The writing is honestly on the wall with the paper. Ignoring content issues and just looking at economics I'm surprised it's made it this far.

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1 hour ago, jkwilliams said:

I don't subscribe to the Tribune, but perhaps they see themselves as a counterbalance to the Deseret News' consistently positive reporting on the church. I'm reminded of a Bagley cartoon I saw many years ago showing two newspaper front pages: the Tribune's lead was "California Destroyed in Major Earthquake," and the Deseret News' was "General Conference Opens." I know, it's not that bad, but even as a believing member, I felt like the Deseret News was too much the establishment paper, representing the views of the dominant religion, politics, and culture. 

I agree that the nursing mom thing was a bit of an embarrassment, but the Tribune has done some great work covering LDS issues. Don't forget that their coverage of rape, campus safety, and the honor code at BYU won a well-deserved Pulitzer prize last year. One of the recipients was Rachel Piper, whom I got to know doing an interview several years ago about my book. I talked to her again a couple of weeks ago about a story she's working on, and I was impressed by how good she is at getting people to talk about specific things. When her story is published, I'll be sure to post a link.

You raise a fair point.  I guess I think the Trib's coverage of the Church is a mixed bag, and it needn't be.  Drop the gossipy nonsense like the nursing mom thing.  Stopy carrying water for cranks and critics of the Church by giving them far more coverage than they really merit (Sam Young, Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, Denver Snuffer, etc.).  These folks and their doings are, frankly, just not sufficiently newsworthy.  I think the Trib lowers itself by giving them too much attention and coverage.  And that added coverage isn't doing the Trib any favors, I think.  The Mormons are not going to be wooed by the Trib parroting talking critics' unending gripes against the Church, and non-Mormons will end up feeling, well, like the author of the letter to the editor in the OP.

When the Trib sticks to newsworthy items, I pretty much agree with you as to the caliber of its reporting.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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11 minutes ago, smac97 said:

You raise a fair point.  I guess I think the Trib's coverage of the Church is a mixed bag, and it needn't be.  Drop the gossipy nonsense like the nursing mom thing.  Stopy carrying water for cranks and critics of the Church by giving them far more coverage than they really merit (Sam Young, Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, Denver Snuffer, etc.).  These folks and their doings are, frankly, just not sufficiently newsworthy.  I think the Trib lowers itself by giving them too much attention and coverage.  And that added coverage isn't doing the Trib any favors, I think.  The Mormons are not going to be wooed by the Trib parroting talking critics' unending gripes against the Church, and non-Mormons will end up feeling, well, like the author of the letter to the editor in the OP.

When the Trib sticks to newsworthy items, I pretty much agree with you as to the caliber of its reporting.

Thanks,

-Smac

I guess I see those folks you list as being newsworthy, if nothing else because they represent some current strains of thought within the LDS community. Would you prefer the Trib stick to summaries of conference talks?

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3 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I guess I see those folks you list as being newsworthy, if nothing else because they represent some current strains of thought within the LDS community.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.  I think the Trib does report on Kelly / Snuffer / Dehlin / Runnells / Young because their behaviors/opinions are newsworthy.  I think the Trib has deemed their behaviors/opinions newsworthy, and does so by giving them far more attention than they really deserve.

And their behaviors/opinions all happen to be decidedly antagonistic toward the LDS Church.  

3 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

Would you prefer the Trib stick to summaries of conference talks?

No.  I'd rather the Trib focus less on quantity of Mormon-related news items and more on quality.  They can do it if they want to.  But for some reason they think that carrying water for critics and cranks of the LDS Church bolsters the Trib's image as an independent news source.  I don't think it does.

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 minute ago, smac97 said:

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.  I think the Trib does report on Kelly / Snuffer / Dehlin / Runnells / Young because their behaviors/opinions are newsworthy.  I think the Trib has deemed their behaviors/opinions newsworthy, and does so by giving them far more attention than they really deserve.

And their behaviors/opinions all happen to be decidedly antagonistic toward the LDS Church.  

No.  I'd rather the Trib focus less on quantity of Mormon-related news items and more on quality.  They can do it if they want to.  But for some reason they think that carrying water for critics and cranks of the LDS Church bolsters the Trib's image as an independent news source.  I don't think it does.

Thanks,

-Smac

Journalism is always hit and miss. I'd prefer all news items be of good quality, but that's unrealistic. And sometimes "critics and cranks" are newsworthy. Today's Deseret News lead story is about those nutjobs down in Manti who think the gospel means abusing 8 year old girls. Is that giving them far more attention than they really deserve? I think so, but I also think it's a newsworthy story. 

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900027476/cult-leader-says-heavenly-laws-directed-him-to-take-child-bride.html

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15 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

Journalism is always hit and miss. I'd prefer all news items be of good quality, but that's unrealistic. And sometimes "critics and cranks" are newsworthy. Today's Deseret News lead story is about those nutjobs down in Manti who think the gospel means abusing 8 year old girls. Is that giving them far more attention than they really deserve? I think so, but I also think it's a newsworthy story. 

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900027476/cult-leader-says-heavenly-laws-directed-him-to-take-child-bride.html

I agree with most of what you say.  And yes, sometimes "critics and cranks" are indeed newsworthy.  So I guess it comes down to what "sometimes" means.  To me, I think the Trib is way overboard in giving news coverage to the personal opinions and/or private goings-on of people like Dehlin, Snuffer, Young, Kelly, various advocacy groups, an anonymous I-think-publicly-bearing-my-breasts-in-the-foyer-of-my-church-during-church-meetings-and-in-full-view-of-passersby-is-just-dandy-and-who-are-you-to-say-otherwise woman, and so on.  Their personal opinions and antics just don't interest me that much.  And their opinions and antics, in most instances, simply do not rise to the level of "news" in my view, let alone news that merits continuing and pervasive coverage by Utah's Pulitzer-prize-winning "independent" newspaper.

Meanwhile, the Trib's coverage of really newsworthy Mormon-related stories has been quite good.  Here I am thinking of things like the BYU PD lawsuit, the Honor Code controversy, and the McKenna Denson lawsuit.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97

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5 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I agree with most of what you say.  And yes, sometimes "critics and cranks" are indeed newsworthy.  So I guess it comes down to what "sometimes" means.  To me, I think the Trib is way overboard in giving news coverage to the personal opinions and/or private goings-on of people like Dehlin, Snuffer, Young, Kelly, various advocacy groups, an anonymous I-think-publicly-bearing-my-breasts-in-the-foyer-of-my-church-during-church-meetings-and-in-full-view-of-passersby-is-just-dandy-and-who-are-you-to-say-otherwise woman, and so on.  Their personal opinions and antics just don't interest me that much.  And their opinions and antics, in most instances, simply do not rise to the level of "news" in my view, let alone news that merits continuing and pervasive coverage by Utah's Pulitzer-prize-winning "independent" newspaper.

Meanwhile, the Trib's coverage of really newsworthy Mormon-related stories has been quite good.  Here I am thinking of things like the BYU PD lawsuit, the Honor Code controversy, and the McKenna Denson lawsuit.

Thanks,

-Smac

I guess the question is whether the good stuff outweighs the trivial. 

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15 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I guess the question is whether the good stuff outweighs the trivial. 

Not really.  I think the question is whether the Trib should stop reporting on the trivialities and just stick with substantive, newsworthy stuff.  That would be a win-win.  Mormons would look to the Trib as a blunt-but-honest straight-talking news source.  Non-Mormons would not get fatigued with excessive coverage of Mormonism (the dross of "trivialities" having been skimmed away).

As it is, however, the Trib is shooting itself in the foot.  These "trivialities" appear in the aggregate to A) not be really newsworthy, and C) predominantly hostile to the LDS Church.  The Trib will continue to alienate Mormons and non-Mormons alike as long as they continue to shovel this dreck and call it "news."

-Smac

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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

A letter to the Trib's editor:

I'm of two minds on this issue.  On the one hand, I do find the Trib's coverage of Mormonism to be . . . patchy.  It does seem to go out of its way to publish stories about controversies about the Church, some of which simply don't seem to be very newsworthy.  Take, for example, Peggy Fletcher-Stack's absurd story about the anonymous woman who was deprived of a temple recommend because she wouldn't cover up while nursing the foyer, and how this led to "Mormon feminists" launching "a churchwide letter-writing campaign, urging LDS officials to issue a 'statement of support for nursing mothers.'"  I've never met Peggy Fletcher-Stack, but I was actually embarrassed for her.  She seriously submitted this for publication?  This gossippy silliness?  A letter-writing campaign about "nursing mothers" is newsworthy? 

What's next?  "This just in!  Intrepid reporter Peggy Fletcher-Stack reports that Eliza Q. McMormon of Manti was just asked by his bishop to help with an assignment at the cannery!  With only two days notice!  Outraged supporters of Eliza are creating a Facebook page urging LDS officials to issue a statement to bishops telling them that at least three days notice should be given for cannery assignments!  Return to Peggy's column in the Tribune tomorrow for further updates on this developing drama!"

On the other hand, I genuinely do want to hear news about Mormonism, and there are times when the Trib's coverage is helpful.

But in the aggregate, I think the author of the above letter has a point about the Trib needing to "go back to printing real news."

Thoughts?

-Smac

Peggy is excellent, and I appreciate the work the SLTrib is doing to shine a light on things that need attention, social issues that are relevant in Mormonism.  They won a Pulitzer for their work on the BYU scandal last year.  They are making a positive contribution to Utah, and I'm grateful for it. 

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23 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

Peggy is excellent, and I appreciate the work the SLTrib is doing to shine a light on things that need attention, social issues that are relevant in Mormonism.  They won a Pulitzer for their work on the BYU scandal last year.  They are making a positive contribution to Utah, and I'm grateful for it. 

While Peggy has been good I suspect the pressures of the past few months are leading her to need to publish stuff that is more problematic. Recent stuff has been very click-baity with limited actual reporting. i.e. not finding witnesses or other people to interview with the nursing issue etc. I'm sure she'd prefer to not have to do such easy to generate click bait stuff. But I suspect the economic incentives are pretty devastating.

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21 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

While Peggy has been good I suspect the pressures of the past few months are leading her to need to publish stuff that is more problematic. Recent stuff has been very click-baity with limited actual reporting. i.e. not finding witnesses or other people to interview with the nursing issue etc. I'm sure she'd prefer to not have to do such easy to generate click bait stuff. But I suspect the economic incentives are pretty devastating.

I'll have to think about this to consider if the recent direction has changed.  I know they and other traditional news outlets are suffering, so this is possible.  Do you have any evidence that there has been a shift, or just personal observation? 

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4 hours ago, smac97 said:

But in the aggregate, I think the author of the above letter has a point about the Trib needing to "go back to printing real news."

I want to know whether Pres. Nelson is served with one or two scoops  of ice cream for lunch.    Deseret News refuses to tell its readers  -- what are they hiding?

Edited by cdowis
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3 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

The Trib is near financial death. They'd thought the Hunstman purchase would save them, but the owners have clearly had second thoughts about such a financial drain this year. They're in a small market with two papers. The economics just are not good. They then put up a paywall but from what I've heard it's made things worse not better. These sensationalist LDS oriented stories seem pretty clearly designed to get click throughs to try and increase the subscriber base. I'd be shocked if it works.

The writing is honestly on the wall with the paper. Ignoring content issues and just looking at economics I'm surprised it's made it this far.

I think what is happening to news is going to have repercussions for society but I really don't get the paywall concept. It has to be obvious now that people aren't going to pay for news anymore. Nor do people rely on one source anymore so it is unrealistic to think they will pay each news source. So I'm trying to figure out why, if they are supported by advertising, they would block people from the advertising.  How many actually shell out the money when they hit the wall rather than going to another free source? I stop going to the newspaper at all. 

 

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5 hours ago, smac97 said:

But in the aggregate, I think the author of the above letter has a point about the Trib needing to "go back to printing real news."

Thoughts?

-Smac

Why these are not considered as "Real News" escapes me......This is Utah, people are interested reading/hearing about Mormonism related stories......

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Just now, Atheist Mormon said:

Why these are not considered as "Real News" escapes me......This is Utah, people are interested reading/hearing about Mormonism related stories......

Journalism schools the world over spend quite a bit of time trying to quantify the concept of "newsworthiness."

An anonymous woman's disagreement with her bishop about her bearing her breasts to nurse her baby in the foyer is not, in my view, "newsworthy."  

An online petition from "Mormon feminists" to the leaders of the Church about the above item is not, in my view, "newsworthy."

I am a pretty staunch Mormon.  I am quite interested in "reading/hearing about Mormonism related stories," provided that they are newsworthy.

Thanks,

-Smac

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3 hours ago, churchistrue said:

Probably a slow news period, but I think PFS is probably following the blogosphere, Exmo Reddit, social media accounts of John Dehlin and other main people in the Progmo-Exmo world, and this was a story that got a lot of noise over the past couple weeks.

This story has been particularly annoying to me. It seems to be a remote, isolated incident where there's probably a dumb, local bishop and also I'm sure there's more to the story. This is not a global LDS issue. Dumb. 

 

 

 

It's not even a real issue. The Trib uses an unnamed woman without ever verifying her story by interviewing witnesses, instead Peggy used a blog as her only source. But some of those witnesses did have some things to say in mommy FB groups and this was not about what we think of as nursing. I bought into it initially and criticized the bishop, but there is no reason to believe what this woman reported about him than what she said about what she was doing. I will support most feminist issues but  IMO, the woman should have been removed from the building. 

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28 minutes ago, juliann said:

It's not even a real issue. The Trib uses an unnamed woman without ever verifying her story by interviewing witnesses, instead Peggy used a blog as her only source. But some of those witnesses did have some things to say in mommy FB groups and this was not about what we think of as nursing. I bought into it initially and criticized the bishop, but there is no reason to believe what this woman reported about him than what she said about what she was doing. I will support most feminist issues but  IMO, the woman should have been removed from the building. 

Not surprising. The whole thing definitely had a "there's way more to the story" vibe. Dumb that people bought into it at all.

 

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I think this sums up the type of articles posted in the SLT and how I usually treat them.

click.jpg.9948c3956cf7c2d76b6405024c5b53e9.jpg

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1 hour ago, juliann said:

I think what is happening to news is going to have repercussions for society but I really don't get the paywall concept. It has to be obvious now that people aren't going to pay for news anymore. Nor do people rely on one source anymore so it is unrealistic to think they will pay each news source. So I'm trying to figure out why, if they are supported by advertising, they would block people from the advertising.  How many actually shell out the money when they hit the wall rather than going to another free source? I stop going to the newspaper at all. 

I think it's having repercussions now. I think once there are fewer news outlets and we reach economic stability that news will actually improve. I don't think we need 4 or 5 different reporters all reporting on exactly the same story.

1 hour ago, churchistrue said:

Not surprising. The whole thing definitely had a "there's way more to the story" vibe. Dumb that people bought into it at all.

Yup. Although if you say that in some circles prepare to be attacked.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I am a pretty staunch Mormon.  I am quite interested in "reading/hearing about Mormonism related stories," provided that they are newsworthy.

It's worth noting these are stories a certain group of people are very interested in. Maybe not us but there definitely are people - especially those of a more liberal bent - who are extremely interested in them. Especially if they generate outrage and support their priors. However what I'd be worried about were I the SL Tribune is what the OP mentioned: alienating more people than they attract.

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5 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

The Trib is near financial death. They'd thought the Hunstman purchase would save them, but the owners have clearly had second thoughts about such a financial drain this year. They're in a small market with two papers. The economics just are not good. They then put up a paywall but from what I've heard it's made things worse not better. These sensationalist LDS oriented stories seem pretty clearly designed to get click throughs to try and increase the subscriber base. I'd be shocked if it works.

The writing is honestly on the wall with the paper. Ignoring content issues and just looking at economics I'm surprised it's made it this far.

This.

I think they are struggling to do the best they can with the resources they have left while maintaining their market niche.

Thinks are tough all over the country right now for newspapers. Many have already succumbed to changing market forces.

 

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