What's a mayor to do when he's sick and tired of reading negative stories about his city? First, come up with a fake name. Next, pretend to be a freelance writer. Finally, write some stories under this identity and portray your city favorably. West Valley City, Utah mayor Mike Winder followed each of these steps, and got away with it for over a year before his conscience finally caught up with him.
Winder had more than a dozen stories published for several outlets under the name Richard Burwash. The Deseret News, one of the publications that he contributed to, even reports that a photo Winder took appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune and was credited to R.Burwash. What would prompt a man in his position to do something so blatantly dishonest?
Winder says that he followed coverage of West Valley City in the Desert News and the Salt Lake Tribune for three months. He claims that over half of the stories in the Desert News were crime related, compared to just 16 percent in the Salt Lake Tribune. Sensing an opportunity to balance those numbers out and give his city some positive press, Winder became Burwash. He used fake a fake address, listed a Facebook profile for Burwash and even pretended to be him during phone conversations and on emails. Talk about living a lie, and cursing your city with more bad press in the process.
It gets worse. Winder says he went on google and found a picture of tennis player and motivational speaker Peter Burwash, and decided to roll with it for his Deseret profile . The real Burwash is pissed because people recognize his picture and even though he talked to lawyers about the matter, he'll settle for an apology. Winder tried to put his city on his back, and ended up doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. This is definitely going to hurt his campaign for Mayor of Salt Lake City next year, but his editors at the Desert News said that his stories were accurate. Maybe he has a future in journalism, even though it's hard to trust a public figure who found the spotlight by creating a false identity.