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

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.

Pin It
Favorite

More by Holly Mullen

  • Governor Speed Demon

    Given his passion for motorcycles, I don’t doubt the guv is a regular speed demon on the open road. I was referring to Huntsman’s habit of hoarding his political capital and playing it far too safe on important issues. He had popularity ratings at that time beyond 70 percent.
    • Feb 13, 2009
  • Leave Us Alone

    By most measures of small-business success in Utah, Tony Chlepas would be in the Hall of Fame. His mother, the late Helen Chlepas, was widowed with her four children still in grade school. In the early %uFFFD70s, Helen secured a small loan to buy a ramshackle little tavern near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
    • Feb 9, 2009
  • Mullen| Leave Us Alone: Even in the sovereign nation of Utah, you still have rights. Right?

    By most measures of small-business success in Utah, Tony Chlepas would be in the Hall of Fame. nHis mother, the late Helen Chlepas, was widowed with her four children still in grade school. In the early ’70s, Helen secured a small loan to buy a ramshackle little tavern near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Tony and his siblings grew up helping their mom, including in the bar’s tiny ...
    • Feb 3, 2009
  • More »

Latest in News

  • Smoke Signals

    Amid allegation of questionable bonuses, UFA Deputy Chief steps down.
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • A Voice for Victims

    Former state prosecutor spies potential changes in the criminal justice system.
    • Jul 20, 2016
  • Lands of Luxury

    Utahns pay for lawyers to fly first-class and hole-up in the Alta Club.
    • Jul 13, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Temper, Temper

    Federal prosecutor not afraid to flex power when it comes to beer, family
    • Jan 14, 2015
  • Out with the Old, In with The Nueve

    Things We'd Like to See Disappear With 2015 (and What We'd Like to Replace Them With)
    • Jan 6, 2016

© 2016 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation