More Montana Meth PR Before the Rally: The Gazette Pre-Announces a Successful Rally!

Some of $245,000 that the Montana Meth Project spends on Public Affairs and Public Relations seems to be getting a workout this weekend.

Kathryn Sabol offers an intriguing defense:

Although it’s difficult to quantify, the fact remains that the Meth Project’s graphic, in-your-face approach resonated with the target audience. Young people reported being jolted, through age-appropriate media, into discussing methamphetamine with parents and peers.

In other words, we should believe the survey results that show the Montana Meth Project works, but ignore the part wherein their own surveys show that meth use actually increased in teenagers.

Via Bunk in the West, we learn that the highly paid director of the Meth Project Peg Shea, is angry that media would presume to question her organization’s claims:

Erceg-Hurn has spent no time actually speaking with Montana teens. His article is based upon selective and misleading representations of studies that, in fact, show significant, positive changes in use and attitudes. I hope that in the future the Associated Press and the Great Falls Tribune will examine the facts more closely before giving a forum to other so-called experts.

It’s nice to see that the Montana Meth Project is resorting to a time-honored right wing smear tactic to discredit Daniel Erceg-Hurn: he’s a foreigner! As for misleading statistics, here’s a challenge for Ms. Shea or anyone who would like to defend the Montana Meth Project: explain why Meth use went up among teenagers after the introduction of the program. It’s your own survey data. Explain it, instead of relying on ad hominem attacks.

Finally, in a Minority Report moment,  Laura Tode has leapt forward in time to tell us about two students who will leave on a bus for Helena in about five hours, along with 2,000 other students:

While many Billings students might have spent this morning sleeping late and enjoying a day off, brothers Brody and Kael Giebink were up before dawn to catch a 6:45 a.m. bus to Helena for the March Against Meth. The event is sponsored by the Montana Meth Project, a public service marketing campaign for the prevention of methamphetamine use.

They’ll be joining about 2,000 other young people to march on the state capitol where they’ll deliver the signatures of more than 55,000 Montanans…

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I suspect that the Billings Gazette typically does not write stories before the events take place.  It’s especially awkward, given that the Montana Meth Project has pre-announced that 1,000 students will be attending. If the Montana Meth Project and Billings Gazette are going to pre-write the news, they ought to at least have the decency to have same story.

Given that the Gazette has done nothing but act as the propaganda arm of the Montana Meth Project, maybe the rules are different in this case.  To date, the Gazette has not seen fit to disclose in any of its glowing news and editorial coverage that its publisher is the chair of the Montana Meth Project, and has not disclosed the amount of advertising revenue the Project has generated for Lee Enterprises.  It’s beginning to seem obvious that one or both  is driving Lee coverage.

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 would certainly appreciate it.


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  • “A recent report by the Montana Attorney General’s Office found that methamphetamine use costs the state more than $200 million every year in criminal justice costs, treatment, child endangerment, unemployment and premature death. Those costs are down from a peak of $300 million in 2005, when the Montana Meth Project launched. The report also found that, in the same period, teen meth use declined by 45 percent, and adults use declined more than 70 percent.” Helena IR – 2/16/09

  • Then why do the Montana Meth Project’s own surveys show that more teenagers used meth at least once since the project’s inception? Should I not believe those surveys?

    2005 was also the year when the federal government banned the sale of precursor drugs, making access to meth much more challenging.

  • It amazes me that the standard responses to criticism of the MMP are “meth is really bad,” or “meth costs a lot of money,” or “meth use is declining.”

    Is it really hard to follow the basic question? Where is the evidence that MMP impacted the rate of use, other than ‘experts’ saying they’re just sure of it.

  • You are forgetting that the research against it is “a guy from Australia,” which is the best argument they can come up with against the research that suggests limited success.

  • The Billings Gazette Story was about two boys ages 12 and 13 who worked extremely hard to get their messsage of being Meth free by working long hours and putting great effort into a cause that they believe in. It was not only about the march. THEY, the boys, were quoted on the numbers. One of the boys bore his soul about the painful truth that his birthmother chose Meth over him. All the adults whining about funding and speculating about newspapers motivatoin and all the “projects” in the world will never speak louder to a kid than the voice of another kid. If that story, and that brave young mans declaration prevented even one other kid from trying Meth and ruining their life then who cares about what ANY of you have to say!

  • Yeah! Numbers are for nerds!

    Who cares if a newspaper writes about events before they happen? Who cares if meth use actually increased among teenagers after the MMP got started? Who cares if they and the media misrepresent their research?

    I commend the young people in the story for their desire to have a drug-free state. I just wish they weren’t being manipulated by an organization that not only doesn’t work, but is dishonest about it.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an 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.

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