To err is human. But to really screw up, you need a journalist. Try as we might to have gotten the tone, content and aesthetic appeal of this weekly up to snuff, we still tripped here and there. Here are (just) a few of our glaring missteps.
The Mysterious Sandwich in the Layout: “Sallah’s Secret Swiss Bank Account,” by Lynne Packer, March 9, 1994.
Delving deep into the inner machinations of the Bonneville Pacific maze, Packer found a whole load of secret Swiss bank accounts company officers used for keeping their jet-set lifestyles flush. Illustrating methods of money-laundering, Packer explained two time-worn techniques: the “Dutch Sandwich” technique of layering overseas bank accounts and the “Swiss Sandwich” variation. So, of course, we had to have a photo of a sandwich in the layout. Problem was, this was before the days when our bare-strings editorial staff (an army of two) proofread the layout before it went to the printer. So, there it was. A photo of a sandwich. Without a caption. Without explanation. A snack, anyone?
“The Real Story: Welcome to Her World,” by John Harrington, July 24, 1997.
Harrington, while he wrote a column for us, never once disguised his disgust for Mayor Deedee Corradini. As if he ever had to. So when he got hold of sources in the office of Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci regarding Corradini’s alleged behavior at 1997’s Conference of U.S. Mayors, Harrington ran with it. This was a time when Corradini felt the utmost heat over her gift-solicitation scandal. Hired to investigate was Rhode Island Ethics Commission Executive Director Martin Healey. According to Harrington’s sources, Corradini “lit into a diatribe about what a horrible person” Healey must be. And she did it right in front of Providence Mayor Cianci, according to the same sources. “Cianci seems to have left San Francisco convinced we have a certified nut running our town. Maybe he’s right,” Harrington wrote.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrote back Mayor Cianci. “Harrington is very obviously an agent of manipulation, a columnist with an agenda, who has been desperately misled or even duped,” the crown prince of Providence wrote in a letter to the editor.
Cianci was so peeved he phoned, phoned and phoned managing editor Christopher Smart. We got threats of legal action. And lots of taunts about whether his constant phone pestering “touched a nerve.”
Things haven’t been so good for Cianci since then. In April 2001 he was indicted for racketeering after a four-year FBI investigation called Operation Plunder Dome found evidence of racketeering. Just this month, Cianci was found guilty by a jury of operating a criminal conspiracy from his office in Providence. The man could get up to 20 years in prison at his September sentencing. What’s the matter, Cianci, did we “touch a nerve”?
The Baby in the Pink Jumpsuit: “Tortured to Death,” by Andrea Moore Emmett, July 23, 1998.
A tragic, true-life event. A fantastic story about yet more troubles at Utah’s Department of Child and Family Services. But unfortunately marred by an over-sensationalized cover scheme. Sometimes journalists get so overworked by the perceived injustices behind local events that we cross the lines of good, decent taste. The end goal of any cover illustration is the effective portrayal of an issue, not the prodding of black-humored giggles from readers already overloaded on irony. Oddly, we never got called on this one. But the more we thought about it, the more it left a bad taste in the mouth. Live and learn.
“The Big Stink,” by Ben Fulton, Sept. 10, 1998.
Yep, given Utah’s ever-expanding population boom, it’s only inevitable that state officials would have to build more and more schools at a quicker pace. But what of the quality of these structures? The stench crawling out of Riverton Elementary School had everyone stumped at the time. Students grew so sick inside classrooms, the place was evacuated in February 1998. With new evidence gathered by parents that the Jordan School District may have known about the school’s structural defects but delayed acting, it seemed like a good time to revisit the issue. The fact that legislators were asking questions about school building inspections added more kick. Alas, even the best of intentions can get lost in the mire of complicated detail. In fact, one source castigated Fulton for incorrectly reading the conclusions of massive investigative reports. “Space does not allow me to address here all of the errors and omissions in the story,” wrote Kenneth L. White of IHI Environmental in a letter to the editor. As they say in Yiddish, “Oy, vey!”
The sexist-fest female butt cover. “1998 in Review,” Dec. 31, 1998.
In a word, unforgivable. Really, really unforgivable. Even our copy editor at the time, Kristen Riedelbach, protested mightily. If only we’d listened. Sure, it was the holidays. Sure, we all wanted time off for Christmas. And we needed a “clever” cover idea. Pronto. But just like mother taught you, shortcuts only come back to haunt you in the long run. How true. In this instance, we even overlooked the opportunity to work a pun somewhere. That was for the best. Why make a turn from bad to worse? “1998 in Rear View,” anyone. Argghh! At least a later story on the legal battle between Utah’s two bikini teams, “Tit for Tat,” had a measure of sass and sense.
Tube Town photo caption for Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dec. 31, 1998.
Lighting strikes twice! In the very same issue as our “butt” cover, Bill Frost plays a little fast and loose with the publicity photo. Party of Five actress Jennifer Love Hewitt’s “talents” are described as a bosomed “Party of two.” Groan. Sexist? Well, back in the day, a lot of folks thought the University of Utah gymnastic team billboards were a little steamy. Even supposedly “progressive” organizations like PETA put Elizabeth Berkley in a cabbage suit with her butt sticking out. We’ll let you draw the line, even if we didn’t (and probably should have).
The Freaky “Sex Addiction” cover, by Feb. 18, 1999.
It’s one long, strange road from sexism to outright reactionary puritanism. Somehow, we managed to bridge that gap. “Right! We’ll put this picture of a crazed pervert on the cover. And we’ll have him wagging his tongue like a banshee in unbridled, animal lust. Right! And then we’ll put the word ‘sex’ on the cover so it really, really moves. Yeah! That’s it! That’s the ticket!” Of course, our conservative readers—all 17 of them—love stories about the evils of porn. Fact was, this cover was an even greater transgression.
Lynn Packer’s Olympic scandal “Geld Document” story and the threat of a lawsuit from one of the country’s largest law firms, June 8, 2000. The truth hurts. Legal giant Latham & Watkins, with offices in several U.S. cities, sent City Weekly a seven-page demand letter threatening legal action after we ran a story under a headline that said SLOC’s outside counsel, Beth Wilkinson, “leaked” the so-called “Geld Document.” Wilkinson advised SLOC’s management committee not to make the document public because the FBI uses such information when questioning targets of an investigation. Making the document public could be seen as obstruction of justice, she warned. What she did not tell them was that she had made the document available to Tom Welch, the target of the FBI’s investigation. But it was not “leaked,” her attorneys threatened, because there was a previous arrangement to share information.
Ben Fulton’s Joe Sample gaffe, April 23, 1998.
Ladies and gentlemen, pianist Joe Sample is coming to town. But, in the rush to meet deadline and get his head on the bedroom pillow, Fulton said Sample was a guitarist. And the howls of disbelief rained down. Flak flew from the publicist, readers and the radio station sponsoring the event. A correction came quickly: “Ben Fulton regrets the error with every fiber of his being.”
Tori Amos giving “God a blow job” and Marilyn Manson smearing the Bible over his crotch, Aug. 27, 1998 and Sept. 24, 1998 respectively.
Count on pop stars to stir the masses. These might not have gone to the limit of John Lennon comparing The Beatles to Jesus, but they scraped the ceiling of accepted mores, alright. Our readers hated—no, hated—Amos’ publicity statement about giving God fellatio. Perhaps it had something to do with the Mormon theological tenet that God is a man of flesh and bone. The Manson photo spoke for itself. Or, yelled for itself, as it were. Actually, reader outrage wasn’t so much a problem as was the fact that several of our Christian distribution drivers quit in protest the very week our Sept. 24 issue ran. Actually, we very much admired their willingness to take a stand. Now if only people got more upset about the actions of politicians.