By any reasonable definition of the word, I’m conservative. I believe in fiscal responsibility, governmental restraint and community-based solutions. I view a free and virtuous citizenry as the foundation of a well-ordered republic. And, if that’s not convincing enough, I even wear socks with sandals and proudly sport a receding comb-over.
I’m also consistently flummoxed by the assertion that the Deseret News has a “leftist” agenda.
In my view, such a claim is, well, fake news.
A colleague recently forwarded me a social media post by an individual alleging not only that the Deseret News has a “leftist agenda,” but also that we somehow use The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the publication’s owner — as a Trojan horse “front” to surreptitiously push this “leftist agenda.”
Ironically, around the same time, another colleague texted me the latest AllSides Media Bias Chart. According to this year’s chart — which categorizes notable national media entities by political bias — the Deseret News “leans right.”
AllSides uses a “multi-partisan” methodology to first detect and then to categorize media bias. Its methodology is based on scholarship first developed by the conservative UCLA professor Timothy Groseclose, now at George Mason, and his collaborator Jeffrey Milyo at the University of Missouri. In a 2005 paper in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Groseclose and Milyo published one of the first peer-reviewed articles supporting the idea, long alleged by conservatives, that the “mainstream media” leans left.
According to the most recent AllSides chart, the Deseret News falls into the same “leans right” category alongside national publications such as The American Conservative, The Dispatch, The Washington Examiner, Reason Magazine and the Wall Street Journal opinion section, among others. But, it’s not just AllSides. The firm Nobias, which also helps consumers discern bias using a different methodology developed by noted economists Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, categorizes the Deseret News as “likely center-right,” and “slightly” favoring “conservative ideas and causes.” Meanwhile, the Ad Fonte Media Bias Chart—yet another respected gauge of bias—has the Deseret News in its “most reliable for news” category with a “balanced” level of bias and a small lean to the right.
To me — having been around the Deseret News as a reporter, as an opinion editor, as a columnist and now in my current capacity — these assessments track with my experience. The Deseret News doesn’t seek to evince an overtly partisan agenda, but, broadly speaking, the publication cares deeply about issues surrounding faith, family and the way prudent life choices and community voluntarism impact human flourishing and upward mobility. In other words, the Deseret News cares about issues that are widely considered — rightly or wrongly — conservative.
Of course, not every issue the Deseret News writes about fits into a neat and tidy partisan category. And, in the spirit of the First Amendment, the Deseret News doesn’t shy from actively publishing a spectrum of reasonable perspectives in order to foster, and hopefully model, the kind of healthy dialectic that is often absent in today’s discourse. In 2016, for instance, the Deseret News published essays from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In the run-up to 2020, the Deseret News ran pieces from Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.
The Deseret News’ worldview, informed by its heritage and history, is also as much about pragmatism as partisanship. In order to survive in the arid West, the pioneer founders of the Deseret News looked for good ideas wherever they could find them — and they succeeded by blending rugged self-reliance with robust communal burden-sharing. They drew inspiration from the state symbol — the beehive — which represented both individual industry and group cooperation.
Above all else, like the mountain peaks which surrounded them, their compass was fixed heavenward.
Today, on matters of core importance, it’s not difficult to discern where the Deseret News points. The most recent issue of Deseret Magazine put George Washington and the U.S. Constitution on its cover. The pages contained essays on constitutional originalism and the divinely inspired nature of the nation’s founding document. Call that what you will, but it’s most certainly not pushing a “leftist agenda.”
When the Deseret News printed its first issue in 1850, it ran a motto atop the masthead: “Truth and Liberty.” More than 170 years later, the Deseret News remains doggedly committed to upholding those ideals. And regardless of what may come of individual parties and politicians, that commitment will never change.
Hal Boyd is the executive editor of Deseret national.