Following our visit to Des Moines, our journey continued to Utah.
Given that Utah has the largest Mormon population in the United States, this portion of our trip focused on understanding the relationship between this religious community and various state actors. While once a majority, Mormons have become a minority in Utah’s capital city, Salt Lake City.
I decided to use the opportunity of meeting such esteemed journalists to ask questions regarding issues I see in the media today. I asked them about the apparent erosion of professional journalism, and the rise of many alternative news sources. I further challenged them on four main critiques of the media today, not unique to the US alone:
- The political and commercial agendas of media outlets, which leads them to pick and choose which stories they report.
- Lack of diversity in both the news being reported and those writing it.
- Lack of responsibility and accountability when false information (or half-truths) are reported.
- Misuse of power.
Their answers were truly insightful. They argued that after the elections, there was a demand to rebuild the trust between the media and the public (similar to what happened with the Israeli media following the 2015 elections) and that they are indeed trying to deal with the issues of proper fact-finding in this complex world filled with so much misinformation.
Overall, my experience meeting with local politicians, religious leaders, and members of civil society was very enriching. Despite the fact that we only met the community’s elites, it was nevertheless amazing to note the level of cooperation between different civil society actors and the municipality. It was especially interesting to note the role of the church in various areas.