Date: December 16, 2019 (Season 1, Episode 6 - Part 2: 17 min. & 26 sec. long). Click Here for the Utah Dept. of Culture and Community Engagement version of this Speak Your Piece episode. Are you interested in other episodes of Speak Your Piece? Click Here. This episode was co-produced by Brad Westwood and Chelsey Zamir, with help (sound engineering and post-production editing) from Jason Powers from the Utah State Library Recording Studio.
This SYP episode is an interview with Rodney Decker, former reporter on KUTV Channel 2, with SYP host Brad Westwood on his 2019 book Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room. Decker’s experiences as an intelligence officer during the Vietnam War, developed in him a healthy measure of skepticism. Add a knack for deep journalistic research, and an equal measure of careful and thoughtful thinking, Decker developed a “tell it like it is” approach in his writing and later in his televised reporting. The same may be said of Decker’s book which discusses Utah’s political climate from the 1890s to 1970s.
In Part 2 of this episode, Decker continues the discussion of Utah’s continued difficulties to fund education in Utah and how that issue is inextricably linked to the politics in the state. In the 1960s and 1970s, Utah’s cultural politics affected the educational system in Utah. Decker describes that Utah, for decades, had a high birth rate; has had a mediocre economy (at the time of this recording, Decker states that the per capita income is 82% of the national per capita income due to a largely younger population); Utah’s wages are also lower (due to a young population), therefore it’s hard for Utah to keep up financially. Republicans, as the majority political party in the state, have made low education funding a state policy. Decker adds that it’s not that they have a loss of love for good or well-funded education, but that they love lower taxation more. Unfortunately for many Utahns, education is funded by taxation.
Decker and Westwood conclude Part 2 of this episode by weighing in on the nation’s current 2019 political climate. Decker has held the opinion that the American news media are biased and tend to veer toward progressive thinking. In part, “Fake News,” and the discussion thereof, comes from a bias that sprang up against a progressive leaning press. The media feels a long-term frustration of this bias and, Decker continues, in a way the “Fake News” argument is almost self-inflicted.
Bio: Perhaps one of Utah’s most well-known and respected journalists, Rod Decker retired in 2017 as a senior political reporter at KUTV Channel 2. Before this he was a columnist and editorial reporter at the LDS Church owned Deseret News. Altogether Decker had a 45-year career in journalism, with degrees from the University of Utah and the University of Chicago in political science. A Harvard Nieman Fellow in journalism, Decker also served as military intelligence officer in the Vietnam War. He is the author of one fiction novel “An Environment for Murder” (Signature Books, 1994) and “Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room” (Signature Books, 2019).
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