2018 Election Featured Montana Politics The Media

What’s the Future Hold for the Montana Post? Looking Back and Looking Forward: An Open Thread

Written by Don Pogreba
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The Montana Post isn’t going anywhere, and Randy Pinocci might be the reason why.

I have given some thought to stepping away from this site, as I often do as an election comes to a close. It might be hard to believe but adding the responsibility to work on this site on top of an already demanding set of jobs (as a teacher and small business owner) sometimes feels a bit overwhelming. And there are times when I simply don’t enjoy the nature of the argument that comes from writing and discussing politics online.

But the election of Randy Pinocci reminds me that not only does the Montana Post need to continue, but it needs to become an even more active voice helping Montanans get informed about political issues facing the state.

Why Randy Pinocci? Because even Republican stalwarts know that he’s not remotely qualified to serve on the Public Service Commission. Commissioners oversee highly technical regulatory issues, but Pinocci is the kind of guy who thinks a primary responsibility for the post will be to regulate the scourge of people wearing headphones on railroad tracks before a train runs over them. The kind of guy who posts a meme calling for the adoption of the gold standard on his Facebook page the night of an election, Pinocci will be overmatched and underqualified for the job he’s been elected to do. I would be stunned if we don’t soon see a series of Pinocci’s antics at the PSC and even ethics investigations into his behavior. He’s going to be that bad.

Voters should have known what kind of commissioner Pinocci will be, but there just wasn’t adequate coverage of the race to possibly help voters make good choices. A quick search of the paper that covered the race most shows almost no analysis of the candidates, their positions, or even endorsements. This, like so many lower-profile races in Montana, simply wasn’t covered in any real depth and the election was won on the merits of party affiliation and name recognition. And that was for a hugely important position representing hundreds of thousands of Montanans. The coverage at the local level and legislative races in many areas was even less detailed.

We’re facing a crisis in this country. Shrinking newsrooms and vanishing news outlets put the information we need to be informed voters at risk, and while the Post can never—and was never intended to—replace the coverage of the mainstream news, we can do more to highlight these smaller races and provide information about candidates that slips through the cracks in the state’s coverage.

In the new few weeks, I’m going to roll out our plan to do just that. Stay tuned for how you can help.

Reflecting on Failures, Looking Forward

The end of an election cycle offers a fruitful moment to look back and reflect. I need to do better work, too.

The Montana Post and the Mainstream Media

One of the biggest failures of the site has been my failure to contain and appropriately contextualize my frustration with traditional media coverage in Montana. This past cycle, my frustration over what I perceived to be failures in their coverage crossed the line from pointed criticism to hectoring and nagging that only probably served to make any press who wandered by this site or my Twitter feed even less interested in what I had to say. I’m not sure that I can repair some of those relationships—and I’m not sure that reporters in the state will ever see the value of a blog covering political and government issues—but I do understand that tone matters. I’m still furious that Matt Rosendale’s connection to militia groups wasn’t covered and Pearl Jam’s concert poster was, but moving forward, my goal will be to make my case for coverage and hope for the best.

We’re still going to try to hold the press accountable when stories just don’t seem right, but unlike many on the right, I do understand that the press is essential to our democracy. If our more strident criticism has offered any fuel to the flames of hostility against the press in Montana, I’d deeply regret that. I can—and will—do better on that front. Our fight isn’t with the press; it’s with those who endorse silencing them.

I’ve never imagined that the role of this site is to supplant coverage from trained journalists, but I think we can and have served a useful role in providing information they can use. That’s one of my most important goals moving forward.

Accuracy and Corrections

We’ve also made mistakes in our pieces, and I want to put in place more stringent checks to make sure that what we write is backed by facts. As the site quickly expanded to include more voices than my own, I never really grasped my role other than as the tech guy behind the site who did the lion’s share of the writing. While our reporting and commentary is certainly partisan, I’ve always taken pride in the accuracy of the work here and there were a few lapses this cycle I regret.

I didn’t see myself as an editor, and that was a mistake.

When pieces had fact checking issues, I should have more assertively dealt with them. If you find something in a piece that you think needs to be checked, I hope you’ll let me know.

Moving forward, I’m going to put in some checks and procedures to reduce the chances of a story being posted with questionable sources or information. We don’t often have the ability to do traditional fact-checking with follow-up interviews, so it’s imperative that we check our research and feel confident when a story goes up.

And when we get things wrong, we’re going to fix them, transparently and with full disclosure.

The Road Ahead. Help Us Define the Future of The Montana Post

I’m going to take a little break and work through some of the plans I’ve mentioned in this piece. More than anything, I’d love feedback on what you think the site should look like. What have we done wrong? What did you most appreciate? How can we help elect more progressive candidates and strengthen the fight for human rights, a clean environment, and a just economy?

If you’ve got thoughts, leave a comment here on the site, visit our Facebook page or drop me a message at [email protected].

Thanks for reading all year, sharing our posts on your social media, and for all the other signs of support. They’ve all meant a lot.

-Don

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we\'d certainly appreciate it.

14 Comments

  • Outstanding coverage, and please keep it up. I practiced law, and followed politics, in Montana many years ago and I follow Montana. This blog has the best coverage. Please do not go away.

  • At times, Don, it seemed as if your blog was the only news outlet covering important subjects about the state. As I’ve seen the GFTrib fade away into a morass of USA TODAY and obituaries with a few national attractions (comics, Dear Abby, Miss Manners), my subscription seems more of a habit than a news outlet. It is a sad end for a paper that I once considered one of the best in the state. Little of state-level news is covered — a couple of position pieces about the larger races and one that covered the local state legislative races was about it. Thank you for your hard work and for caring enough to get the word out here. I found few errors in your writing — and, you know, English teacher and all — we can’t help our selves. Please keep writing and keep telling us what we need to know. I never miss one of your posts. I also enjoy your hard-driving subject choice. These people who are supposed to be public servants need to be reminded of that role, ie. Corey Stapleton, Randy Pinocci, Gianforte, Zinke, and Daines especially.

  • I studied journalism in Missoula under Nathan Blumberg for two years. I will never forget the experience, nor will I forget when he taught about being a journalist. I can only imagine what he’d think if he were still alive today witnessing the neutering of journalism in the name of profit. You are more of a journalist than most of the people employed by Lee in Montana. Keep up the good work.

  • Thanks Don. I have enjoyed your writings and I am happy you will continue. We all bring our own slants but you do not seem to be dogmatic but explore important issues fairly.

  • As a former (?) journalist myself I truly understand your need for a breather. But I also know how important it is to keep news reporting alive and vibrant. In this day and age it’s imperative. So take a break and then I hope you resume with your batteries recharged and a new appreciation for the IMPORTANCE of your work!!
    Thank you. Thank you.

  • “Our fight isn’t with the press; it’s with those who endorse silencing them.”

    Endorsing any silencing actions lately Don?

  • I have been reading the posts on this site for a long time. One of my favorite posts you wrote, was the post about your father. I hope this site continues. I will l check to make sure my patronage is monthly.

    Lora Wier

  • I would love to see you continuing to hold democrats responsible for not grasping the seriousness of the threat our press and our democracy is under. For example yesterday Kathleen Williams proclaimed that she was very proud that her campaign took the “high road” and that she was not willing to resort to “fear mongering”. Really? Really? What is there to be afraid of? A president who praises one of our Montana politicians attacking a reporter? Shouldn’t we fear that? How about that we have a supreme court justice that warned “what goes around comes around”? Shouldn’t we be afraid of that? Shouldn’t we be afraid that more children will be separated from there parents trying to flee violence in Central America.

    To be clear this is not a unique problem to Kathleen Williams. This is a Democratic Party problem. Please continue to hold them accountable. Maybe you can help them find the courage to fight fascism. I have enough of the democratic party and their “High Road” to hell.

  • I’d like to email you some suggestions, but the current link you provide means I’d have to wait 6 plus hrs., for messages to be downloaded before I can begin. Could you send me, via my email address, another address?

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