Montana Politics

Walt Williams: Hack GOP Reporter

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There’s been some bad reporting in the Montana Senate race, but most of it has been the result of laziness, not outright bias. Conrad Burns’s favorite reporter, Walt Williams, has crossed that line today, offering up one of the sloppiest pieces of propaganda this side of “Mission Accomplished.”

Let’s start with the opening:

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., is in the toughest fight of his political life, and at stake may be millions in federal dollars earmarked for Bozeman every year.

I’ve been breaking down the story and analyzing it line by line, but it’s so bad that I can’t do it. Paragraph after paragraph, Williams asserts (often with the aid of Burns quotations) that Conrad is critical to MSU and the Gallatin Valley, without ever actually explaining why that money would be jeopardized…or even explaining the nature of the federal funds.

Tester’s almost minimal presence in the article is limited to generic sound bites that I assume were gathered for this article, though they certainly might not have been. In fact, my guess (which I will try to confirm today) is that they are generic comments, not associated with the piece.

But the best part of the article comes in the last three paragraphs:

The issue hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Democratic leadership in Washington, D.C., who recently made the unusual pledge to get Tester on the appropriations committee as quickly as possible if he is elected.

The irony for Burns was bittersweet.

“If he doesn’t like earmarks, why then the stampede to get him on appropriations?” he said.

So, not only does Williams bury the one newsworthy part of the story in the last few paragraphs, he gives Burns the opportunity to critique it.

I suggest that you contact Mr. Williams or his editor to ask if blatant, partisan reporting is accepted practice at the Chronicle.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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