It's hard to write about events in Salt Lake City or the United States given that I'm about 5,000 miles away. I'm in a very nice Internet cafe in Chania on the island of Crete, typing and drinking a portokalada — kind of like an orange Fanta. The Internet cafe is tucked into a little alley in the old city below the Vranas Studios. A peace flag is on the wall. American music is playing in the background, introduced by a Greek DJ. It's like home, yet not like home at all. Of the many places I've visited in Greece, I like Crete the best.
I've been to this place on each of my three visits, and the Internet pretty much rips. I figure if I can do this in the 85-degree temperature of the Aegean Sea while viewing the fantastic ancient port with all the restaurants, cafes and bars, why stay home? Yesterday we — I'm traveling with my good friend Bill Stoddardakis — had a plateful of fried snails for an afternoon appetizer to go with our ouzos. Can't get that on Main Street, Ross, especially in an ice cream parlor.
The only downside of this trip has been an article I read this past weekend in the Deseret Morning News regarding Ross Anderson's rocky relationship with the press. I read it online. Lee Davidson wrote the article. Lee is a Kearns High School graduate and spent time covering politics in Washington, D.C., before returning home fairly recently. I can only imagine that as a Kearns grad and a D.C. veteran, he has seen plenty of fights. I wonder what he thinks of this one. I wonder, because Davidson left no clue of any bias in his story — in the exact manner he was supposed to.
Other journalists in this town have done the same when writing about Ross and all other city issues for years. Here's what Ross told Davidson about the press, though: "There's so little of the truth being told to our public either locally or nationally." He went on to say that it is too often "dishonest," "nasty" and "divisive." The back-slapping implications are that Ross is the arbiter of all truth and that journalists create the problems in Salt Lake City and elsewhere, especially his. Here's some truth: Ross is full of skata, a word quite useful here in Crete, where even small children whine less than our good, honest, progressive, thoughtful, non-divisive, sensitive mayor.
My goodness. Like the story said, I've known Ross for at least a decade. In that time I've had plenty of conversations with him that included his opinions on just about every high-profile institution in this town, as well as many of our area's entrepreneurial, ecumenical and political leaders. I've always prided myself in keeping private conversations private, attributing that to years of bartending, where secrets are well kept. At any rate, if I wanted to now, I could rip Ross to shreds on many of the statements he provided Davidson. I don't need to, though. John Hughes, Deseret Morning News editor, did it already in Davidson's article. Hughes used the succinct phrase, "absolute lie" regarding Ross' position on a citywide smoking ban. I've never talked to Ross regarding smoking, so I don't know on that one, I just know the description is apropos.
Regarding me and the City Weekly in our reporting of a dossier on Salt Lake Tribune reporter Heather May, Ross told Davidson, "I was frankly surprised at City Weekly. It used to pride itself as sort of taking on the establishment and particularly the mainstream media. All of a sudden, it uncritically came to the defense of The Salt Lake Tribune and its reporter, rather than taking a look at the merits of what we had to say because we gathered some very serious questions." Another crock. If Ross told me once, he told me 100 times in not-so-nice terms what he thought of May and the Tribune. We found the opposite, plain and simple, and, as Ross should know, he is the establishment.
We were totally aghast that a person we once believed was a champion of free speech wanted a single voice silenced. The only difference between Ross and the guy in Utah County who wanted to pay $25,000 to have Michael Moore's speech canceled is the money. I've been to the Ancient
Agora in Athens where all citizens were allowed to speak their minds freely while perched upon a small pedestal. Ross and the Utah County guy wouldn't survive a day here, where opinions and the people who espouse them are considered treasure.
What got me the most, though, is that Ross knows exactly, with a capital "E," why I feel this way about him now. After he crossed the union picket line in Boston in June, we had a brief postal and e-mail exchange. It was our final correspondence. In that exchange, I told him how and why I was pissed off at him on that particular issue. But, to use his own words, "rather than taking a look at the merits of what (I) had to say because we gathered some very serious questions," he "uncritically came to (his own) defense" in a most "dishonest," "nasty" and "divisive" manner. Amazingly, he incorrectly points to my being influenced by Dave Owen, a former Ross employee and now a renowned Ross critic. Until a few weeks ago, I hadn't talked to Owen in months.
I'm going back to the port now. And if I could throw Ross in, I would.
John Saltas writes his column "Private Eye" for City Weekly.