Cardall walks tight ropereporting religion on T

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    BRENT B. WOODSO

    If you have ever seen a television special about religion in between sessions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ General Conference, you have probably viewed the work of Duane Cardall.

    Cardall is the man responsible for the television profile of President Hinckley’s visit to Asia. In his 25th year as KSL’s religion specialist and as a senior correspondent dabbling in the political spectrum, Cardall has learned the reporter’s art of walking the tight rope between being wise and harmless.

    “There is a big difference in the approach used when dealing with a government-related story versus a church-related story,” he said.

    When dealing with a government-related issue, you are guaranteed access to certain information and you can take an adversary’s approach, Cardall said.

    Covering religion can be more difficult because the targeted church’s public relations staff can be controlling and guarded as to what information is let out, he said.

    “Since a church is a private institution it is not bound by law to reveal everything the media requests,” Cardall said.

    As a result, it is vital that relationships of trust be established with ecclesiastical authorities and their respective staff, whether led by prophet or pope, he said.

    Cardall grew up just down the street from the LDS Salt Lake Temple, received his bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Utah and has worked with the Salt Lake media since his college years.

    “As a result, some denominations may see me as a typical Utah Mormon, born and raised, even though I did spend the first six months of my life in Colorado,” Cardall said. “You’re bound to get that from the religious community when living in this unique LDS environment.”

    When reporting religion it is important that the community sees the reporter as objective, sincere, fair and well versed in different religious views, Cardall said.

    “I read a lot of different sources covering religion, and I report on each religion keeping in mind that they sincerely believe that God has commanded them to follow their chosen course in life,” he said. “I don’t speculate or second guess the validity of dogmas as a reporter. I just make sure what I report is good, solid fact.”

    In the best interest of maintaining relations with the subject, it is sometimes appropriate to let the subject know what the journalist intends to report.

    Cardall said that he had just such an experience in 1978 while traveling in South Africa with President Kimball and President Hinckley. This was shortly after the revelation concerning all worthy males holding the priesthood had been announced.

    “After attending a regional conference, I was permitted to join President Kimball in a private meeting for missionaries,” Cardall said. “At this meeting President Kimball went into quite some detail concerning his experience surrounding the revelation, all of which I took notes on.”

    Since it was a private meeting, at the close Cardall showed President Hinckley what he intended to release and asked for his approval.

    “He told me it would be best to release such information at conference when it would be shared worldwide from the podium,” Cardall said. “Because of the nature of the meeting I agreed to wait.”

    Such occasions build a tremendous foundation of trust because the subject of your reporting sees that they can trust you, he said. The result is increased cooperation, which makes the job a lot easier.

    Also, as a result of the established relationship with the First Presidency and the church, it has been a great, humbling honor to travel extensively with the First Presidency, he said.

    Even though Cardall is respected for his self-discretion and objectivity in reporting both religious and political topics, he has had a few venomous run-ins with staff from different organizations.

    Some staff are unwilling to confide accurate information or they are just too protective of their organization, Cardall said.

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