Theology and the Public Square in Utah

March 5, 2008 | 35 comments
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The Salt Lake Tribune recently ran a column written by Grant Palmer arguing that Christian salvation turns not on the performance of ordinances but rather on an ethical life. Theologically speaking, the article (as Dave has pointed out nicely) is a pretty pedestrian, anti-sacramental, and essentially Protestant reading of the New Testament. The really interesting question raised by the article is not its theology, but rather what it is doing on the editorial page of an mainstream, secular newspaper.

I think that we can safely dismiss the notion that the column was published because the Trib has taken it upon itself to launch a public discussion of Christian soteriology and New Testament hermeneutics. Perhaps the folks at the Trib editorial page think that a decent interest in the eternal salvation of their readers is part of their public function, but I doubt it. So what gives?

Let me make what I hope are two very obvious claims. First, no mainstream newspaper outside of Utah would have any interest whatsoever in publishing this column. Second, if the piece was not overtly critical of LDS theology it would not have been published. (The fact that Grant Palmer’s public notoriety, such as it is, comes mainly from publishing revisionist history and getting — unwisely in my view, incidentally — sanctioned by his Stake President probably didn’t hurt his publication chances either.)

Now, my point is not to launch into a diatribe about how anti-Mormon the Trib is, nor do I invite you to do so in the comments. Rather, my point is that the rules of public discourse in Utah are different. Normally speaking, I think that it is safe to say that most newspapers would regard theology as of little concern, except in so far as it is seen to have secular, political implications. The idea is that such religious beliefs are matters of personal conscience — or perhaps simply personal taste — that are best banished to the feature section or the religion page (if it exists). The editorial page, on the other hand, is to be a forum for serious — and more importantly public — matters of social and political concern. Normally, soteriology doesn’t fall into this category.

In Utah, however, the rules are different for the simple reason that Mormons make up the overwhelming majority of the state’s population and the Church is undoubtedly the most powerful institution in the state (with the possible exception of the federal government, which owns most of the land). Accordingly, the implicit logic of the Trib editorial page seems to be that which relates to Mormonism is of public concern — including it would seem questions of liturgy and ordinances. Note, this doesn’t mean that they necessarily agree with Palmer’s soteriology, or even cares that much on the theological merits. All it means is that they think that the criticism of LDS theology is a matter of public concern. That is interesting.

Frankly, I think that there is probably some merit to their (entirely implicit) argument. There is something a little surreal about philosophical liberalism’s insistence that the public sphere can be purged of “private” beliefs, particularly when those beliefs become manifested as important corporate — in the broad philosophical sense rather than the narrow commercial sense — actors. To be sure, there is a certain asymmetry here — I take it, for example, that Unitarian theology probably doesn’t count as a matter of serious public concern in Utah. On the other hand, I don’t think that Utah Mormons should get too huffy about this. Mormon theology is probably not a matter of public concern in south-eastern Virginia, where I live, but Baptist theology might be. Being big means that you matter in ways that those who are small do not.

Yet even if we concede that at some point sheer size means that we re-draw the rules of liberal public discourse, does it mean that any and all theological questions are on the table? In Utah I think that a person might legitmately take the position that the LDS Church is too powerful and therefore anything that undermines its power is good for the commonweal. To be sure, religious bigotry might lie behind such a belief, but it would be religious bigotry of a complicated kind. Permanent residents of a college town might regard the local university as too powerful and think that anything limiting its power is in the public interest. This might or might not be the result of rank anti-intellectualism. Hence, can the Trib editorial board reason that Palmer’s attack on LDS theology is a legitimate topic of public debate precisely solely because it could help or hurt the state’s dominant institution? Or must they also believe that the underlying theological merits are matters of public importance?

These are the sorts of questions that make watching Utah politics and culture from a safe distance so much fun!

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35 Responses to Theology and the Public Square in Utah

  1. Ardis Parshall on March 5, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    I am glad you recognize that you are at “a safe distance.” Living at Ground Zero can be overwhelming. Not only are we in the thick of skirmishes like the one you note, we also have to dodge incoming missiles from Mormons elsewhere who feel perfectly free to pass judgment on Utah politics and culture. I’m not talking about your observations here, Nate, but about the sneers from commenters who suppose that Buttars represents the quality of all Utah legislators because they don’t pay attention when good men and women speak wisely, or complaints from commenters who think the church has no business renovating commercial property because they are ignorant of what it means to be such a huge corporate citizen of a city and state. A few years at BYU and a subscription to the Church News give Mormons a continent away the right to condemn Utah politics and culture. Or so they think.

  2. Jim F. on March 5, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Rather than a thread jack, I will only follow up Ardis’s post by asking her to write a post on it. It’s worth doing.

    As for the Trib’s interest in LDS theology: I agree that it is interesting that the Trib thinks it is interesting, though they could have done better than Palmer. Blake Ostler would have been a much better choice. I wonder if perhaps Palmer volunteered his piece and someone at the Trib said, “Hey, this is a good idea. Let’s do something on these questions about LDS theology.”

  3. Martin Willey on March 5, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Go, Ardis!

    I agree with Nate. It is almost like you have to know \”the rest of the story\” for the Palmer piece to be at all newsworthy. Like many in Utah (my home state), the Trib assumes that everyone is “plugged in” to Mormon culture.

  4. E on March 6, 2008 at 12:48 am

    I saw the piece in the Trib, and I think it’s just weird.

  5. Justine on March 6, 2008 at 12:59 am

    I would take issue only with the assertion that no where else would something like this happen. I\’ll concede that it happens on a larger scale in Utah, but living in an overwhelmingly Catholic region some years back, the newspapers and local television news were very eager to discuss, write, theorize, criticize and sermonize to the Catholic community.

    All of these efforts, regardless of their origination point, serve largely to further the newspaper\’s interests, or in other words, to sell more newspapers. I\’m afraid I\’m too cynical to believe that the Trib or any other newspaper is really interested in the validity of Palmer\’s position or in furthering public debate — unless you\’ve got to buy their newspaper to be a part of it.

  6. Richard O. on March 6, 2008 at 1:00 am

    We seem to be living in a post-Romney world where attacks on Mormon belief, however subtle, are now legit. Huckabee attacked Mormon theology in Iowa where the LDS population is almost invisible but the Evangelicals loom large. But Romney was in the political arena. Attacks on Mormonism seem to be a bit like graffiti. Once some starts, and it isn’t promptly cleaned up, it spreads very fast. The Trib has attacked Mormons for years about political, social, and economic issues. Theological attacks seem to be something new for them. Huckabee and the Evangelicals seem to be casting a long dark shadow.
    Sorry if this seems like a threadjack.

  7. bfwebster on March 6, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Nate:

    Actually, it’s not that usual for other major daily newspapers to have a weekly ‘Religion’ or ‘Belief’ section. The Washington Post has a Religion section that it runs weekly (cf. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/religion/; registration may be required), and I’ve seen it in other papers as well. In the case of the Salt Lake Tribune, its main competitor (the Deseret News) prints a weekly LDS “Church News” supplement, so it’s only natural to expect the Tribune to have some kind of regular religion coverage of its own.

    Of course, none of that addresses the issue that you raise, namely the context for Palmer’s remarks. Still, the article gives some of that context — both from the example Palmer gives (a hypothetical of a Latter-day Saint and a Roman Catholic converting to each other’s religion) and the brief author’s bio stating that he’s the author of An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins. And if you’ve got a Religion section and you need to fill it up, you get the material where you can. One might better ask why the Salt Lake Tribune website has a section devoted exclusively to LDS news (http://www.sltrib.com/lds) — and the answer is, because its competition does (http://deseretnews.com/dn/lds/1,3533,,00.html). I’m mostly surprised at how long it too the Trib to do it. ..bruce..

  8. Jonovitch on March 6, 2008 at 1:42 am

    Nate, I read this article the other day, and I had some of the same thoughts you did. “Why is this running? Is this an editorial? Why is this important even? Why now? What’s the point?”

    And because I’m not up on who’s who, “Who is this Palmer guy anyway? A dissident? This sure sounds kind of liberal. Is this guy a member? If so, is he going to get whacked for this piece, like that other guy from the orchestra and the former BYU professor?”

    And of course, “Only in Utah, and only in the Trib.”

    Jon

  9. Nate Oman on March 6, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Ardis: I agree. This wasn’t meant as a look-how-stupid-Utah is post. I grew up in Utah, have lots of family their, visit regularlly, and really like the state.

    Bruce & Justine: There is a difference between the religion page and the editorial page. It is the placement of Palmer’s column on the editorial page that is interesting. I agree that there are other regions where one religion becomes so dominant that the rules for the public discussion of theology might change. This, however, is why Palmer is of no interest to a newspaper outside of Utah. In Pinprick, Georgia they want something on Baptists not Mormons. And the dymanic will be different because Baptists have a more diffuse corporate identity.

    Jim: I agree that there are lots of folks other than Palmer who have much more interesting things to say about LDS theology. It may simply be that the Trib editorial page has a tin ear for what is an interesting discussion of LDS religion and what is hackneyed. I suspect, however, that what is at work here isn’t actually an interest in theology at all. Palmer’s article is interesting not because the underlying theological discussion is interesting, but because it is “a criticism of the state’s dominant religion.” I suspect that in the minds of the Trib editorial page it isn’t about theology at all — it is about LDS power. Theology is simply a surrogate; a weapon in what is ultimately a local cultural struggle. As for Palmer, I find his status as public Mormon intellectual a bit odd. I suspect that it is a combination of a shallow pond, over-reaction by local leaders to his heresies, and the fact that the Signature marketing folks know that controversy sells and milk the Palmer-as-persecuted-Christian-dissenter meme for all its worth. (This is one of the reasons that I have never been all that persuaded by the “discipline people to keep their ideas from spreading” argument. As soon as folks hear that intellectual X has been disciplined, there is a big spike of interest in their work most of which would have receded into well-deserved obscurity if people just let them have their 30 seconds of fame.)

    Dad: I wonder if you are right. It would be odd for the Trib to be following Huckabee’s lead, but wierder things have happened.

    Of course, I may simply be trying to endow with social or philosophical significance what is ultimately a slow newsday and the constant search of newspapers for copy that will slow the downward slide in subscription numbers.

  10. AaronK on March 6, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Considering all the wonderful things the Trib has printed about the church in the past, this is almost complimentary. But it does underscore the difference between living in “Zion” and elswhere. Most Mormons outside Utah are not viewed as a threat and are therefore left alone. Maybe we should just move the church to North Dakota.

  11. Russell Arben Fox on March 6, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I suspect that in the minds of the Trib editorial page it isn’t about theology at all — it is about LDS power. Theology is simply a surrogate; a weapon in what is ultimately a local cultural struggle.

    Well put, Nate. That the Trib would run Palmer’s piece in the way they did seems to me to make good journalistic sense, given the context in Utah and Salt Lake City. Surely it’s not the best or most appropriate thing they could run on the editorial page on any given newsday, and tha piece itself is kind of lame, but still, in the local scheme of things, it works. Most religious and/or ideological and/or theological conflicts are ultimately about, as you say, “a local cultural struggle,” an effort to attain or expand or reclaim or rebuff attempts at community identity, boundary-maintenance, and control. The legal/constitutional back-and-forth over the church’s building of the Main Street Plaza in SLC was kind of interesting on its own terms, but really, its significance was entirely a product of the question of Mormon cultural authority in its hometown; without that dynamic, it wouldn’t have merited more than a blurb on page B13.

  12. bfwebster on March 6, 2008 at 11:27 am

    It is the placement of Palmer’s column on the editorial page that is interesting.

    Ah — I didn’t realize that is where it was printed. Yes, that does put a whole different spin on things, and, yes, it does raise the question as to why the Trib would run that article on the editorial page rather than in the ‘Religion’ section.

    The only explanation that comes to mind is that the Trib may have a policy that any non-journalist/non-syndicated writing has to go on the Op-Ed page, but since I only see the electronic version (I live in Colorado), I have no idea if such a policy appears to be in place. ..bruce..

  13. Ardis Parshall on March 6, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Thanks, Nate. I didn’t mean my remark to be a threadjack, and certainly not to accuse you of Utah bashing — it seemed to me that the two ideas were so closely associated that the other should be mentioned: Just as Mormonism is fair game within Utah, so is Utah fair game within Mormondom.

    Your post reminds me of a speech from 1883, when the Grand Army of the Republic (the Civil War veterans’ association) met in national encampment. The commander-in-chief spoke of Mormon Utah as a “foreign and hostile” outpost where the GAR stood ready to wage a new — and very literal — war. “The question there is not in any sense political; all true men drop party lines there and are simply anti-Mormon.”

    While the Trib and Grant Palmer, et al., aren’t calling for fire and sword as the GAR was, I think they are part of the ongoing phenomenon of “drop[ping] party lines there” to be “simply anti-Mormon,” meaning “simply NOT-Mormon.” The Trib calls itself an “independent voice,” suggesting their news coverage and editorials and guest pieces are not dictated by any agenda, but they’re wrong. The Trib and its readers (take a gander at the comments added to any online article for evidence) are united in the agenda of being NOT-Mormon.

    I think that is a major reason for publishing pieces like Palmer’s. They aren’t trying to weaken Mormonism’s power; they are deepening the moat around their own little island by declaring yet again that they are NOT-Mormon.

  14. Mark B. on March 6, 2008 at 11:50 am

    All the “saved by grace alone” Protestants would dispute vigorously your suggestion that Palmer’s piece is a Protestant reading of the New Testament. They would suggest that Bro. Palmer has simply taken part of what’s objectionable about Mormonism (its emphasis on good works) and married it to a rather flabby anti-sacramentalism. That said, it raises further questions about the Trib’s publishing decisions. The debate over ritual vs. good works is as old as Cain, was much more eloquently stated by Isaiah, and is hardly likely to be settled (or added to) by an insipid op-ed from Grant Palmer.

    Besides, Palmer’s piece seems conveniently to ignore the Sections 76, 137 and 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants. If I were he, I would be embarrassed to have my name attached to the piece.

  15. Grant on March 6, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Pardon the threadjack, but if one calling himself an “insider” publishes a book openly revising and undermining the official version of the Church’s founding events and then publishes columns such as the one mentioned, why is sanction by his stake president “unwise?” Is it because sanctioning him makes him a martyr and therefore gives him a more visible platform? It seems to me that the Church might appropriately put some official distance between itself and such a member.

  16. Nate Oman on March 6, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I think it is unwise because it gives added publicity to the writer and turns them into a martyr. Niether result is good for the Church in my opinion.

  17. Nate Oman on March 6, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Mark B.: It depends on which strand of Protestantism one is looking at. I agree that Palmer might sound a bit Pelagian for the vague Calvinism that dominates evangelicalism. On the other hand, his remarks strike me as pretty consistent with a sort of social-gospel-oriented mainline Protestism.

  18. Adam Greenwood on March 6, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    But is “what is good for the Church” the standard that should govern Church discipline? Perhaps fiat justitia ruat caelum goes too far, but within those limits the real issue is one of deserts and on those grounds I’m perfectly willing to believe that Palmer’s discipline was proper.

  19. Nate Oman on March 6, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    “But is “what is good for the Church” the standard that should govern Church discipline?”

    It depends. The General Handbook of Instructions states that one of the purposes of church discipline is to safe guard the good name of the church. My criticism is meant only to apply to those who discipline intellectuals based on this mandate. It does not help the good name of the church to discipline such people. Now there may be other pastoral reasons that might justify discipline in such cases. My understanding, however, is that church discipline is not meant to be a retributive punishment for heretical beliefs or writings. The focus should be on what is good for the community of the saints and what will be in the best interests of the person subject to discipline. There may will be times of conflict between these, but to the extent that we are focusing purely on the first prong I don’t think that disciplining the likes of Palmer is a good idea. (Note: I do think that disciplining members to safe guard the good name of the church can be a good thing — for example I think that it is good for the church to excommunicate those who embezzle church funds or who are publically convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, etc.)

  20. Ray on March 6, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Fwiw, “safe guard the good name of the church” can be interpreted in **very** different ways, so just citing that passage doesn’t mean anything at all. I agree with Nate in #19 – at least as he is saying we shouldn’t reflexively “discipline” everyone for disagreeing with the Church and stating that opinion. There are cases when it is appropriate and cases where it isn’t, and the worst mistakes generally are made by automatically disciplining when it isn’t really necessary.

  21. Ray on March 6, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Strictly for perspective, if I viewed church discipline primarily as a way to “safe guard the good name of the church”, I would disfellowship and excommunicate more active, believing members than inactive, disbelieving members. In general, there are more in the first group that do more harm in real terms than there are in the second.

  22. jimbob on March 6, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    “In Utah, however, the rules are different for the simple reason that Mormons make up the overwhelming majority of the state’s population…”

    I don’t think that the rules are different because Mormons make up the majority, but because active and believing Mormons make up the majority. The Trib prints this stuff because it knows it’s an important issue to the large numbers of people who actually believe–or at one time believed–the claims of Mormonism. If most were of Utah were “lapsed” Mormons, few would have an interest in reading it, and, as a result, the paper would have little interest in printing it.

  23. Ardis Parshall on March 6, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    jimbob, I think your reasoning is right when it comes to news stories like the funeral of the church president, the resignation of the Choir director, and reports that missionaries are safe in the latest disaster zone: these are important matters to large numbers of believing Mormons, and much less so to non-Mormons or lapsed Mormons.

    But I think the motivation is completely the reverse when it comes to an op-ed piece like Palmer’s: the position he takes is NOT of interest to most active and believing Mormons; most active and believing Mormons have either already evaluated the legitimacy of religion without works and rejected it, or, if they somehow had never heard of it, they would recognize on reading Palmer’s piece that it runs against the grain of Mormonism. I can’t imagine much interest in reading it in either case.

    If the Trib chose opinion pieces based on what the majority of Utahns believe, they would publish stuff extolling works, and home teaching, or whatever. Can’t imagine much interest from the editors in printing that.

    I’m pretty sure that this piece was published because it conflicts with Mormon belief, and because of its author, both of which appeal to active disbelievers, not because active and believing Mormons are interested in Palmer’s musings.

  24. Kevinf on March 6, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    I’d agree with Ardis’ conclusion at the end of her comment # 23. The Trib has provided both a different perspective on news and happenings in the church, it’s culture, and community, as well as slinging the mud, which is what this column smacks of.

    As one who has publicly taken Senator Buttars to task here in the bloggernacle, I only feel that I should indicate that it is because he is such an anomaly that he stands out. I grew up in Utah, lived there until I was 42, and loved every minute of it. If I still lived there, I’d be lampooning him. But I certainly don’t confuse him with the whole state, and most of my family.

    We talk about an LDS majority in Utah, but if one starts looking at active LDS members, especially in the SLC area, would active LDS members still be a majority? I only say that because bigotry is only tolerated when it applies to whatever local minority is most visible, hence more discrimination against Native Americans during the 60′s and 70′s than African Americans in states like Montana and South Dakota. The current anti-immigrant/Hispanic angle that we seem to see in Utah and other states where Latino’s are a significant minority is a reflection of this as well. Until I had moved to Washington State, where there are large Asian populations, had I ever heard the derogatory term DWA (Driving While Asian).

    Could the Tribune just be a reflection of this same phenomena? No question but that LDS business people and politicians certainly are in the majority, but I have heard rumors of demographic shifts.

  25. Raymond Takashi Swenson on March 6, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    I live in Idaho Falls, where the population is 50% LDS, and even more so in Rexburg. Yet the daily newspaper is decidedly left wing. A few times a year it will run a front page article beathlessly reporting “news” like “They changed a word in the introduction to the Book of Mormon!” Yet at the same time they have an official editorial page policy that bars discussion of theology.

    For a couple of years I was a volunteer local columnist for the op ed page, and I was a natural adversary for some of the liberal pablum from the publishers. For example, one editorial promoted John Lennon’s idea that if we could just get rid of religion, there would be peace and tolerance in the world. My column asserted that most people are tolerant and loving of others because they believe God told them to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” A couple weeks later I met the publisher at a newspaper party, where he was distinctly uncivil. Then last year they laid off all of us local writers, ostensibly to get “fresh ideas”, although they continue to publish the same old left wing locals, which I think was the real reason for the layoffs. I’ve been told by a lot of people that the only part of the editorial page they could stand to read were the columns by me and a couple of other local citizens.

    I think the Trib is definitely in the same mode. They see themselves as “The Anointed” to use Thomas Sowell’s book title, with a mission to enlighten the ignorant hordes. They like to think they know more than the Department of Energy, for example, about how to manage nuclear waste, and their opinions on legal issues are glaringly uninformed. Individually, the editors are generally reasonable people, but they clearly see themselves in an adversarial position with much of the community. When you are ignorant, but your think you are smart (sort of like Kevin Kline’s character in “A Fish Called Wanda”) you do things like treating Grant Palmer like a major theologian.

  26. Steve Jones on March 7, 2008 at 11:30 am

    The Nauvoo Expositor was holy writ compared with the Salt Lake Tribune. It had been justly said of this sheet that it was “brought into the world to lie and was true to its mission.” Essentials in Church History p. 447 by Joseph Fielding Smith

  27. Adam Greenwood on March 7, 2008 at 11:41 am

    RTS:
    yep.

  28. Mark B. on March 7, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Best description of the Trib’s editorial policies that I’ve ever heard:

    The editors believe that they are a dog, and the Church is a fire hydrant. Every time the dog passes a hydrant, it feels the need to lift its leg.

  29. Jonovitch on March 7, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    An old adage in journalism is “follow the money.”

    Newspapers are notoriously cliquish. They are exclusive clubs, and the insiders make the rules. Egos abound, because “what I’m writing is so very important to my devoted fans, um, I mean readers.” They know this because their fans/readers write in to tell them so. Almost as good are irate readers who write in to complain. The only thing the writers/editors/managers see are another pair of eyeballs — it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. They know they’re right, because they’re the ones with their names in the bylines every day.

    It’s also a power game, between politicians and writers; writers and editors; editors and managers (i.e., advertisers). Writers try to get their story on the front page. Editors clammer for their reporters to get the big scoop and pull the rug out from whomever/whatever is in power. But it all comes back to money.

    Managers just want more readers. The more sensational (*cough* Fox News *cough*), the more readers, the higher the circulation, the more you can charge the advertisers. If it bleeds, it leads, and for good reason. It sells.

    It’s all about ego and power and money. The Salt Lake Tribune is certainly no exception.

    Follow the money.

    Jon

    P.S. If you really want to get their attention, send a letter to the managing editor (not the op-ed page) telling him you’re canceling your subscription, and make it clear that you are sending copies of the same letter to all the major advertisers. Then have all your friends and neighbors do the same. That’ll really freak them out. :)

  30. Ardis Parshall on March 7, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Hey, I thought we weren’t going to rag on the Tribune for anti-Mormonness (“Now, my point is not to launch into a diatribe about how anti-Mormon the Trib is, nor do I invite you to do so in the comments”). It’s no doubt safe to say that there is more to the Tribune and its editorial choices, and more to the motives of journalists in general, than any of us know … unless, of course, any of us are on the Trib‘s editorial board. Anybody? I thought not.

    There are many news articles and religious/cultural features touching on Mormonism that I have been very glad to see there rather than in the Deseret News. Their coverage of Warren Jeffs was spectacular, IMO, and was free of any taint of sour grapes that might unjustly have been charged to the News. They do a good job with Mormonism, overall. (They have Kirby, for one thing — isn’t that enough to cover a multitude of sins?) The Tribune of 2008 is not the Tribune of 1908, and certainly not the Tribune of 1878.

    Cut them some slack, please. The Tribune is nowhere near the infernal agent it is painted here. Besides, they like me well enough to continue to send a small but regular check, so they’re not, like, TOTALLY anti-Mormon.

  31. Jonovitch on March 7, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Ardis, you’re right (as usual). I turned the burner up a little high on that one. I do enjoy some of what the Trib does, especially Kirby (and yes, that does make up for a lot — his piece last week was spot on), and the fact that their stories on the Church don’t drip with syrup, as some of the stuff from the News does.

    In my defense, I was writing in generalizations, and I still believe that much of what drives major newspapers is ego, power, and money (even if out of necessity). I didn’t focus my attack specifically on the Trib though, rather on the evils that strongly influence major newspapers, the Salt Lake Tribune being one of them.

    For what it’s worth, I think Peggy Fletcher Stack does a fine job at objectively covering the Church without poking the collective Mormon eye with a stick.

    Jon

  32. Jim Cobabe on March 7, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Ardis, your talent is obviously not fully appreciated at the SLTrib. Maybe you should take over editorial command when the current enterprise finally prints their last.

  33. Russell Arben Fox on March 7, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    All I can say is that when I lived in Utah, my wife and I read the Tribune and only the Tribune, because the Deseret News, not to put too fine a point on it, was mostly crap: often poorly edited, almost always poorly laid out, and usually poorly (not to mention pedantically and/or cravenly) written. Things began to change for the DesNews in the early 90s, and I’ve no doubt they’ve continued to change for the better since then. Still, when I (rarely) check for Utah news, I nearly always go to the Trib’s website first. Call it habit.

  34. Ardis Parshall on March 7, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Thanks, Jon. I wasn’t responding only to you, but to the previous five or six comments as a whole.

    I appreciate what Peggy Fletcher Stack does, too, including walking a paper-thin line between her faith and her profession, especially given present conditions in Salt Lake.

  35. Karl on March 7, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    On the question of whether the rules are different in Zion, it is worth noting that James Carroll, a columnist for the Boston Globe and author of \”Constantine\’s Sword,\” regularly takes up religious issues on the Op-ed page. A recent example was his \”Reviving an old insult to the Jews\” (http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/02/18/reviving_an_old_insult_to_the_jews/).

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