WEST VALLEY CITY -- Mayor Mike Winder has admitted writing articles about his city for the Deseret News under a pen name without the paper's knowledge.
Winder said that three articles he submitted earlier this year under the name Richard Burwash were published in the Deseret News. The mayor said he was frustrated that the newspaper had drastically reduced its city government coverage after layoffs last year but not its crime coverage and wanted to "try to restore balance" for coverage of his town, West Valley City.
"I care deeply about having news stories about my community beyond what the crime desk churns out, since there is a negative reputation we are working hard to turn around," Winder told The Salt Lake Tribune. "In a three-month period, 16 percent of Salt Lake Tribune stories that mentioned West Valley City were about crime, but 56 percent of Deseret News stories about my city were about crime."
The articles were submitted through Deseret Connect, a venue for freelance writers to contribute to the Deseret News, KSL.com, Mormon Times and LDS Church News. Winder set up a Deseret Connect account under the Burwash name -- the same name he used on articles he wrote that were published in the Oquirrh Times, a newspaper serving West Valley City and two other small towns.
Winder said the Oquirrh Times editor knew he was the author of the articles. He decided to do the same with the Deseret News -- but did not inform the editors that he was the writer -- after he attended an event last year where Clark Gilbert, president and CEO of Deseret News, talked about Deseret Connect. When Winder asked Gilbert when his paper was going to resume covering the city, the editor said the News didn't have the resources and that someone who attends city events and likes to write could contribute articles, according to Winder.
The articles published in the News under the Burwash name were about a new Buddhist temple in West Valley City; an update on TRAX construction; and the Taylorsville city budget. The budget story was written by his sister, Aimee Newton, Winder said.
A fourth article, about a former UTOPIA contractor accused of extortion, was published by KSL.com.
"All of the articles submitted by Richard Burwash were 100 percent truthful, accurate, and verifiable," Winder said.
He defended using a pen name, citing famous authors who wrote under pseudonyms, including Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.
Winder said he decided to drop the pen name in the spring after Mark Willes, CEO and president of Deseret Management Corp., told him that Deseret Connect preferred that its writers not use pen names.
"That's when Richard Burwash disappeared and I created a Deseret Connect account for 'Mike Winder,' " the mayor said. He wrote opinion pieces under his own name.
Meanwhile, he told Deseret Connect officials that Burwash had moved to London.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)