Every week has a story to tell. But crafting a good one is a lot like waiting for the perfect apple to fall from a tree. You’ve got to spot it amid the brush and thick foliage, then pick it yourself. If it’s not ripe, well, you’ve got to wait. Sometimes, even if it’s not ripe, you’ve got to give the darned thing a pull. Then craft all that raw, amorphous information into a gripping narrative. Hopefully, anyway. Sounds easy, right? Right. About as easy as pushing a mattress up seven flights of stairs—by yourself. Every once in a while, we got the hang of it. Here are 10 proofs of evidence.
“The Spooky Past of Bob Bennett,” by Tom Walsh, June 10, 1992. As fortune would have it, our debut weekly issue also featured this blazing account of then-U.S. Senate candidate Bob Bennett’s connections to the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon. Congressional investigators said Bennett had a hand in Watergate burglar Howard Hunt’s activities before the break-in, and a government committee even questioned Bennett as to why he didn’t go to the authorities when, by all evidence, he had foreknowledge about a possible break-in at the hotel. Bennett maintained, “I was never part of the mess. I was close to it, I saw it firsthand, but I didn’t do anything illegal, improper or immoral.” That still doesn’t hide the fact that the senator’s name appears in 15 books about the break-in.
“Deedee Breaks Her Silence,” by Lynn Packer, Aug. 4, 1993. But how could there be just one? This was a years-long saga, as crack investigative reporter Packer stuck to Mayor Corradini’s Bonneville Pacific dealings with all the power of nuclear-grade cotton candy. And boy, was it sweet. What about that yo-yo check? And Bonneville Pacific’s offshore accounts? A $713,000-plus out-of-court settlement seemed to clear Corradini from the thicket, but Packer’s insistence on seeing her income tax returns led to a judge’s hearing and the eventual revelation that she’d used her political office to raise $231,000 in personal gifts and loans. Packer was so dogged that many grew tired of his stories, but credit’s due where credit’s due.
“Interviews With Vampires,” by Ben Fulton, Dec. 1, 1994. It’s hard to imagine now, but vampires were all the rage back in the mid-’90s. The subhead—”The cult of the undead grows as Salt Lake’s Gothic set meets the light of day”—really sucked (ha! ha!), but the article itself had some of the best ever pull-quotes. “Even as a young child, I always thought it’d be great to have fangs,” said subject Kevin Reece. Black clothes and black humor abounded. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
“Snow Job,” by Christopher Smart, Dec. 14, 1995. Yeah, the dailies loved this story. So much so that, caught up in Winter Olympics fever, they actually tried to put a positive spin on it. This was the deal: A federal land swap turned 1,320 acres of prime Forest Service land into Earl Holding’s private stomping ground for his Snowbasin ski resort. It was our own Orrin Hatch who sponsored the congressional bill making it happen, all without federal environmental regulation. And the taxpayers were the ones who got screwed. Sports Illustrated picked up the same story seven years later and said the same. But Holding can certainly chalk another one up for himself.
“Naked Truth,” by David Madison, Oct. 30, 1997. A bombshell if ever there was one. Not that West Jordan mayoral candidate Kelly Atkinson wasn’t already struggling with allegations of sexual harassment and impropriety. Things only got worse when a certain Matt Heartel came forward to City Weekly. Voters figured where there’s smoke there’s fire, and Atkinson lost his mayoral bid. But, perhaps for a brief moment, Gayle Ruzicka loved us. Well, at least she interviewed Madison over live radio. Atkinson’s been threatening to sue us ever since.
. “What is a Salt Laker?” by Ben Fulton, July 6, 2000. Can I really nominate another one of my own? This attempted an answer to the unanswerable, basically. But it became a sporting proposition, nonetheless. Basically, our city is a soft town of small passions, and a big case of denial when it comes to what one quoted historian called “hard-to-hear” stories. True enough, if a bit vague in spite of itself. But that’s Salt Lake City in a nutshell, isn’t it? The enclosed profiles also inspired a set or two of spin-offs from a local glossy. Compliments don’t come any higher.
“Tom & Dave,” by Lynn Packer, July 20, 2000. With Corradini gone and Rocky at the mayoral roost, Packer turned his investigative skills toward greener pastures. Specifically, the Olympic vote-buying scandal. Packer didn’t break that story, of course (respect to Chris Vanocur for that), but he got into the grubby details like no one else did. Throughout his investigative series, Packer uncovered questionable practices of IOC members, including the “Geld” document outlining delegates’ terms of endearment if bid cities wanted their votes. And Packer outlined the terms of indictment for Tom Welch and Dave Johnson before they came down the pipe. In fact, this issue published the very day they were indicted.
“Crisis of Confidentiality,” by Andrea Moore Emmett, March 8, 2001. A classic case of blaming the victim? The LDS church maintains that “no organization does more” to prevent the abuse of its members than they. But from all the evidence gathered here, church leaders hemmed and hawed when Janice Earl learned from a school counselor that her daughter, Lynette Franco, had been allegedly assaulted by a fellow ward member. Specifically, church leaders wanted the matter kept strictly inside the church, and directed Lynette to an unlicensed social worker. Then the social ostracizing within the church began. Church leaders also seemed more concerned about the alleged perpetrator than Franco. Because the Earls waited so long to report the alleged assault, legal actions somewhat predictably went nowhere. Still, a cautionary tale for anyone who cares about their children.
Best of Utah, March 29, 2001. The jewel in the crown of our special issues. It’s sad but probably true: We’ll never top this. To this day, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Porn Czar Paula J. Houston still sign autographed copies. True story! And Deeda Seed giving Rocky the backrub? Priceless a million times over. The initial cover idea incubated in the ingenious head of Christopher Smart. Editorial staff meetings took it from there. Did we already say that we’ll never top this?
.The Winter Games issues, Feb. 14, 21 and 28, 2002 (natch). No groundbreaking journalism here, exactly. But a whole lot of fun, just the same. The tone was somewhere between reserved bewilderment and unbridled awe. Except for the drubbing many local businesses took, negative aspects of this world sporting event were hard to find. We found ourselves almost embarrassed, really, in our sometimes gushing tone. Saltas embarked on a maniacal quest for pins, Smart found himself on the receiving end of the media in numerous interviews with the foreign press, former columnist Phil Jacobsen made a small fortune selling polygamy shirts and my own humble mug ended up on subway newspapers and television in the Netherlands, where I helped hawk a Dutch Olympic team sponsor. Staff writer Scott Lewis penned a great news story about the mysterious reasons PETA—the wimps—cancelled its promised massive protest of the Olympic Rodeo. The all-nighters were endless, though. Thank God it’s over.