One of the most read posts I have written on this site was a diatribe about what I thought the Independent Record needed to do to remain relevant and profitable in an environment that has become increasingly challenging for traditional newspapers. At that time, I wrote in part:
- Take on some of the sacred cows in our community. When a controversy breaks, don’t send your reporters to get a quote from the “communications director” or “press liaison” of the agency involved. Does anyone believe that this people will ever have anything of value to say? Isn’t their job to minimize critical news and trumpet every imagined success? Dig. Investigate. Confront.
- Remember the role of the media. Your job isn’t to promote institutions, but to make them better by keeping the public informed. Those editorials about the crucial importance of the media in a free society might ring a little true if there was a bit more critical coverage going on.
With that in mind, I have to give enormous credit to Sanjay Talwani for writing an excellent story about the atmosphere at St. Peter’s Hospital and the Independent Record for running the report, which was a hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism that took on one of the major players in the community.This is the kind of journalism that will keep people reading and discussing the paper—and I can’t remember another piece in years that has generated this kind of buzz.
Rumor has it that the Independent Record has suffered a fairly significant economic hit as a result of the story, as well, making the decision to run the piece even more courageous.
Credit aside, one nagging issue has certainly remained: a failure to adequately cover stories that do need attention.
Tomorrow will be two weeks since the filing deadline for School Board in Helena, and unless an article appeared only in print and I missed it, there has been no coverage of the candidates at all. That just can’t be justified for the local paper of record.
Similarly, as far as I can tell, no paper in the state has covered Representative Rehberg’s remarks about Pell Grants last week, even though, as the Missoulian notes, 24,000 Montana students receive them. It has to be covered. Rehberg is a candidate for the U.S. Senate—and his rhetoric matters on this issue.