• Utah Mayor Apologizes for Planting Stories and Identity Theft

    Say you're the mayor of a medium-sized city. Call it West Valley, Utah a 130,000-person bedroom community situated just outside Salt Lake City. You have a problem: The local newspaper has reduced coverage of local government affairs, but keeps on harping about the criminal licentiousness plaguing your fair city. (This is Utah, so presumably the criminal epidemic involved the impolite use of coins and the illegal parting of "Zion curtains.")

    There are a few solutions. One, actually reduce the crime rate. Two, hire a better public information assistant. Three, create a new identity, complete with Gmail and Facebook accounts, and use the alias to pose as a freelance reporter, planting positive stories about the city and its highly-competent mayor…

    Mayor Mike Winder has admitted to creating a false identity to write news stories about the city he represents for Utah media outlets.

    Using the name Richard Burwash, the West Valley mayor had more than a dozen stories published over a two-year period…

    Winder admits to using a made-up name and address — as well as a photo he found through a Google image search — to create his false persona. He also communicated with Deseret Connect editors via an email account created for Richard Burwash and spoke to an editor over the phone on at least one occasion representing himself as Burwash.

    In Winder's defense, this is just "citizen journalism" in action. After all, "all of the articles submitted by Winder as Burwash were factually correct — aside from their byline," presumably thanks to the mayor's commitment to using only the best-placed sources.

    Of course, it's all fun and games and comically ethical lapses, until identity theft is involved

    West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder said he apologized to one-time professional tennis player Peter Burwash of Carmel Valley, Calif., during a phone conversation Saturday…

    Peter Burwash said while he considered the unauthorized use of his photo a form of identity theft, he accepted Winder's apology after he agreed to make a donation to three girls' schools in India that his daughters helped finance.

    Good for Peter Burwash for being so forgiving. Who among us hasn't used a celebrity photograph to spice up a Facebook account, improve an online dating profile, or submit positive stories about ourselves to the local media?

    Tags: Facebook, Internet, Sports, Utah


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