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Salt Lake Tribune

Background

The Salt Lake Tribune was purchased by Huntsman Family Investments in 2016. In 2019, the paper laid off one-third of its newsroom staff. It was taken non-profit in 2019; the Tribune transitioned from daily to weekly printing in 2021 while maintaining its online presence. The Tribune entered a partnership with the New York Times offering Tribune subscribers who sign up between August 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021 a year of free digital access to the Times. Editorials from the New York Times are frequently republished in the Tribune.

 

The nonpartisan Media Bias Fact Check site rates the Salt Lake Tribune having as a “left-center” bias, noting:

 

“Overall, we rate the Salt Lake Tribune Left-Center Biased based on editorial positions that slightly favor the left. We also rate them High for factual reporting due to proper sourcing and a clean fact check record.”(D. Van Zandt 7/30/2016, updated 4/26/2020)

 

Media Bias Fact Check’s rating appears to be based largely on older information with few recent data points. The Salt Lake Tribune is not listed at Allsides.com, a bias rater which rates based on three types of information and has more data points than Media Bias Fact Check. As a regional newspaper, the Tribune was not evaluated by the Pew Research Center, which assessed the ideological placement of audience of various national news outlets.

 

Some readers have expressed concern that the bias of the Salt Lake Tribune has drifted further left than its prior “left-center” rating. In particular, we were queried whether the Salt Lake Tribune’s opinion section has become increasingly defined by one-sided partisan advocacy over basic factual accuracy and journalistic integrity.

 

Review Process and Limitations

We reviewed all of the Salt Lake Tribune opinion pieces on the Tribune’s homepage and on its “Opinion” section on April 14, 2021. Some pieces shown on the homepage or opinion section were published on earlier dates, but remained prominently displayed on that date. Pieces which conveyed opinions regarding state and national politics are noted below.

 

The opinion pieces were evaluated from the current date at the time of this writing. It is possible that the Tribune may have presented different perspectives at other times, or that review on a different day would lead to somewhat different results. However, we struggled to find meaningfully different perspectives in subsequent searches of the Salt Lake Tribune’s database.

 

Opinion Pieces Featured by Salt Lake Tribune on April 14, 2021

The opinion pieces which appeared on this date, with brief selections and analysis, are noted below.

 

Special to the Tribune

1. Galen, Reed. “The January 6 uprising was just the beginning.”

 

Community letters

2. David, Paul. “Letter: Lee’s just out to get free publicity. Why give it to him?

3. Grzymkowski, Laura. “Letter: Best way to ignore Stewart is to vote him out.” 

4. Coombs, Kate. “Letter: To riff off Mike Lee, what might be the devil’s stance on voting rights?” 

5. Loveridge, Karen. “Letter: If the Democrats acted like the GOP in Georgia, Lee would call it voter suppression.”

6. Tart, David. “Letter: Be fair to Georgia — hold the All-Star Game in Canada.” 

7. Terry, Beverly. “Letter: How far are cheating Republicans willing to go?”

8. Brunson, Mike. “Letter: President Dallin Oaks, Sen. Lee, party loyalty and conscience.” 

9. Smith, Sheldon. “Letter: A vote against the For the People Act is a vote for voter suppression.” 

10. Mitchell, Michael. “Letter: The GOP deserves a new mascot: A certain bird with a certain name comes to mind.” 

11. Mitchell, Mike. “Letter: Why didn’t calling out inappropriate behavior matter before?”

12. Fish, Frank. “Letter: United we stand, divided we fall — but all is not lost.” 

 

Salt Lake Tribune Staff

13. Gehrke, Robert. “Even when Mike Lee is right (like he is about pro baseball), it’s for the wrong reasons.” 

14. Bagley, Will. [Political Cartoon]. 

15. Pyle, George. “Why Mike Lee is against democracy. And why he thinks the Constitution is, too.” 

 

Editorials from Other Outlets

16. Stephens, Bret. “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is lucky to have enemies in the media.”

17. Pitts, Leonard. “It takes two parties to be bipartisan.” 

18. Kinder, Molly and Martha Ross. “Commentary: the economy that allows you to get your job done is broken.”

 

Opinion Pieces

1. Galen, Reed. “The January 6 uprising was just the beginning.” April 14, 2021 https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2021/04/14/reed-galen-jan-uprising/

 

“We are still wrestling with a Pandora’s box of anti-democratic and authoritarian actions.” 

 

This piece is a diatribe pushing far-left conspiracy theories. The writer attributes anti-democratic and authoritarian actions to the political right, which is construed as malign and threatening. The January 6 Capitol riot, the author asserts without evidence, was only the beginning of the political right’s assault on American democracy. No examples or concerns are cited regarding anti-democratic or authoritarian actions on the political left, which is construed as benign. 

 

Galen Reed is co-founder of the discredited Lincoln Project. Politico reported that the Lincoln Project imploded amid infighting and scandal after sexual misconduct allegations against co-founders John Weaver, who sent sexually explicit messages to young men, and allegations of mismanagement of the group’s finances. The New York Times also reported the allegations. CNBC reported that Reed ran a dark money group. Only at the Salt Lake Tribune is Reed still presented as a credible, even authoritative source. The Tribune failed to make disclosures to its readers, identifying Reed as “co-founder of the Lincoln project” with no mention of the group’s scandals.

 

Opinion bias: far left/conspiracy theory

Factual rating: extreme partisan opinion construed as fact, claims without evidence

 

2. David, Paul. “Letter: Lee’s just out to get free publicity. Why give it to him?” Salt Lake Tribune, April 15, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/15/letter-lees-just-out-get/

 

“Just wondering why it seems you are covering our clown senator, Mike Lee, so much. Recently, it was him talking about Georgia elections laws. Come on, that for one thing does not deserve the front page, and really is just his attempt to get in the news. We put up with that crap from 45 for four years, don’t pander to Lee’s attempts to get free publicity. Other news sources don’t consider it news, why do you? Most of us would love to see him out of office [sic] not just out of the news.”

 

One wonders how any credible newspaper would print such verbal diarrhea, a fact-free diatribe of insults and name-calling. According to Ballotpedia, Senator Mike Lee was elected in 2016 with 68.1% of the vote, whereas his Democratic opponent received just 27.1%. The Tribune’s perspectives are badly out of touch with the views of most of the state’s constituents, which may be a key reason why the paper has floundered economically, lost subscribers and much of its newsroom staff, and had to end its daily printing.

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: no facts presented

 

3. Grzymkowski, Laura. “Letter: Best way to ignore Stewart is to vote him out.” Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/14/letter-best-way-ignore

 

“The amount of misinformation and fear-mongering coming out of Rep. Chris Stewart’s mouth is alarming. He is currently whining about the lack of bipartisanship. The fact that he can pretend that Republicans did not dismiss almost all Democratic proposed legislation for the last four years of the Obama administration and all four years of the last administration shows his disdain for the truth. All Utahns, and especially Stewart’s constituents, would do well to ignore his blatant attempts to continue to perpetuate the daily public falsehoods of the last president. Of course, the best way to ignore him is to vote him out. We can do so much better with candidates who are capable of bipartisan politics. And don’t get me started on Owens.”

 

Grzymkowski engages in a diatribe of name-calling and personal attacks. Her allegations of “misinformation and fear-mongering” are based on non sequitur claims: Republicans supported little Democratic legislation under Obama, and now apparently don’t have a right to complain about Democrats passing legislation along party lines. How exactly would his Democratic opponent be more “capable of bipartisan politics?” To the extent that Grzymkowski wants to elect a Democrat, she should simply state so instead of pushing “double standards” condemning opponents while ignoring similar conduct from favorites. Nor does she address concerns about Democrats trying to eliminate the Senate legislative filibuster (something that Republicans did not do). According to Ballotpedia, Stewart received 59% of the vote in the November 2020 election while his Democratic opponent received 36.6% of the vote.

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: claims not supported by evidence presented, non sequitur logic

 

4. Coombs, Kate. “Letter: To riff off Mike Lee, what might be the devil’s stance on voting rights?” Salt Lake Tribune, March 17, 2021. 

https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/03/17/letter-riff-off-mike-lee/

 

“[H]aving closed multiple polling places in urban and minority neighborhoods, so that voters must stand in line for as long as 11 hours, these Georgia leaders are passing a law to make it illegal to give food and water to people standing in those long lines! Now that, Mike, is satanic.”

 

Kate Coombs construes debunked falsehoods regarding the 2021 Georgia election law. The left-leaning Washington Post fact checker gave Joe Biden its harshest rating of four Pinocchios for false claims that the 2020 Georgia election bill curtails voting hours when it actually expands election access. Lead fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote:

 

“One could understand a flub in a news conference. But then this same claim popped up in an official presidential statement. Not a single expert we consulted who has studied the law understood why Biden made this claim, as this was the section of law that expanded early voting for many Georgians.”(1)

 

Biden continued to repeat his “four-Pinocchio” whopper and other debunked falsehoods, earning a follow-up rebuke from the Washington Post as “President Biden, recidivist.”(2) Kim Strassel wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

 

“([C]ontrary to urban legend, the Georgia law allows poll workers to provide water). The Georgia law expands voting, adding early voting on weekends and providing additional equipment and poll workers in larger precincts.”(3)

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: multiple false claims, promotes narratives that have failed “fact check.”

 

5. Loveridge, Karen. “Letter: If the Democrats acted like the GOP in Georgia, Lee would call it voter suppression.” April 14, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/13/letter-if-democrats-acted/ 

 

Drawing from the “echo chamber” of partisan sources, Loveridge pushes debunked falsehoods about the Georgia election law, claiming that it results in longer lines and prohibits water in lines (poll workers can provide water).(3) In the leftist New York Times, Nate Cohn admitted that the Georgia bill expands voting opportunities in ways that particularly benefit urban and disproportionately black voters by shortening (not lengthening) wait times and increasing access:

 

“The law expands the number of required days of early voting, including on the weekend days that progressives covet (two Saturdays are now required instead of one). There's also a provision that requires large precincts with long lines to add machines, add staff or split the precinct. Depending on how this is rolled out, it could be a big win for voters in Georgia's urban areas, who have dealt with some of the longest lines in the country."(4)

 

Loveridge also ignores that there were no electoral drop boxes in Georgia before 2020; those present had no statutory authority and were construed as a temporary coronavirus exigency. The 2020 election law authorizes and regulates drop boxes for the first time. There are still none in New York, Delaware, and many Democrat-aligned states, yet she is conspicuously silent on this.

 

While ironically complaining about Republicans “changing the rules of the game” in working to provide both election access and integrity, Loveridge ignores drastic changes pushed by Democrats during the 2020 election cycle relaxing traditional election integrity standards under the cover of temporary coronavirus measures without notice or scrutiny. “Changing the rules of the game” is perfectly fine with Loveridge so long as her favored party benefits.

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: multiple false claims, promotes narratives that have failed “fact check.”

 

6. Tart, David. “Letter: Be fair to Georgia — hold the All-Star Game in Canada.” Salt Lake Tribune, April 12, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/12/letter-be-fair-georgia/

 

“Major League Baseball was right to move the All-Star Game out of Georgia in response to Republican-passed law that suppresses minority voting. But where should the game be played? There are currently 361 such laws proposed by Republicans in 47 states. All of these bills are claimed to fix voter fraud that never actually occurred in the 2020 election. Republicans in Congress seem unanimously opposed to HR-1, the voting rights bill put forward in the House to protect minority voters, again based on the big lie that massive voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election. Since Republican politicians from all 50 states support suppression of minority voters, it would be unfair to Georgia to hold the All-Star Game in any other U.S. state.”

 

Yet another slanderous Tribune piece demonizes Republicans nationally and pushes false narratives about the Georgia election law. Precursors to HR1 pushing national ballot harvesting and other controversial practices were put forth by Democrats before the 2020 elections. The piece misrepresents the Georgia election reforms as being reactive to the 2020 elections, whereas study and consideration began after the 2018 election and provides many progressive had been going on since 2018. 

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: multiple false claims, promotes narratives that have failed “fact check.”

 

7. Terry, Beverly. “Letter: How far are cheating Republicans willing to go?” Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/14/letter-how-far-are/ 

 

“Republicans are now cheating in their states by changing the rules of the game with voter-suppression laws. It’s another way of cheating in order to win…As Pitts pointed out so clearly, you Republican whites are ‘spewing garbage like your old broken sewer pipe leader used to do. First, you lie, then you riot and kill, now you change the rules of the game.’ My guess is that these repressed voters are getting angry and may not be so willing to walk meekly across a bridge, and that those standing by unrepressed may not be so willing to let you leave your knee on their necks. Just how far do you want to push this match? Far enough to lose the big competition — an ‘equal rights under the law’ country? I wonder.”

 

In this fact-free piece, Terry pushes the false voter suppression disinformation narrative rated as “Four Pinocchios” by the Washington Post, and then proceeds to name-calling and racial and partisan slurs. She extrapolates the killing of George Floyd by a “knee on their necks” - perpetrated by a Democratic police officer in a Democrat-controlled city - to Republicans. 

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: false

 

8. Brunson, Mike. “Letter: President Dallin Oaks, Sen. Lee, party loyalty and conscience.” Salt Lake Tribune, April 13, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/13/letter-first-counselor/ 

 

“The other is from Sen. Mike Lee, who called criticism by Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines of Georgia’s new voting law ‘really, really offensive, and I think they should both issue an apology to the voters of Georgia.’ In other words, Sen. Lee is offended that corporation executives, who often support Republican candidates and policy preferences, have dared to oppose Republican policies regarding who, how, and when people can exercise their right to vote. Sen. Lee, what part of ‘conscience’ don’t you understand?”

 

Yet another Tribune piece perpetuates the “four-Pinocchio” narrative about the Georgia election law, while misstating the basis of Senator Lee’s concerns to demolish a straw man.

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: false

 

9. Smith, Sheldon. “Letter: A vote against the For the People Act is a vote for voter suppression.” Salt Lake Tribune, April 11, 2021.

https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/11/letter-vote-against/

 

“Anyone who opposes this bill clearly does not believe in the value of voting rights for all American citizens, or they fear they will get voted out of office if more Americans have voting access...In the words of Chuck Schumer to his Republican colleagues, ‘why, instead of trying to win voters over that you lost in the last election, are you trying to prevent them from voting?’ Republicans need to stop feigning ‘fraud’ as the reason they oppose this bill and call it for what it is, voter suppression, pure and simple.

 

Like all of the Salt Lake Tribune this propaganda essay deals in “straw men,” while failing even to acknowledge severe concerns about the HR1 legislation, including (among many others) “ballot harvesting” by paid political operatives, failure to keep and update accurate voter rolls, elimination of basic election integrity measures, and measures which would automatically register many ineligible and non-citizen voters. Objections are dismissed with attacks on objectors. Smith represents Democrats as moral voices who are quoted as authorities and Republicans as moral reprobates. 

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: opinion with misrepresentations and unsupported claims

 

10. Mitchell, Michael. “Letter: The GOP deserves a new mascot: A certain bird with a certain name comes to mind.” Salt Lake Tribune, April 11, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/11/letter-gop-deserves-new/ 

 

“The blatant voter suppression efforts currently being undertaken by the GOP in Georgia and elsewhere, I feel a change in the GOP’s mascot may be in order. An elephant just doesn’t cut it anymore. I would suggest a bird, a large black bird. Specifically, a crow. His name could be Jim. That would be far more appropriate.”

 

The Republican mascot should not be an elephant! It’s a crow! His name is Jim! Get it? Jim Crow! Ha-ha-ha!

 

As with the previously cited pieces, Mitchell does not offer serious treatment of the issues at hand. Good faith dialogue and thoughtful understanding of both sides of an issue are absent on the opinion pages of the Salt Lake Tribune. These are supplanted by name-calling, slander, gross misrepresentation of opposing viewpoints, and juvenile attempts at humor as partisans devotees compete with each other to most strongly or cleverly articulate the party line.

 

The Wall Street Journal editorial board (lean-right opinion bias, center audience) wrote:

 

“President Biden said at his news conference that the voting bills percolating in GOP state Legislatures are ‘un-American,’ ‘sick,’ ‘pernicious,’ and worse: ‘This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.’ C’mon, man, as Mr. Biden likes to say. The comparison is grotesque, and seeing that only requires swimming sideways for a minute to escape the rip current of the media narrative.”(5)

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: opinion with misrepresentations and unsupported claims

 

11. Mitchell, Mike. “Letter: Why didn’t calling out inappropriate behavior matter before?” Salt Lake Tribune, April 13, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/13/letter-why-didnt-calling/ 

 

“The GOP has become the party of hypocrisy.”

 

This piece involves allegations of “harassment, body-shaming, and other inappropriate behavior” against Republican communications director Dave Robinson, culminating in calls for his resignation by Governor Cox. The author queries where the outrage was among Republicans when the former president was running or serving as US president.

 

The core concern is meritorious. Standards must be consistent. We have also been troubled by the lack of outcry among many Republicans regarding conduct of the former president. But ethics cannot be credibly weaponized against only one party. The Tribune appears to largely ignore allegations of misconduct by Democratic politicians. The author of this letter demonstrates no awareness or reflection regarding serious allegations of misconduct against Joe Biden in multiple areas which have been glossed over in the Salt Lake Tribune. It appears that moral outrage and allegations of hypocrisy are permitted to be leveled only against Republicans. 

 

Bias: left

Fact: disputed

 

12. Fish, Frank. “Letter: United we stand, divided we fall — but all is not lost.” Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 2021

https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/letters/2021/04/14/letter-united-we-stand/

 

“America may never have been as divided as it is today. In the recent congressional budget, every Democrat voted “for,” every Republican “against.” As for the election, most Republican voters followed Fox while Democrats went with MSNBC and CNN. All are heavily biased...My recommendations? (1) Disband the Senate.”

 

This is the only nominally centrist piece noted in the Tribune Opinion section on the date of review. The author at least notes a stark partisan divide with legislation along party-line votes, while noting that opposed media venues are “heavily biased.” His recommendation to “disband the Senate” as an “undemocratic anachronism” is an eccentric idea for many reasons that neither major party has suggested. The US Senate serves important functions which have been integral to American government, and which Mr. Fish does not appear to understand. A resolution to abolish the US Senate as “an obstructive and useless body, a menace to the liberties of the people” was introduced by Victor Berger, the first socialist member of the House of Representatives, in 1911. At least Fish’s narrative offers some facts and more coherent thought than the Tribune’s multiple “editorials” consisting of little more than name-calling.

 

Opinion bias: eccentric

Factual rating: has actual facts

 

13. Gehrke, Robert. “Even when Mike Lee is right (like he is about pro baseball), it’s for the wrong reasons.” Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2021/04/14/robert-gehrke-even-when/ 

 

“Yet by taking a stand against voter suppression, baseball has incurred the wrath of Utah Sen. Mike Lee. (Apple pie, thus far, has been unscathed)...Last month, Georgia enacted a series of election changes that, under any rational reading, will make it harder for residents in that state to vote.”

 

Gehrke, a paid Salt Lake Tribune columnist, perseverates in the false narrative of the Georgia election bill as voter suppression legislation.(1),(2),(3),(4)

 

14. Bagley, Will. [Political Cartoon]. Salt Lake Tribune, April 8, 2021.

https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/bagley/2021/04/08/bagley-cartoon-sounds/

This cartoon by Will Bagley depicts in the left panel a caricature of Utah Representative Burgess Owens, who is black, standing near a sign stating “border” and pointing, stating: “THEY are coming to YOUR neighborhoods!” In the right panel, a Ku Klux Klansman [labeled “70 years ago”] . This racist and bigoted caricature has apparently not led to public outrage and demands for Bagley’s firing or “cancellation” only because Owens is a Republican.

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: no facts

 

15. Pyle, George. “Why Mike Lee is against democracy. And why he thinks the Constitution is, too.” Salt Lake Tribune, March 12, 2021

https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2021/03/12/george-pyle-why-mike-lee/ 

 

“The For the People Act scares Republicans because they are threatened by elections...Lyndon Johnson...is the Democratic president who Utah Rep. Burgess Owens, among others, pretends not to have heard of when they tweet the lie about the Democrats still being the party of slavery)...

“That’s why Republican state lawmakers in Arizona and Georgia are trying so hard to change their voting laws to make sure they never have another fair election. They have reason to believe Republicans in those states will never win again if everybody gets to vote...

“[T]here is always a risk that a Congress dominated by the Trumpofacists who encouraged and participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection might use that power to define a republican form of government the way some of the founders did: white, male landowers.[sic] But not if we vote them out first.”

 

George Pyle, we learn, is a far-left conspiracy theorist. According to Pyle, “Trumpofascists” - and presumably Republicans generally, as Pyle sees “a risk” that they will dominate Congress want to restrict voting rights to “white, male landowers[sic],” turning the clock back some 200 years. (non-landowning white men were first permitted to vote in most states in 1828). Presumably, Mr. Pyle believes, slavery would be likely to return as well. These claims are so distorted and grotesque that they paint a picture of an individual who appears to be either totally out of touch with the realities experienced by regular earthlings, or is cynically dishonest. In neither case is such an individual fit to serve as opinion editor for a major newspaper.

 

Pyle plays fast and loose with his “facts.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964, like that of 1957, received overwhelming support from Republicans: 82% for and 18% against in the Senate and 80% for, 20% against in the House whereas many Democrats voted against (69% for, 31% against in the Senate, 63% for, 37% against in the House). Many Southerners, overwhelmingly Democrats, voted against the bills. 

 

Yet Pyle is not closely concerned with such trifles. He is far more interested in pushing hyperpartisan narratives and making sure that readers understand his opinions. Utah senator Mike Lee, and Republicans generally, are against democracy. According to Pyle, Republicans election bills are all about “making sure they never have another fair election,” and not about promoting both election access and integrity. To this end, he presents straw man arguments which misrepresent concerns about elimination of longstanding bipartisan election integrity safeguards with the “For the People” act, pretending instead to divine conservatives’ motives and intentions. 

 

To understand why the Salt Lake Tribune opinion pages are so devoid of honest dialogue and thoughtful insight, why one-sided slander, name-calling, and fact-free partisan narratives dominate, one need look no further than Mr. Pyle. George Pyle is the opinion editor, gatekeeper to the editorial page of the Salt Lake Tribune. Pyle wears his far-left views on his sleeve, and appears unable to distinguish his favored partisan narratives from fact. Indeed, the narratives to Mr. Pyle appear more important than facts, which in the items reviewed here, are never permitted to stand in the way of his desired conclusion. He has suppressed or deplatformed views which do not substantially agree with his political biases. Mr. Pyle’s extreme partisanship is unfortunate and problematic for an individual with an obligation to adhere to professed principles of journalistic ethics, and is unfair to the people of Utah and to readers everywhere, to whom he has a duty for fairness.

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: false, misleading claims, conspiracy theories

 

16. Stephens, Bret. “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is lucky to have enemies in the media.” Salt Lake Tribune (from the New York Times), April 14, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2021/04/14/bret-stephens-florida-gov/ 

 

Stephens “marveled at the mainstream media’s talent for giving Republican politicians a boost — always unwittingly... Before Trump, a 2015 story about Marco Rubio’s personal spending, including for a ‘luxury speedboat,’ deflated when the boat in question turned out to be a modest fishing boat with a pair of outboard engines. The Florida senator never got the GOP presidential nomination but handily won reelection. A 2004 CBS News hit job on George W. Bush based on unverified documents helped lift the incumbent president’s reelection campaign.”

 

Bret Stephens’ piece, also reprinted from the New York Times, laments that the leftist media have unwittingly boosted Republicans by one-sided coverage attacking them. By lying and exaggerating so severely that their claims were widely recognized as bogus and laughable, the media lost credibility and their unfavored candidates were boosted. Stephens’ concern is not that the extreme bias which led to these bogus and fraudulent smears is dishonest, unethical, and a breach of journalistic ethics. Rather, his concerns arise from cynical political calculus. 

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: no current factual claims

 

17. Pitts, Leonard. “It takes two parties to be bipartisan.” Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 2021. 

https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2021/04/14/leonard-pitts-it-takes/ 

“There is nothing sacred about the number of justices on the Supreme Court...Breyer is like a man polishing the china in a burning house.”

 

This piece reprinted from the Miami Herald advocates packing of the Supreme Court by Democrats and attacks liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who angered leftists by speaking out against court-packing as an act that would diminish public trust. The lack of bipartisanship, according to Pitts, is all Republicans’ fault. Pitts spins representations according to his convenience, creating a crisis by calling it so. While acknowledging that the Supreme Court historically had 6-10 justices before being fixed at 9 for over 150 years, he fails to note that the court has never been packed with a cynical power-grab, or that there is no precedent for the number 13 (why 13? Because four more liberals would be needed to override conservatives). 

 

Pitts fails to acknowledge that a Supreme Court vacancy has never been filled in an election year when different parties controlled the White House and the Senate since the 19th century (so much for Merrick Garland’s seat being “stolen” by Republicans), or that such vacancies have virtually always been filled when the same party controlled the White House and the Senate (Amy Coney Barrett). Pitts does not explain how exactly, the Democrats have fulfilled their responsibility at bipartisan engagement: Vice President Kamala Harris was the furthest left Democrat in the Senate and the one least likely to support bipartisan legislation. According to Pitts, it is all Republicans’ fault. Pitts pushes partisan talking-points without a fair or accurate look at the history.

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: selectively withholds inconvenient data, conveys partisan opinions as fact

 

18. Kinder, Molly and Martha Ross. “Commentary: the economy that allows you to get your job done is broken.” Special to the New York Times. Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2021/04/14/economy-that-allows-you/

 

This opinion piece reprinted from the New York Times promotes Joe Biden’s “infrastructure” spending bill. Critics have noted that little of the bill funds infrastructure, which is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise,” is actually infrastructure. The response of the Times’ propagandists? Redefining infrastructure (“caregiving is infrastructure”) to include child care, new Medicaid payments, and other social spending programs. Regardless of what one thinks of these programs, they are not infrastructure in the dictionary sense or as understood by almost all Americans.

 

Opinion bias: left

Factual rating: false

Results

Every piece was rated as “left” opinion bias except one, which was rated as center, although its recommendation to abolish the Senate was marked as “eccentric.” No pieces featured a conservative viewpoint and no pieces featured a non-eccentric centrist viewpoint. At least two of the pieces, written by the co-founder of the Lincoln Project and the Salt Lake Tribune’s opinion editor, were noted to purvey conspiracy theories. At least seven of the eighteen pieces contained claims which are demonstrably false. Six contain claims debunked by fact-checkers; one attempts to redefine a term contrary to the dictionary definition and common understanding. Most of the others convey partisan opinions as fact and/or make misleading claims.  Multiple pieces engaged in name-calling and demonization of political opponents. Two (Bagley and Terry) appear to be racist, including a caricature and a verbal racial attack. Serious problems and conflicts of interest, such as allegations of misconduct and the implosion of the Lincoln Project, were nowhere disclosed to the Tribune's readers.  Basic journalistic and editorial standards, including ensuring factual accuracy, basic fairness and integrity, are conspicuously absent from the opinion section of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Verdict

With its total blackout on opposing viewpoints and perspectives, the Salt Lake Tribune is one of the most repressive media outlets in enforcing its partisan orthodoxy. The current sampling demonstrates multiple violations of professed journalistic ethics at the Salt Lake Tribune, including routinely withholding data contrary to preferred narratives and promulgating false narratives that had already been repeatedly debunked by reputable media outlets in the center, center-left, and center-right.

 

Even many outlets designated as left-leaning, like the Washington Post and CBS News, are more diverse in the viewpoints and information they offer, and show greater concern for factual integrity than the Tribune. The Tribune’s “right-center”-designated competitor, The Deseret News, represents viewpoints and prints letters from across the political spectrum. 

 

The Salt Lake Tribune also apparently fails to offer its readers basic, factual information (such as about the Georgia election law) available from left-leaning outlets (including the Washington Post, the Atlantic), centrist or slightly left ones (Wall Street Journal), to say nothing of analyses in conservative outlets. Many of the Tribune’s contributors appear to be either genuinely unaware of basic factual information, or such extreme partisans that they persevere in predetermined narratives without regard to the facts. The duty of editors and fact-checkers should be to catch basic factual errors, but none of this appears to have occurred in the opinion pieces we reviewed. Nor have corrections or retractions been issued by the Tribune subsequently.

Rather than serving as a bona fide forum for real public discussion, the Salt Lake Tribune's Opinion section serves a menu of crude propaganda. Basic factual accuracy and honest engagement of contrary arguments and perspective are deemed unnecessary by Mr. Pyle and his colleagues when falsehoods can be pushed by repeating them loudly and often without accountability even as contrary views and information are suppressed. If the Tribune’s editors are unaware of the extent to which the paper is publishing falsehoods and engaging in severe bias, they are incompetent; if aware, they are dishonest.

 

References

1. Kessler, Glen. “Biden falsely claims the new Georgia law ‘ends voting hours early.’” Washington Post, March 30, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/03/30/biden-falsely-claims-new-georgia-law-ends-voting-hours-early/)

2. Kessler, Glen. “President Biden, recidivist.” Washington Post, April 2, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/04/02/president-biden-recidivist/ 

3. Strassel, Kimberly. “Corporate America’s ‘Big Lie.’” Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/corporate-americas-big-lie-11617315583

4 Cohn, Nate. "Georgia’s Election Law, and Why Turnout Isn’t Easy to Turn Off." New York Times, April 3, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/03/upshot/georgia-election-law-turnout.html 

5. 1. WSJ Editorial Board. “‘Jim Eagle’ and Georgia’s Voting Law.” Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/jim-eagle-and-georgias-voting-law-11616799451