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Deseret Media Companies takes stand for civility in politics

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Sep. 9, 2010 at 5:09 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- KSL's parent company is taking a stand for civility in political advertising.

Deseret Media Companies released a statement Thursday, calling for ads that encourage a rigorous yet civil political debate.

With this new policy, our parent company is hoping to affect the quality of the political debate in general.

Negative campaign ads may work, but they can be a turnoff -- and downright damaging. In the race for Utah Governor, the candidate ads are pretty tame so far. In fact, both candidates say they want to keep their campaigns clean.


Our hope is that by taking the step that we're taking, it will encourage everyone to stop and think before they develop their ads.

–Deseret Media Companies CEO Mark Willes


"I think it's important for everybody to keep it positive," said incumbent candidate Gov. Gary Herbert. "Who wants to hear a negative campaign?"

The governor's Democratic opponent, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, has said, "I will not attack Gary Herbert personally."

But competitive races can take on a life of their own.

That's why Deseret Media Companies and its subsidiaries -- Deseret News, KSL TV, KSL Newsradio, Deseret Digital Media and Deseret Book -- issued a statement to take a stand for civility in politics by creating a "civility test" for political ads. Another part of this civility test is the "truth test."

"Our hope is that by taking the step that we're taking, it will encourage everyone to stop and think before they develop their ads, and hopefully create better quality ads," said Deseret Media Companies CEO Mark Willes.

The company's position is that ads should focus on issues and facts, avoid personal attacks, inform voters and afford respect and dignity to the political process. Independent groups will rate the civility of the political ads.

Kirk Jowers says students from the Hinckley Institute of Politics will be part of one group. He is intrigued by the dynamic this will create.

"In our system of government, there are certain barriers to enforcing a more civil dialogue," he said. "You don't want to be accused of censorship, you don't want to potentially impact an election."

"What we'd like to do is try to help candidates focus on what they stand for rather than tear down their opponent," Willes said.

In the future, KSL will be delving into political ads to check them for accuracy in accordance with this call to civility.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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