Monday, November 14, 2011

Mayor Impersonates Journalist; Writes Positive Stories About His Town

I don't know who makes me angrier in this story: West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder who impersonated a journalist in order to get positive stories published about his community or the editors of the news agencies which published his work without verifying he was who he claimed to be.

Winder said he was concerned that more than half the news stories published about his community were negative. Instead of focusing his efforts on making his city a safer, better place, he swiped an identity off the internet and passed himself off as a freelance writer so he could get his stories published at the Deseret News, KSL-TV's website and a local community weekly.

Not only did Winder defraud the community by pretending to be a legitimate journalist, he also quoted HIMSELF as mayor in some of his stories and allowed his sister to write one story under his alias.

Rather than focus on making his city a better place he posed as a reporter to make it appear it was a better place. Same city, different set of stories. He chose what stories to write, he decided what subjects were worth writing about, so of course he only wrote about positive things, ignoring the plight of his citizens who face real problems in his community.

As a former journalist I am insulted by the audacity of a political figure, a public servant, who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to impersonate a journalist to get some good press for his city. I am further insulted at the laziness of the editors who failed to do even a cursory background check on a freelance reporter before publishing his work.

The fact that there are no legal repercussions for this act is simply icing on the cake.

If I were to pose as a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, a firefighter or an engineer I would face criminal charges. Posing as a journalist is cause for nothing more than a firing. Until journalism is treated as an integral part of a free and open Democratic system, and the status of a journalist is elevated to a profession worth protecting, we will continue to question not only the ethics of the people who bring us the news, but the quality of the news itself.

Disguising himself with an alias, the mayor of Utah's second-largest city has been writing upbeat freelance articles about his town for area news outlets because he claimed the media spent too much time on crime coverage.

He unapologetically revealed himself this week, insisting the balance was needed.

"I thought about all the people just reading about crime in our city and nothing better," West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder said Friday. "I'm trying to stand up for us because we do get the short end of the stick — negative stories."

Winder had been writing under the name Richard Burwash, an alias he actually swiped from a real man — a one-time professional tennis player from California — that he found on the Internet.

Click here to read more about Mike Winder.

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