Opinion: U.K.’s Daily Mail maligns Box Elder County

Thanks to the Standard-Examiner’s Tim Gurrister for giving this opinion some love in this article.

By Joel Campbell
Capital West News

The U.K.’s Daily Mail has a Brian Williams journalistic ethics problem.

The headline will give you a hint about just how outlandish this story is:
“Journey to the ghost country: Haunting pictures capture the desolate beauty of Utah’s Box Elder County where towns are slowly being consumed by the salt flats.”

Does this description fit Box Elder County? “Box Elder is a place that’s sliding slowly into an entropic state and the garbage and damage and weirdness that’s there, and the absolutely beautiful but incredible hostile and alien landscape surrounding it, reinforces that.”

Read more here

Apparently the photographer Anthony Gerace (@AnthonyWGerace) and writer Katie Amey (@katieamey) selected very random photos from Utah’s 6,700-square-mile Box Elder County (thats 17,389-square-kilometers in the Queen’s English) and have described it all as one big place sinking into the salt flats. Wow! Did Ms. Amey try even using Google to check her facts? Did Mr. Gerace really visit here?

Box Elder County Courthouse vintage postcard

Box Elder County Courthouse vintage postcard

Let’s put it in perspective. The U.K.’s county of Surrey — home to London — is only a 10th the size of this vast county. How correct would it be to say that half of England is slipping into the sea when there’s many diverse parts to that county? In this weird article there seems to be references to the Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake and to a nearby city  that was once a cultural hub. I think they mean Corinne, which once a thriving railroad town, but even that fact is wrong.

Admittedly, Box Elder County is vast and a place most Brits would think uninhabitable, but it also has urban centers, people of many different backgrounds, just regular folks, ranchers, farmers, and rocket scientists who call it home. It’s far from dying.

The Mail’s “journalism” is both laughable and irresponsible. As a native of Brigham City I recognize photos from both a very picturesque city I grew up in and the
desert. However, they are presented all in one montage, treated as if the entire county is the new Deadwood or something. You might expect something like this from Fleet Street in the 19th Century, but today, it should have taken a few seconds to find out that more than 50,000 souls live in this supposed “Deadwood” and it’s been growing steadily.

This does get personal. They malign my favorite ice cream shop, Peach City in Brigham City. The photo, which only a sometime regular would recognize, infers that it’s part of some deserted, ugly place. Actually, Peach City has survived for decades and still makes good shakes, burgers and sits on of the most picturesque tree-lined Main Streets in America. The city even has several awards to prove it.

Gerace went out of his way to take pictures of junk in people’s yards to prove a point of “entropy.” Some of those appear to be from populated areas, far from “ghost country.” There’s no photos of the growth and development, not the least of which is a new towering LDS Temple in Brigham City’s heart.

It seems our intrepid journalists were just in search of a headline about an area they neither can fathom or categorize. I went to London a few years back. If I wanted to practice Ms. Amey’s and Mr.Gerace’s poor journalism, I would take a photo of a few deserted buildings, a junked lorry (that’s a truck), a bum on the street, a building boarded up after some riots and call it all “English entropy.”  I can certainly find a lot more rot and derelict junk in London than I can in Box Elder County. But only presenting pictures of that dereliction would be dishonest.

Joel Campbell, a native of Brigham City, teaches journalism at Brigham Young University and advises 22 journalism students covering the Utah Legislature.

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Categories: Opinion, Uncategorized, Utah News

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