watchdog needs to snarl on behalf of ordinary folks,
Tribune journalist says
By Aaron Falk
April 17, 2006 | When Connie Coyne pulled her car
up to that state-run work camp in southern Florida,
she knew something wasn't right. Doors had been removed
from units where renters were late with the rent and
almost every child she saw was covered with sores signifying
And then there was the smell.
After talking with the migrant workers who lived at
the camp and then making some phone calls to city officials,
Coyne discovered the camp was not up to legal standards.
"It took us about a year and it took a lot of reporting,"
she said. "When it was done, we got that camp knocked
down and rebuilt. Who says you can't get something done
in this business?"
Coyne, now the reader advocate for The Salt Lake
Tribune, spoke to USU students as part of the journalism
& communication department's Media & Society
lecture series. Her speech, "To Comfort the Afflicted
and Afflict the Comfortable," focused on journalism's
obligation as "the fourth state" to give a voice to
"We are a check and a balance on big government,"
she said. "Like any good watchdog, sometimes we have
to bear our teeth and snarl."
Coyne said newspapers have become "yuppified," slipping
away from the blue-collar work ethic of the previous
generations of journalists. Too often, she said, reporters
are satisfied to sit in the newsroom and make phone
calls to the same city officials.
"The poor, the alcoholic, the disenfranchised, the
hooker, whatever we fall into -- those people have no
voice," she said. "Those are the people we cannot forget
when we are out covering the pretty people."
Coyne related these principles to the recent debate
over immigration. She said immigrants have traditionally
been a people in this country without a voice, but that's
"You're seeing, in these immigrant protests, history,"
she said. "We have to speak for the people we say we