Wednesday, June 11, 2008

SLC Newspapers and the Plyg Wars

[Media] It's been some time since Salt Lake City's two daily newspapers have fought a legitimate war over a breaking story. Truth is, there are many days when neither the Deseret News nor The Salt Lake Tribune is distinguishable in written content or even photos and graphics.

Best example of this: The LDS Church's twice-yearly General Conference. The Tribune often covers the event with every bit of vigor and yes, pandering, as the DN, and it can't even claim ownership by the Mormon Church.

The two papers' coverage of the ongoing mess-o-polygamy in Texas is a shining example of cutthroat competition at its best. In today's coverage of the FLDS child custody saga, the DN got a big scoop over the Trib. By securing copies of e-mails from Washington County officials, the DN was able to publish details of government "dossiers" on certain creepy FLDS leaders, who get a kick out of stalking their perceived enemies and think nothing of threatening them with a little thing called "blood atonement."

The Trib could only follow meekly, with a tepid version of the Associated Press story, which is a rewrite of the DN. In the next few hours news junkies can count on a piece on the Trib Web site with the byline of resident plyg expert, Brooke Adams. Today's morning news budget meeting at the Tribune office would have been a lively exchange among editors. Probably went something like this:

Editor 1: "How did we miss that story?"
Editor 2: "Uh, dunno. But Brooke says we'll have our own story soon. And it will be better than theirs."

Both papers have had at least one full-time reporter and photographer encamped in and around El Dorado, Texas since the initial raid of the YFZ ranch in early April. The DN has gotten the lion's share of periodic scoops, including exclusive photos of the first reunions last week between polygamous mothers and their children. Trent Nelson, an excellent Trib photographer, got downright depressed about missing those pictures. He wrote from the gut about losing to the DN on his Tribune blog, Fly on the Wall. Actually, Nelson has been doing the best documentation all along of back story to the FLDS drama. He captures the adrenaline rush of covering breaking news, while blending in the moments of sheer boredom and frustration of waiting for the next news conference or lucky break. And if nothing else, there's always a comment or two, with photos, of West Texas culture or horrible diner food.

It hasn't been this interesting watching the mainstream media lose bladder control over a story since Elizabeth Smart went missing in 2002. (Holly Mullen)


  1. Actually, the Trib posted an abbreviated version of the Dnews story -- with full attribution to the Dnews up high in the story -- early Wednesday morning. The AP story was used to sub that version out late Wednesday morning.
    When the Trib did get it own story, much of what the Dnews had reported did not stand the light of scrutiny.
    It would be nice if being accurate was your goal, Holly, instead of constantly berating the paper that fired your ass.

  2. The security story was an old one that only came up now because there is a pause in new events in the story. In April the judge was seen in photographs entering the courthouse surrounded by a half-dozen deputies. In early June, she entered with just one officer.

  3. Hey anonymous No.1: You make my point, exactly. It thrills me to see serious, kick-the-other's ass passion between the two SLC dailies on this plyg war. Assuming you or someone you car about works for the paper that didn't fire me, I think it's great you have such competitive spirit. While you clearly find me distasteful, it's evident you got your juices going over who filed which story first.

    You go, comrade. Competition makes the media world (what's left of it) go round.

  4. Yo there Anonymous. Even the Trib says Holly wasn't fired. She may not always be right, but at least she has the guts to put her name on it. Since you went anonymous, I will too. Seems it's a disease and you are a Typhoid Mary.


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