Atlantic Cities
Democracy in America

Small Town Mayor Literally Makes News

Small Town Mayor Literally Makes News
Flickr/DB-2

If your city’s not in the news, sometimes you’ve got to put it there. That was apparently the philosophy of West Valley City, Utah Mayor Mike Winder, who recently admitted to writing a number of news articles under a pen name and submitting them for publication in local newspapers.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Winder, writing under the name Richard Burwash, wrote four articles earlier this year about his own city, which were then published in the Deseret News and other Salt Lake City area news publications. The Deseret News reportedly had no knowledge that the articles by Burwash were actually written by Winder.

Winder claims that aside from the deception of his name, his surreptitious news reporting was in no way inappropriate or malfeasant.

"All of the articles submitted by Richard Burwash were 100 percent truthful, accurate, and verifiable," Winder told the Tribune.

He claims his inspiration to write the articles was not to skew public perception, but rather to set the record straight. He felt his city wasn’t receiving enough attention from area news publications, and the attention it was receiving was disproportionately focused on the city’s crime.

"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," Winder told the Tribune.

The articles published in the News under the Burwash name were about a new Buddhist temple in West Valley City; an update on the 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.

Winder admitted his actions earlier this week to the news organizations. Charitably, we suppose, his tactics created at least one more piece of news about West Valley City, which was Winder’s goal all along.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user DB-2.

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles. All posts »

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