Remember that strange editorial in the Independent Record a few days ago that called for more tolerance in political debates that divide our community? It was unusual for a couple of reasons: it seemed to suggest that both sides had been equally intolerant despite no evidence that the progressive community had been engaging in the name calling and threats that have come from conservative quarters and, perhaps more tellingly, because it was signed by Editor John Doran instead of appearing as an unsigned opinion of the editorial board.
Both may be explained by what I’ve been told: that IR publisher Randy Rickman refused to run the piece as an unsigned editorial for fear that it would offend conservative members of the community. You might remember Rickman as the publisher who introduced himself to the Helena community with an ill-informed personal editorial about abortion disclosure laws. Apparently, he’s chosen to promote his views one more time, without signing his name this time.
The news that the publisher is directing editorial coverage in such a heavy-handed manner certainly makes one wonder what other influence he is exerting over coverage. It’s not a stretch to conclude that the original editorial was edited to its balanced but untrue form, though I can’t confirm that. It also makes Wednesday’s story about the school board meeting make a lot more sense. How else can a reader explain that the news story didn’t mention a single homophobic remark or UN conspiracy theory, both of which were uttered multiple times by opponents?
The Independent Record and other news agencies often write about the critical trust between the press and the public. Newspapers in small towns have an even more important role to play, as they often drive community discussion. I certainly hope that the Independent Record’s publisher isn’t willing to cheapen that role for the sake of his own political agenda.