Home > Uncategorized > The Church, the World, and the Web

The Church, the World, and the Web

The Salt Lake Tribune has an interesting story (hat tip to Seth) about the LDS church’s shift towards a less Utah-centric approach, highlighting the end of the Desert News as a Utah paper to more of a church-focused, global periodical. I can’t speak much about the DN’s change, but it does not sound very encouraging to me. It appears that the emphasis is to expand its geographic focus while narrowing its attention to issues and values that Mormons will care most about; something like a glorified version of their current inset, “MormonTimes.” (I’m not a huge fan of that site anymore, except for the terrific Tiffany Lewis, my sister-in-law who blogs there)

Mostly, I’m worried about degenerating journalistic standards. As news outlets rely more and more on bloggers and “citizen journalists,” it becomes more difficult to know what news sources can actually be fully trusted or relied on. And if there is already a particular slant towards a certain type of “Church-approved” news, with an increased reliance on free-lancers, what will we expect the Deseret News to write about? Will it ever be critically honest about the church activity around the world (what, for instance, would it write about Prop 8?).

It seems like the church is facing a unique PR issue:on the one hand, Mormon visibility is at an all-time high. On the other, all that visibility is not very flattering. Naturally, any organization would want to step up and tell their own story–hence, the new “…and I’m Mormon” ads being shown on TV. Still, if these attempts start to seem too sugarcoated, it can backfire; suddenly, we look like just any other big corporation that is obsessively image-conscious towards potential clients. Yet can the church afford to step back and let people turn to “de-centralized” sources–blogs, forums, Jeff Lindsay’s Mormon site, FAIR? I’m not sure. I guess my biggest concern is that we are already hitting a unnerving cross of distrust in the media in general and a greater atomization of that media: we’re only reading the content from sites that reconfirm our views b/c we don’t feel like we can trust anyone else. Will Deseret News, with its more “global” perspective, become a dominant vantage point through which Mormons, especially Utah-based Mormons, see the world?

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