Montana Politics

Independent Record Frames the Debate For Us

Today in Mike Dennison’s story about how the two major candidates for the US Senate have voted, we got an instructive lesson in how headlines can shape perceptions of a story. The Independent Record certainly offered a unique take on a story that largely argued that Dennis Rehberg votes with Republicans and Jon Tester votes with Democrats. Shocking stuff.

  • From the Missoulian, U.S. Senate race: How often do Rehberg, Tester vote with the president?
  • From the Billings Gazette, Tester voting record on Obama policies takes center stage in race with Rehberg
  • From the Independent Record, Tester follows party lines

I guess supporting the ideological viewpoint of the publisher is more important than writing a headline that is either accurate or even logical.


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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  • Real media bias is that all issues are framed as D vs R, with all other viewpoints excluded. so that when the two parties agree, as they generally do, there is nothing to report.

      • Are you suggesting they not report the obvious? Framing is key. OWS is the only attention the real left has gotten in this country in decades, and the 1% who own the media and the parties are yet to figure out how to manage it. But in the end, it has to be viewed as a fringe movement, has to be marginalized. How they manage that is the problem. Agents provocateur and picking out the weirdest looking ones worked in the sixties.

        It is unfolding.

      • Just curious – are comments deliberately shut off on your post below about Iran? It's quite provocative.

  • Tried to write the Missoulian on there website and got nowhere! Worst login process in the world, so I had to attack them through farcebook( ya I spelled that right)! Told them the same thing Pogie… was also asking them how many things Rehbergs done for the state compared to Tester!

  • I look at these articles and ponder the reasons.

    Could it be that after the last Senatorial contest people canceled their subscriptions in disgust? Bi-weekly articles 'bout Abramhoff and firefighters outed their prejudicial slants? Sold their souls for the almighty dollar?

    Looks like you got a lot of heavy lifting ahead of you Don.

    • If you really believe that the newspapers in this state are biased against Republicans, you might consider taking a reading course.

      It's just not true.

      • Really easy to prove Don.

        Google Bilings Gazette Conrad Burns Jack Abramhoff.

        The overwhelming majority of the stories are in the months before the election.

        • Yeah, that was terrible to cover.

          Between 2001 and 2004, while the chair of the Interior Subcommittee on Appropriations, Burns received nearly $150,000 in campaign contributions from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Abramoff's clients, and other donors connected to Abramoff.[28] According to a 2006 report by, published in Roll Call, between 2001 and 2005, Burns received $192,090 in campaign contributions from tribal entities. In addition, a friend of Abramoff's said in October 2006 that Burns' staff ate so many free meals at Abramoff's restaurant that people joked they would have "starved to death" without the lobbyist.[29] Burns later returned the money. [4]
          In December 2005, a leader of a tribe that gave $22,000 in campaign contributions to Burns in 2002 said the tribe had done so solely at the request of Abramoff and believed the senator was part of "Abramoff's group.".[30] In a 2006 Vanity Fair article, Abramoff was quoted as saying, "Every appropriation we wanted from Senator Conrad Burns' committee we got." Burns has denied that he was influenced by Abramoff.

    • I tend to agree. Media in Montana is biased towards power. They will show the same deference to either party when that party holds office. They will not burrow, investigate, and will treat press releases and speeches as news.

      If you want a treat some time, go back to the sixties on microfiche, and check out coverage of DC politics when Anaconda newspaper chain (now Lee) had a Washington Bureau. They worshiped "Big Jim" Battin, even called him that in coverage. The guy could do no wrong! At the same time, Mike Mansfield was a deity of another sort. Each had power, and though supposedly of opposite parties, and neither drew burrowing press coverage. DC is like Las Vageas – what happens there stays there.

      Remember that Montana newspapers did not expose the Burns-Abramoff connection. They only relayed the reporting done elsewhere when it became embarrassing to ignore it. To a certain degree they are hoisted by their own petard – swearing allegiance to high standards, they are sometimes bound to honor them when not doing so is painfully obviously apparent.

  • Print wants some of that TV cash. Controversy sells, and whether contrived or not, it might force both campaigns to sprinkle a little in Lee's direction. Neither candidate will go unscathed unless they pony up. Or, maybe Lee, Inc. thinks one Baucus is one too many.

  • It is true that money overrides everything, and TV is the primary recipient of campaign cash and so highlights horse race politics instead of issues to heighten interest. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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