Two Snides to Every Story

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Let’s talk about objectivity in journalism, and other fantasies. As a seasoned veteran in the world of journalism, I’m able to notice subtle differences in the way different newspapers handle the same issues. For example, The Salt Lake Tribune carries Ann Landers, whereas the Deseret News has Dear Abby, although I think they’re actually the same person.

The differences run even deeper when you get into actual news coverage. The Salt Lake Tribune has a reputation for being an “anti-Mormon” newspaper, probably due to its having been founded, in 1871, by Satan. The Deseret News, on the other hand, is owned by the LDS Church and occasionally their spin on things is a bit more LDS-flavored than it might be otherwise. And The Daily Universe — well, you know what The Daily Universe is like.

Here are some hypothetical news stories, and how the different papers might handle them. Enjoy my imagination!

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NEWS EVENT: LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley addresses a group of students at Harvard University and subtly bears his testimony of Joseph Smith as he does.

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, Page 12, three days later: “Mormon Prophet Tells Harvard ‘Accept Joseph Smith or be Burned'”
     By Peggy Stencher Flack
     CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — High-ranking Mormon leader Gordon B. Hinckley spoke at Harvard University yesterday, telling students that Joseph Smith, founder of the cult, was a true prophet. Mormons — or “Latter-day Saints,” as they are sometimes nicknamed — believe in a gold Bible of some kind which Smith apparently wrote with the aid of magic pixies.

DESERET NEWS, Page 1, the next day: “President Hinckley Speaks to Harvard Students; Missionary Referrals Skyrocket”
     By Jerry Jonestown
     CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — LDS Church prophet, seer and revelator Gordon B. Hinckley spoke dramatically and powerfully of the Restoration of the Gospel to a group of Harvard students yesterday. As usual, President Hinckley electrified the crowd with his dazzling display of verbal pyrotechnics. Nearby Massachusetts Boston Mission reported that several dozen missionary referrals came in as a result.

DAILY UNIVERSE, Page 1, the next day: “President Hinkley Talks”
     Associated Press
     CAMBRDIGE, Mass. — LDS Church president Gordon B. Hinckley addressed a group of students at Harvard University today, though he made no mention of BYU’s recent decision to leave the WAC.

***

NEWS EVENT: Several BYU football players are arrested for possession of marijuana, cocaine, and a nuclear explosive device. The BYU Honor Code office announces it will investigate whether or not to suspend them from school. Coach LaVell Edwards declines to comment.

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, Page 1 of the Metro Section, the next day: “Athletes at Mormon-Owned School Arrested for Drug and Nuclear Possession”
     By Gordon Moron
     PROVO — Three BYU football players were arrested yesterday for possession of various drugs and nuclear devices. The school, which is owned by the Mormons, who pride themselves on abstaining from harmful drugs and nuclear weaponry, said it would not suspend the students right away. Coach LaVell Edwards, a Mormon, refused to talk to reporters, instead frowning in a surly manner as he turned away from the media personnel, many of whom were also Mormons, who were merely seeking after truth.

DESERET NEWS, Page 1 of the main section, the next day: “Non-LDS BYU Athletes Arrested”
     By Brad Crock
     PROVO — Three non-LDS BYU football players were arrested yesterday for possession of various harmful substances. The BYU Honor Code Office released a statement that said, “These students were not LDS. We don’t even know how they got into BYU. They must have snuck in, because we’re pretty sure we wouldn’t have let people like that in.” Coach LaVell Edwards, a high priest in the Oakmont 12th Ward in the Provo 3rd Stake, declined to answer reporters’ questions, saying he would rather wait until more facts were available, and adding that he preferred not to judge others, lest he too be judged.

DAILY UNIVERSE, Page 1, the next day: “BYU Atheletes Arrested”
     By Darren Kilcox
     Sports Editor
     Three BYU football players were arrested yesterday for possession of drugs and a nuclear device, which they intended to use to blow up the U of U at the big game this fall. Woo! Go Cougars!
     According to KSL-TV, the Honor Code Office issued a press release, though The Daily Universe did not receive a copy. It allegedly said the Honor Code Office would investigate the matter further.
     The Associated Press reported that coach LaVell Edwards declined comment.
     A report in The Salt Lake Tribune indicates that the three athletes do indeed play for BYU.

***

NEWS EVENT: India accidentally explodes a nuclear weapon that destroys the entire Eastern Hemisphere of the Earth, and every thing living on it.

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, Page 1, the next day: “India Destroys Half of World’s Population”
     By William Law
     CALCUTTA — India exploded a nuclear bomb yesterday, killing all 2.5 billion people living east of Europe.
     There was no immediate reaction from the Salt Lake Olympic Committee as to whether the 2002 Winter Games will continue as scheduled.

DESERET NEWS, Page 1, the next day: “India Bomb Kills Many; Saints Urged to Pray”
     By LaDeeDee Jensen
     CALCUTTA — A bomb detonated in India yesterday killed over 2 billion people, including several dozen Latter-day Saints.
     In addition to the wreckage and carnage of having the entire Asian continent ripped apart at its very fabric, several LDS meetinghouses were also destroyed.
     Church officials are investigating whether the explosion was specifically targeted at the LDS Church.
     “Obviously this is a major tragedy for the Church,” said LDS Church spokesman Don LeFemur. “Oh, and also for the billions of other people who also apparently died.”

DAILY UNIVERSE, Page 1, the next day: “Cougareat Starts Selling Raisin-Oatmeal Cookies; Students Say, ‘They’re Nummy!'”

Here I was, burning bridges I hadn't even crossed yet, biting the hands that I hoped would one day feed me.

The fact that I read Mad Magazine constantly as a child comes out in this column, I think. Having the whole thing be non-narrative -- only the introduction has any "I" or "me" in it; the rest is just examples -- is typical of the Mad style. And so is making fun of people's names: Most of the "writers" mentioned herein are twists on names of actual Tribune, News, and Universe reporters at that time.

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