2022: The Journalism

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dust blows through Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

Great Salt Lake Collaborative

The Salt Lake Tribune was a founding partner of  the Great Salt Lake Collaborative: 17 news organizations collectively published and shared 120 stories just six months in.  One water reporter who has been covering the lake for a decade reported, “This is the most engaged I’ve seen members of the public on the matter. I don’t know if it’s the collaborative, lawmakers speaking up about it or something else, but it’s nice to see Utahns and the rest of the nation paying attention.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The US Magnesium dike north of Stansbury Island on Saturday, March 26, 2022. The company wants to extend its intake canals.

Great Salt Lake Shrinking Water Levels

The shrinking water levels of the Great Salt Lake are having more impact than just reduced water usage around the state. One of the largest lake-based businesses, US Magnesium, extracts magnesium and other minerals by diverting lake water and concentrating the brine through solar evaporation. Great Salt Lake minerals play a vital role in the state and nation, contributing $1.3 billion a year to Utah’s economy, according to a 2019 report prepared for the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council. But as the Great Salt Lake continues to shrink, the company is having trouble pumping water through the canals that fill its evaporation ponds. That’s having ripple effects on other businesses, like nearby salt operations that use the canals and brine shrimp harvesters that launch their boats through them, according to Tom Tripp, director of technical services for US Magnesium. 

In an emergency application earlier this year, US Magnesium sought to have one of its intake canals extended to continue water flow into evaporation ponds. Environmentalists worry the extra water siphoning is exactly what the lake doesn’t need, and are calling for the company to obtain and donate water rights for Great Salt Lake that are equal to the amount of water that the company plans to extract from the lake as a result of this permit. In a letter dated two days after Leia’s story was published, Utah Governor Cox released a statement and walked back their previous support of the project

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Representatives work on the house floor at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 4, 2022, during the final day of the Utah Legislature’s 2022 general session. A legislative staffer was fired recently for sending “unprofessional” emails about legislative interns.
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, during a special session at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Davis was suspended from the Utah Democratic Party on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Sexual Harassment in the Legislature:

Statewatch Reporter Emily Anderson Sterns investigated sexual harassment and misconducts allegations within The Utah Legislature, ultimately leading to the dismissal of an intern coordinator and one lawmaker calling for a senator’s removal.  

An “unprofessional” email exchange with a now-former Republican lawmaker, which is from 2013, came to light after The Salt Lake Tribune filed a public records request. A spokesperson for the legislature said Nathan Brady, a policy analyst, was removed from his responsibilities as internship coordinator after The Tribune in August requested records on legislative interns. A week and a half after a former intern publicly accused state Sen. Gene Davis of sexual misconduct, the Utah Democratic Party is suspending the longtime lawmaker from party-related activities at all levels and has called for him to step down from the Utah Legislature. The decision came after the allegation exposed a rift in the party over its handling of sexual harassment. In prior statements, the party’s stance was that it couldn’t take action unless it received an official complaint. “Following Ms Weglinski’s statement last week, party leaders and members of the Executive Committee spoke privately with Senator Davis,” Utah Democratic Party Executive Director Thom DeSirant wrote in the statement late Friday night. “Though he denied specifics of the allegations in his interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, we believe the behavior he acknowledged, regardless of context or intent, was unacceptable. We requested he voluntarily step down.”

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A Latter-day Saint volunteer, in a yellow Helping Hands vest, helps unload a semitruck of food in Houston on March 1, 2021.

Latter-day Saint Charities reports millions in aid

In an extended annual report, titled “Caring for Those in Need”, the 16.8 million member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints spelled out its humanitarian outreach in 2021. “As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we commit to living the two great commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor,” the governing First Presidency writes in the report’s introduction. “As a church, we are blessed to have the ability, global connections, and resources to follow his admonition.” The global tally includes:

• $906 million in charitable spending (came through member fast offerings; church welfare programs; church charitable operations; contributions of food, clothing and other goods; along with services from outlets such as Deseret Industries).

• 6.8 million volunteer hours.

• 3,909 humanitarian projects.

• 104 food security projects.

• 1.74 million served through water programs.

• 199 emergency responses in 61 countries and territories.

• 80 million pounds of donated food.

• 585 COVID-19 projects in 76 nations and territories.

• 188 countries and territories served overall.

(Dong family) Pictured is Zhifan Dong, a student at the University of Utah, at Salt Lake City’s City Creek Mall. She was killed on Feb. 11, 2022 in a Salt Lake City motel. Her boyfriend has been charged in her slaying.

Coverage of UU Student Zhifan Dong-

Over the past year, Courtney Tanner investigated how the University of Utah responded to concerns from international student Zhifan Dong before she was killed; it’s a case that has echoed the mistakes made in responding to Lauren McCluskey three years earlier. One reader commented, “I’m writing to convey my kudos for Courtney Tanner’s latest story on campus safety. Her work on Zhifan Dong demonstrates the importance of investigative reporting, and I admire Courtney’s skill and perseverance. Her work has raised critical awareness among our students and the broader community. Plus, she’s inspiring campus journalists to follow in her footsteps.”

Tribune reporters named finalists for the prestigious Livingston Award-

Paighten Harkins and Jessica Miller were named finalists for the prestigious Livingston Award for their reporting on the documentary “Shots Fired,” which showed what happens when police shoot in Utah. The database work that went into this project was remarkable, in that no public entity in the state tracked officer-involved shootings. So the Sent Away team did it. The documentary was a collaboration with FRONTLINE and our local PBS station.

(Tribune and wire photos) A collection of property across the United States owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, clockwise from top left: An apartment building adjacent to the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple; the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City; an office complex in Richardson, Texas; a meetinghouse in Laie, Hawaii; undeveloped land in Riverton; and farmland near St. Cloud, Fla.

LDS Church land ownership:

In collaboration with the Truth and Transparency foundation, The Tribune revealed where church landownership is worldwide. From thousands of acres of farmlands to thousands of places of worship and from shiny commercial enclaves in urban centers to flowing fields in swelling suburbs, a newly released list shows The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns U.S. properties valued at nearly $16 billion and ranks the Utah-based faith among the nation’s top private landholders.

Still, the sheer scope of church-held domestic real estate yields mind-stretching numbers. And the findings emerge when many Latter-day Saints and church observers are already agog at other recently reported multibillion-dollar figures associated with the faith’s wealth.

(Rachel Rydalch | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City has received more complaints about the Sugar House Chick-fil-A than any other drive-thru

The worst drive-thrus in Utah, according to you

Drive-thru restaurants are supposed to offer a level of convenience and ease, but what happens when their location causes headaches and traffic jams?  Utah Eats reporter Stefene Russell looked into a few of these notorious locations- like the Chick-fil-A in Sugar House and IceBerg Drive-Thru on 3900 South – to see what business owners and city officials planned to do to resolve these issues.  Jon Larsen, transportation division director for Salt Lake City, said the city had received more complaints about the Sugar House Chick-fil-A than any other drive-thru. Shortly after Stefene’s story was published, and after working with city officials, Chick-fil-A reconfigured their drive-thru at the Sugar House location, leaving drivers on 2100 South without the extra restaurant traffic spilling into the roadway. 

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Elder Gerrit W. Gong, one of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shakes hands with Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, after giving the opening prayer for the start of the legislative session at the Utah Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.

Accountability of public officials:

Tribune reporter Bryan Schott traveled to the tiny town of Kamas to find Mike Lee, who had not yet answered questions about the text messages he sent Mark Meadows, including the one in which he said he was working “14 hours a day” for then President Trump and he needed the administration to “tell him what to do.” Bryan’s reporting and video were picked up by multiple national outlets, including a long segment on Rachel Maddow (see link to right).

 2. Reporter Jacob Scholl told Utahns which lawmakers own land at the based of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Landowners stand to benefit financially if a gondola is built at the base of the canyon, a decision the legislature is expected to make this year. 

3. Columnist Robert Gehrke broke the news that on Day 1 of the legislature, Stuart Adams lied about his COVID-19 status, telling the Senate and various visitors he’d tested negative twice earlier in the day when, in fact, he’d tested positive. Adams shook hands with elders and did not wear a mask. This came during a high transmission period in Utah.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A voter at the West Valley City Hall in 2021.

Spanish language publication:

We published a voter guide in English and Spanish for the 2022 elections, and have started translating select stories into Spanish based on what those in targeted communities tell us they want (health reporting, politics reporting).

News by text message:

The Tribune launched a text-messaging option for receiving election-related news and updates, in an effort to reach those people who may not have access to sltrib.com or the printed paper or for those who prefer SMS. We shared reminders for registration deadlines and other key dates and shared important stories. People signed up by texting the word VOTE to 385-787-6355. For Spanish texts, it was the word VOTAR to 385-503-4601.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People march through downtown Provo protesting after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, on Saturday, June 25, 2022.

Coverage of Women’s issues in Utah

The Tribune’s abortion coverage, led by Report for America reporter Becky Jacobs, kept readers informed in a rapidly changing legal environment, providing information about access, the context of women’s experiences, and how to help.
Becky also dug into Utah’s reputation as the worst state for women’s equality, and  explored how the history of women’s suffrage is intertwined with polygamy in the Beehive State, among many, many other stories.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune)
(Rachel Rydalch | Special to The Tribune)
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune)
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune)