Rolly and Wells give us the scoop
By Rachel Carlsruh
"Never in my 30 years of journalism has there been a better
time to report politics," said political columnist Joann Jacobsen-Wells.
She and Paul Rolly teamed-up eight years-ago to co-author the
tri-weekly column "Rolly and Wells" for the Salt Lake Tribune. Now, they are known as two of the most feared and respected political journalistsin Utah, said Ted Pease, USU communication department head.
The duo spoke at USU on Tuesday as part of the communication department's Media and Society Lecture Series.
"We try to package news, comedy, and entertainment in our column," said Rolly. "It's accurate information with educational or entertainment benefit".
With the lecture's theme of "The Darker and Lighter Side of Utah Politics", Rolly and Wells discussed some of the highlights and low lights of professional reporting.
The dark-side included the Olympic scandal, the impeachment hearings, and House Speaker Mel Brown's resignation.
On the light-side, the spoke on nick-naming public officials- "Queen Dee" (Mayor DeeDee Corradini), "Made-for-T.V. Governor" (the publicity-happy Mike Leavitt), and "Touchdown George Emert" (USU's sports-oriented president).
"We don't take ourselves very seriously. We don't take anyone else very seriously," said Wells.
It's interesting that some things catch on and some things don't, said Rolly, speaking about political scandals and mishaps.
For example, DeeDee Coradinini's "gift-gate" -- when she asked business for $10,000 tax-free donations -- caused a lot of media
attention and very negative public reactions. When everyone decides to
get on the band wagon, it can become a steamroller, Rolly said.
On the other hand, the media didn't seem to lift an eye-brow when Provo Mayor George Stewart pushed to make NextLink the city's telephone contractor, then was made president of the company when he left office.
"The press just left it alone," said Rolly.
Kennedy was doing the same things in the '60s as Clinton is in the '90s, said Rolly, but it wasn't until after Watergate that the press considered anything fair-game.
Rolly and Wells gave advice on how journalists can try to distance themselves from stories. A lot of people get into journalism because it boosts their ego, they said.
"Make sure the story is the focus, and not you [the reporter]," said Rolly.
Also, try not to be "buddy-buddy" with officials, he said, because reporter's stories might become biased. "As cliche as it sounds, there's no such thing as a free lunch," said Rolly.
The two most important things in journalism are accuracy and ethics, said Wells. Despite their many differences -- religious, political, and personal - Wells claims that Rolly and she share these qualities and, consequently, can "make it work."
"If you lose your sensitivity toward the people for who you work [the public], you won't be an effective journalist," said Wells.