The LDS Church is surveying its members about their readership of key websites and Mormon writers, a move that reflects the faith's growing interest in managing its public image.
Church officials confirmed this week that the survey on a range of social, political and doctrinal matters — including the trustworthiness of specific journalists — is partly intended to gauge how and where Latter-day Saints get their information on LDS-related issues.
"This kind of survey is one way church leaders have to hear from members,'' church spokesman Scott Trotter said in a statement. He declined to say specifically what would be done with the results.
The confidential online poll, sent to at least 1,000 Mormons, asks about the frequency and purpose of visits to Mormon-oriented websites such as mormonlife.com, bycommonconsent.com, timesandseasons.org, and the church's own lds.org.
The survey also seeks members' reasons for using various media outlets and asks if they find seven specific journalists and bloggers "trustworthy, consistent with church positions and teachings, enjoyable, candid and honest [or] thoughtful."
The list of writers includes conservative radio host Glenn Beck; popular LDS bloggers Joanna Brooks, of religiondispatches.org, and JanaRiess, of Beliefnet;Newsweek and Daily Beast reporter and blogger McKay Coppins; "Mormon Stories" podcast host John Dehlin; Salt Lake Tribune lead religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack; and LDS Church public affairs managing director Michael Otterson, who also blogs for The Washington Post.
"Are they trolling for favorites or people to avoid?'' asked Al Tompkins, a journalism ethics teacher at the Poynter Institute, the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based school for journalists. "It's their right to do both of those, but if I were a member, I would wonder why they are spending resources and energy on it.''