"Please quit using my lies in the paper." When longtime Standard-Examiner reporter Tim Gurrister received that email from Cindy Whinham, it was a watershed moment.
Usually, when journalists receive such requests/demands, they are phrased like: "Stop printing lies about me!" or "Quit using the lies they are saying about me."
This is the first time I can recall ever receiving an unsolicited request from a source to stop printing "my lies." The only thing that would have been more surprising is if the request had come from an elected official.
After receiving the email, there was no hesitation on our part to do a follow-up story -- not because of the sensational nature of the story, but to set the record straight.
Once we learn that someone has been untruthful with us, we have an obligation to readers, and the greater public, to report that the earlier reporting was inaccurate due to the intentions of the source.
I'm sure Cindy Whinham, the ex-wife of former Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham, would have been satisfied with an agreement from us just not to report anymore what she initially told us when news first broke of Greg Whinham's leave of absence and investigation.
Good journalists, though, don't collude with sources to create a deception for readers. We may agree not to report something as part of negotiation for a greater story, but it would be unethical to agree to deliberately report a falsehood, or allow a previously reported falsehood to stand once we discovered the truth.
While Cindy Whinham's recantation was the main reason for the recent follow-up story, it was not the initial motivation for us reporting on the chief's alleged affair. For those who think the story was nothing more than tawdry journalism, here are reasons we felt the public had a right to know about the circumstances.
* The city had placed then-Police Chief Greg Whinham on administrative leave without providing an explanation to the public.
* The city had requested an outside investigator to look into anonymous allegations made against the chief without revealing the nature of the complaints, except to say they weren't criminal.
* Roy is the second-largest city, and has the second-largest police force, in Weber County, so the actions and responsibilities of the chief affect a large number of citizens.
* A complaint had been filed against the chief by a former officer to Police Officers Standards and Training, which certifies all law enforcement officers in the state.
* The alleged affair involved a subordinate of the chief. There have been plenty of lawsuits, in which cities have paid out millions in settlements, involving allegations of sexual harassment and/or quid pro quo sexual relationships between supervisors and staffers.
* POST used to discipline officers who had affairs but has since changed its policy on the matter.
* Cindy Whinham had told us before the chief was put on leave that there was no affair. So we wondered why he was put on leave and an investigation launched. Was there something else officials weren't telling us?
These were all issues we felt the public needed to know, and questions we felt obligated to try to answer. We couldn't very well provide that information without telling the whole story.
Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or email@example.com.