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November 14, 2011
When a Paper Cuts Its Staff, Anything Can Happen
 
The Deseret News in Salt Lake City has been cutting its staff and during the past year published about 5,500 articles by 2,000 contributors to help fill its pages. Some of them, the Associated Press reports, were written by a local mayor under an assumed name. 

Mike Winder, mayor of West Valley City, Utah's second largest, got tired of the Deseret News concentrating on crime in his city. So he began writing releases under the assumed name Richard Burwash and sending them in for publication. Some even quoted himself as the mayor, like one about the opening of a Buddhist Temple in town in which he said, "We applaud any time a group builds a place to celebrate peace and to encourage people to live better lives."

How did all this come out? Mayor Winder revealed himself as newsman Winder last week, saying that "I thought about all the people just reading about crime in our city and nothing better. I'm trying to stand up for us because we do get the short end of the stick with negative stories."

Executives at the Deseret News, one of Salt Lake's two dailies, said they were glad the mayor 'fessed up, "but we remain highly concerned that someone would purposely misrepresent himself." Indeed. The new, citizen-powered media, it appears, need to come up with fraud detectors.  

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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