Has Deseret News editor Joe Cannon made "the same mistake again"?
Cannon will be speaking at a Sutherland Institute Sacred Ground Initiative event September 24 about the importance of a faith-based culture, Sutherland President Paul Mero said.
The Sutherland Institute is a conservative, non-profit public policy group. Sutherland coined the phrase "Sacred Ground Initiative" to oppose gay marriage and other legal protections for gay and transgender Utahns.
Cannon's planned speech at the Sacred Ground event has political similarities to a 2007 speaking engagement for which Cannon later apologized. Hosted by the conservative Council for National Policy, Cannon's speech there garnered criticism from media ethicists and the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board because the event was off limits to news reporters, raising ethical concerns about Cannon's allegiances.
"I'm sorry it all happened," Cannon was quoted as saying in the Deseret News. "I'm learning. I hope I don't make the mistake again. ... It reinforced what some people think about me."
What some people feared when Cannon took over at the DNews was that he would bring partisanship to the news organization. Prior to becoming editor at the DNews in December 2006, Cannon was the Utah Republican Party chairman. Cannon is also a former lobbyist and at the time of his hiring as DNews editor, his brother, Chris Cannon, was a Republican U.S. Representative from Utah's 3rd District.
Cannon's interpretation of Christian principles have been apparent: his column "The Gospel in Words," frequently quotes scripture and appears only partially on deseretnews.com, but appears in its entirety on the sister publication, Mormon Times. Mero said Canon's speech will discuss many of the same topics as those in his column.
Mero says there is an important distinction between Canon's 2007 speech and the one planned for this month. "That was truly a private event that was closed to the media [in 2007]," Mero said, "This [Sacred Ground event] is private in the sense that we really only want folks there who are going to appreciate the evening. It's not an evening intended to be, you know, Hyde Park soap box where everybody yells at each other." The event is free and open to the public, Mero says, but prior registration is required.
At first Mero said he is "quite sure" the event would be open to news reporters, but then backtracked a bit, saying his communications director is unavailable today, and "he handles all that. I shouldn't speak for him."
Mero said he will know with certainty next week whether the Sacred Ground event will be open to reporters.
This is not the first dust-up since Cannon took over the DNews. The newspaper was protested by its own reporters in March for avoiding or slanting news that might be inconvenient to the paper's owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A then DNews staffer who participated in that protest, Josh Loftin, is now managing editor for City Weekly. That protest caught the attention of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GLAAD.
Joe Cannon was not immediately available for comment. We'll update the post when he calls.
3:10 p.m. update: Called earlier for comment, GLAAD just sent the following statement: “It’s disappointing to see the leadership of the Deseret News continue to erode confidence in the ability of the paper to fairly and inclusively report on our community,” said Rashad Robinson, the Senior Director of Programs at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). “It is immensely discouraging to see Cannon add his voice and his name to a divisive, anti-gay event aimed at continuing to prevent gay and lesbian Utahns from having the same opportunity as everyone else to earn a living and take care of their loved ones."