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Home / Articles / · Archive / News & Columns /  Mullen | Matheson the Miffed: Jim hasn't spoken to City Weekly in three years. Now we're keeping track.
News & Columns

Mullen | Matheson the Miffed: Jim hasn't spoken to City Weekly in three years. Now we're keeping track.

By Holly Mullen
Posted // December 24,2008 - How many sitting congressmen could get away with boycotting a hometown newspaper for more than three years—refusing to be interviewed on any topic—and never face an ounce of criticism? n

Rep. Jim Matheson has, and it’s time to call him out. Matheson hasn’t spoken to City Weekly since August 2005. That was the month he came to our editorial office with his communications director Alyson Heyrend to meet with our editorial staff. I would not be hired for eight more months. But those who attended the meeting said it began with a stern lecture, with Heyrend dressing down the staff for showing general lack of respect to Matheson brothers Scott Jr. and Jim. As CW staff members recall the session, Jim Matheson let Heyrend do the berating. He never uttered a word.

n

The previous year, in October 2004, then-Democratic candidate for governor and Jim’s big brother, Scott Matheson Jr., had declined several requests to take part in the CW election issue. This exercise involved his completing a simple e-mail questionnaire on standard campaign issues. A reporter contacted Scott numerous times. He chose not to reply. His Republican opponent, Jon Huntsman Jr., had no such reservations. He even met former Editor Ben Fulton at Burt’s Tiki Lounge for an interview. The election issue ran with a box of white space where Matheson’s comments and picture would have appeared. Huntsman, a devout Mormon, was shown in his photo sitting at a bar, smiling between sips of milk.

n

Huntsman won.

n

/Three months after Heyrend blasted the CW staff, Jim Matheson found fault with a Dec. 15, 2005, news story. Heyrend called the paper, and left a pointed message that her boss was finished talking to City Weekly. According to current staff writers, neither Matheson nor his paid mouthpieces have granted an interview since.

n

Matheson’s position struck me as a bit peevish. At the very least, his stance lacked basic political shrewdness. When I heard about the history between my office and his, I made a mental note to address this silliness. It’s been more than a year.

n

In early December, Jon Pike, an assistant professor of communication at Dixie State College and a CW freelance writer, contacted Matheson’s office with questions for a story on oil-shale development in Utah. Heyrend told him Matheson declined the request. Pike told me, and I telephoned Heyrend. It seemed elementary that the 2nd District congressman—who represents many of us, whose salary we pay and who recently voted to lift the moratorium on oil-shale leasing in Utah—should have a voice in the story.

n

Heyrend and I talked for 10 minutes. She told me the friction between Matheson and my newspaper started long before I arrived. She told me that, after all, what we do here differs from daily newspaper journalism. She’s right. It’s alternative. We publish stories the mainstream press either can’t or won’t.

n

As I explained to Heyrend in one of several e-mails we’ve exchanged (again, no direct word from her boss) since Dec. 8, I’ve never seen a politician exhibit this kind of behavior toward a newspaper at which I’ve worked. Not from a Republican, Democrat or independent. Three years of silence is a helluva sulk. In just the second half of this year, Matheson has voted against his fellow Democrats on Wall Street rescue bills and opted out of attending the Democratic National Convention. It would have been nice to question him about those decisions.

n

In one of her e-mails, Heyrend attached three press releases from her boss on oil-shale development. She pulled them down from his Website. Matheson would not speak to our reporter, she wrote, and added, “I appreciate the role you play as the hardworking editor of the publication. Times are not easy in the print world these days.” She also suggested I send our reporter to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. for an oil-shale interview.

n

I responded that press releases are, by their nature, biased. A news story that lacks follow-up questions from a reporter works against the furthering of democracy. Like his newly elected congressional colleague, Republican Jason Chaffetz, Matheson and others can bypass the press and go straight to Twitter or e-mail to respond to constituents. But voters won’t get the chance to see their representatives pressed for the truth, or to consider opposing viewpoints.

n

Matheson doesn’t like City Weekly. I get that. He doesn’t have to like us, and we don’t have to like him. That’s not our job. Our job is to press him and needle him when necessary. He was elected to work for the people of Utah and it’s the media’s job to report on how effectively he does that.

n

It’s been a long time since the congressman talked to anyone here. I think it’s about time we kept track. I’m starting a new weekly feature, which will run with this column, until Matheson speaks to us again. It’s called: “(Not) According to Jim.”

n

(Not) According to Jim: It's been 173 weeks since Rep. Jim Matheson spoke to City Weekly.

 
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // December 24,2008 at 13:55 By not speaking to you or other CW staff members, Congressman Matheson misses out in communicating with four categories of constituents: (1) bored TRAX riders, (2) bird owners who keep their birds in cages, (3) those who are new to SLC and don’t yet know any better, and (4) people like me who need a good laugh occasionally. Clearly, the good Representative doesn’t need your paper to get re-elected.nnP.S. try apologizing

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // December 24,2008 at 13:06 The congressman hasn’t spent the last three years in a sulk, as you say. He talks to every newspaper in the state -- except yours. So who’s doing the sulking?nnIf when you first came onboard, you made a mental note about your paper’s lousy relationship with the congressman, Ms. editor, why haven’t you done something about it? (other than complain to your readers). nnTry seeing the picture with light from the real world.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // December 24,2008 at 10:53 Holly, I would be happy to visit with you any time. Yeah, it really is me. I just sent you an email with my e-mail address. BTW, anyone can email me at jason@chaffetz.com and I will respond...not some staffer. --Jason Chaffetz

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // December 24,2008 at 09:30 Contrary to your situation with Rep Jim Matheson, I doubt you will ever have a difficult time getting an interview with Rep-elect Jason Chaffetz. Yes he is quite adept now at using Twitter and so technically he can go straight to the people with his information without a journalistic filter, but nonetheless, he’s as likely to keep a rapport with you as he is any of his other constituents!

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // December 24,2008 at 09:26 You ask how many could get away with Matheson’s behavior. Probably a lot. After all, not talking to you hasn’t cost him a lot of votes, has it? Just like the Zepher photo every week hasn’t led to anything happening on that block, your weekly count won’t have any impact on Matheson. Cute idea though.

 

 
 
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