Montana Politics The Media

The IR Editorial on Dirty Politics: A Mess

Shares

Far too late to matter, the Independent Record has issued an editorial condemning the last minute smear campaign that was waged against a few Montana Republican legislators during the primary. While the headline in this incoherent mess suggests that the tactics ought to backfire, the article suggests that voters should be smart enough to ignore the message. Along the way, the piece inexplicably includes a reference to Christine Kaufman, who certainly didn’t send any illicit mailers,and concludes that the mailers had no impact in Ed Butcher’s race, even though he only won by 20 votes.

Then the piece argues that the attacks had an impact on three races.

Get that? In five paragraphs, the piece argues that the mailers worked, voters will ignore them, and that they should backfire. Once my head stopped spinning, I thought a bit more about the piece, and realized that the main issue is not an incomprehensible, well-meaning editorial. It’s about journalistic responsibility. While the piece that ran earlier this week about the questionable nature of the sleazy organizations that ran these ads was great, where was this story in the days before the election? Where was the indignant editorial condemning the mailers before the election? The one that would have given voters a chance to understand the nature of these dirty tricks?

Yesterday, the Missoulian ran one of its most frequent editorials, the defense of the critical role of the press in democracy piece. It’s a valid point, but not if the press only acts as a scold after the fact, rather than as a vital provider of information before voters act.

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.

5 Comments

  • You make a great point, Pogie. And not the just the one under your hat, either. I wish the list of groups who provided incorrect contact information and/or refused to answer the phone appeared before the primary. Surely someone somewhere could have spent a hour attempting to contact those organizations and writing that article in early June–not at the end of the month.

  • It is a great point — only nobody knew the mailers were coming. They arrived, from what I understand, a day or two before the election.

  • I thought about that, but even if they arrived a day or two before, make the calls and write the story then. The IR has a policy (I know, because I was a candidate) of not covering new campaign news immediately before an election, in order to prevent people from exploiting the last minute, but in this case, the policy seems to have benefited the people who acted inappropriately.

  • This is an issue that has been bothering me for sometime. Reporters seem happy to pump out articles in which they simply reassert “claims” made by so and so and then leave it at that. Rarely is there an attempt made to actually investigate the “claims.”
    Essentially, the news media serves as a megaphone for party officials, candidates, etc. etc. without ever investigating what they – the news media – are amplifying.

  • Long time readers of the site will no doubt be amused by this thought, but to some extent, I feel sorry for the people who need to cover political issues for Lee. After awhile, the cutbacks have to hurt. It’s like the moment of realization in The Wire, Season 5, when the reporters realize that the company that owns their paper plans to make more money with a worse newspaper.

    Depressing. But, seriously, watch The Wire. 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: