Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Times And Seasons LDS Blog Selects Mitt Romney As "Mormon Of The Year", But Respondents To Its Poll Selected Plane Crash Victim Stephanie Nielson

On January 7th, 2008, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that one of the most prominent LDS blogs, Times and Seasons, has selected Mitt Romney as 2008 Mormon of the Year. Other major contenders considered by Times and Seasons was David Archuleta (American Idol runner-up), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Mormon novelist Stephenie Meyer, and JetBlue founder David Neeleman; there were ultimately a total of 26 nominees. The specific Times and Seasons blog post can be viewed HERE.

Excluded from consideration in advance were members of the LDS Church's First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, because their overwhelming influence would guarantee their selection every year. This influence was reflected in a number of similar polls, to include the LDS Church's own Most Significant Events of the Year, the Deseret News' Top 10 Utah Stories of the Year, and KSL Channel 5's Top 10 KSL Stories of the Year. The passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley was selected the number one event in all three of those stories.

Romney was actually selected by the staff of Times and Seasons. In the public poll which they staged, Romney actually finished third, as one of the secondary choices, Stephanie Nielson, was the overwhelming selection of respondents to the poll. However, Times and Seasons apparently suspected that supporters of Nielson deliberately targeted and spammed the poll to artificially push their selection over the edge. Nielson was the selection of an obviously unnatural 64 percent of respondents, although it is possible that Nielson got a sympathy bump because of her plane crash, in which she suffered significant burns. Times and Seasons clearly stated in advance that the poll winner would not necessarily be the blog editors' selection.

In an e-mail, Kent Larsen explained his reasoning. "During 2008, Romney concluded the most credible presidential campaign of any Mormon to date and dominated the U.S. national news early in the year like no single Mormon has in recent memory. He garnered a great deal of both praise and criticism, gaining him significant endorsements as well as important detractors. . .On the international scene, numerous press articles mentioned Romney's membership in the Mormon Church, thus contributing to the image of the church abroad", Larsen said.

Larsen also pointed out that the Mormon of the Year designation is a recognition of the effect the person or group of persons has had during the past year and should not be viewed as an endorsement of Romney's political positions or aspirations.

Times and Seasons is a prominent and well-established LDS blog with an Alexa rating of 365,065 as of this post. It can be considered a useful and reliable barometer of LDS thinking. I don't know if I would have excluded the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles; I simply would have set a higher standard of newsworthiness for them.

Two other LDS-oriented blogs ran similar stories. Mormon Mentality selected President Hinckley's death as its top LDS News story of 2008, while Voice Of Deseret selected Proposition 8 as the top story.

No comments: