The Deseret News has raised some eyebrows with its decision to make the sitting mayor of Utah's second-largest city a columnist. West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder is apparently excited about this new platform to share his great ideas, which include the recent establishment of L. Ron Hubbard Centennial Day.
Journos at the Deseret News are clearly a little queasy with the new arrangement, as evidenced by the fact that CEO Clark Gilbert felt the need to issue a staff memojustifying the move. In his note, Gilbert pointed to the precedent of the Washington Post, which allows religious leaders column space in the "On Faith" section. Of course, Gilbert overlooked a much apter precedent in our own backyard: the decision by the San Francisco Chronicle to run a regular column by ex-mayor Willie Brown.
Now, some might protest that Brown's putative retirement from public office puts him in a different class from Winder. These people don't follow San Francisco politics. Brown continues to flex his muscle as a political power broker at many levels, most recently with the successful engineering of Ed Lee's appointment as interim mayor.
Will Winder live up to Da Mayor's example? As we peruse some of Brown's recent columns, we're not so sure. How, for instance, will this pro-Hubbard Utah politico manage to top a headline such as "Arnold Schwarzenegger is only human," printed on May 22? ("Arnold Schwarzenegger called Thursday night, as he often does just to talk," Brown solemnly announced.) Or produce a first line to beat this, from May 15: "It's Bay to Breakers Sunday, and I was seriously thinking about it until they banned drinking while running naked."
If Winder and the Deseret News want to compete with the Chron, we suggest they play to their strengths. Frequent discussion of Mormons and Xenu wouldn't hurt.