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The Best News Money Can Buy

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There are certainly signs that the Independent Record isn’t doing as well financially as its parent company, Lee Enterprises, would like: they’ve downsized staff, fired laid off  their editor(*), and implemented a paywall blocking online content. Today’s paper seems to brazenly demonstrate a new way to increase revenue, offering a news story and opinion piece that are little more than long advertisements for single companies.

First up, we have an outsourced piece from the Montana Standard extolling the virtues of Sylvan Learning Centers. I can’t even imagine what someone felt was newsworthy about the story. Sylvan is an established business in both Helena and Butte, with nothing new to justify a full story.

Even worse, though, was an IR editorial about Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana. No, it doesn’t discuss the possible dangers of a near-monopoly if BCBS completes its proposed merger with New West. It doesn’t discuss the impact of skyrocketing insurance rates for Montanans. It doesn’t even discuss compensation for the BCBS executives, which grow every year while wages for average Montanans are stagnant.

Instead, it talks about what a great job the company is doing and how hard it is to be the largest insurer in the state.

I’m not naïve enough to think this is the first time that pecuniary interests have motivated coverage in the newspaper; it’s just that it’s rarely been this obvious.

Both stories are a far cry from the paper that was willing to take on St. Peter’s Hospital. I admire the tenacity of the Independent Record when it comes to selling their newspaper. It’s another thing entirely to sell its news.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a eighteen-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.

10 Comments

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  • Must be about the same quality as the GF Spitoon. I gave up on it years ago when I decided that I didn’t need to pay to be insulted with so-called news. The GF Spitoon is a piece of crap too. What happened to me was that after about one solid month of just reading nothing but crap, and then calculating in my head how MUCH I was actually paying to read crap, I could no longer justify it. I work WAY too hard for my money to waste it on crap. So, I did it. I called the Spitoon and cancelled on the spot. And then, I called the editors and EXPLAINED why I cancelled.

    Occasionally, I still get a call from them asking me to renew, and I explain to them once again why I can’t in good conscience support their delinquency. For you see, I feel that it’s simply better that they fold and have something new take their place. As far as I’m concerned, a lousy newspaper has NO redeeming qualities. In fact, they do a tremendous disservice! The Spitoon has apparently become SO responsive to rightwing criticism that all they will now print is sh*t. And ya know, I REALLY can’t pay for sh*t!

    p.s. I was recently out in Oregon and I was suprised to see that even the Oregonian includes many very good lefty editorial writers. Hell, Oregon is no more liberal than Montana. But we NEVER get good editorials in the Spitoon. All we’re treated to is the most bizarro rightwing crap. And really, WHO really wants that crap 24/7 every day all day long? Not me! I say let’em go under. They HAVE TO no that they suck. And that angers me too. If you KNOW that you’re putting out crap and then still do it, what kind of person are you? Crap too I’d say.

  • It’s always been like this, except the laying off of the housebroken editor. Much of the news is run by advertisers and the news people intenralize it, seeing the world though those eyes.

    Best way to stay informed in the US: avoid “news.” Did you notice that on the Iran “bikers” not one US news org even considered the possibility that they might actually be spies? US news is a joke!

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