On February 24, 2009 about a dozen reporters at the Deseret News pulled their bylines in an organized protest over the demotion of two editors at the paper.
Some of the employees that protested at the Deseret News allege that Editor in Chief Joe Cannon has been systematically editing news content to either ignore or sugar-coat stories critical of the Mormon Church. The editors in question were demoted after resisting the changes in news content at the paper. Cannon contends that the changes are necessary for the paper’s financial security.
Though the Deseret News is owned by the Mormon Church, it has historically – until Cannon’s leadership – sought to be perceived as a credible mainstream media publication, dedicated to fair coverage of news stories. Though the paper’s editorial positions have always been closely aligned with those of the Mormon Church, the news coverage has been generally consistent with impartial, non-partisan mainstream journalistic standards.
The reporters who protested this week allege that Cannon has decided to turn Utah’s second largest daily paper in to a “niche” paper – catering specifically to Mormon readers. The reporters say that they believe that under his direction, stories have been edited to present news through the filter of Mormon religious beliefs. In some cases, the protesters suggest stories were completely pulled because they did not strictly adhere to Mormon religious teachings and political views.
The Deseret News presents itself to major business interests as a mainstream newspaper when seeking advertising dollars. Whether advertisers will choose to continue to pay for advertising in a publication that appears to be moving from mainstream news outlet to a religious publication remains to be seen. .
The reporters who pulled their by-lines aren’t happy with the decisions being made by Cannon, which they allege are stifling fair coverage of certain topics. According to Government and Politics Editor Josh Loftin, who led Tuesday’s by-line protest, “In doing so, he [Cannon] has made the decision that saving the newspaper means sacrificing the news value of the newspaper.” Loftin continued, “We were carving out a niche as the best newspaper in the city and that is being undone to be the best Mormon paper in the city.”
In a move that could lead to the stifling of fair, accurate and inclusive coverage of LGBT and other issues, the Deseret News runs the risk of abandoning basic journalistic standards necessary to remain recognizable as a credible media source.