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Maybe the Great Falls Tribune Should Cover Montana Politics Instead of Just Pontificating About It

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I got into blogging just over nine years ago as a bit of a media scold. I was troubled that the Montana press didn’t seem to cover stories that needed to be covered and that often the stories took a predictable approach of letting both sides (Democrat and Republican) speak with equal authority, even when one side was clearly not telling the truth. Voices outside of the two parties were largely marginalized.

Since that time, I’ve had moment of sympathy for the press. They’ve seen jobs cut to pay for executive bonuses and have struggled with the transition from the world of print media to digital media. That sympathy fades a bit when I read editorials like the one in today’s Great Falls Tribune, which ends its moralistic broadside with a line like this:

Our preference for this race, as it is for all state races, is to see a genuine horse race featuring two strong major-party candidates on the November ballot.

That horse race mentality is why American political coverage is broken. Instead of focusing on issues that inform voters, the press wants a horse race, so they can fill inches with quotes from political analysts and the latest poll numbers, because those stories write themselves and generate drama. That a candidate wants to gut Medicare or believes that climate change is a natural phenomenon? Not as interesting as the latest poll which shows the race tightening—or the latest “scandal” which can sustain itself with truly terrible stories and analysis.

But I’ve covered all of this before. Instead, let’s talk about the Great Falls Tribune and its political coverage. If you were to visit its Montana Politics page today, you’d see this.

gftmtpol

The top stories in Montana politics? The latest one is from three days ago and the bottom story? Ten days ago. But perhaps I am being unfair. Surely the stories listed below, in the “Headlines” section are more recent, with detailed coverage about what’s happening across the state with candidates running for office, in an election that is only 100 days away.

gftmtpol2

Not so much, I guess. Who doesn’t enjoy firing up their favorite online news source to research political campaigns and coming across stories from 17 days ago? There’s an old saying rocks and glass houses that comes to mind here: it’s easy, I guess, to throw around words like “reprehensible,” but harder, I think, to do one’s job.

The Tribune’s editors can moralize all they like about what kind of people candidates for public office should be. That’s certainly their right. But it’s also their obligation to cover the political stories that permit the best candidates to run. How many people are going to run for public office in Montana when they know they can’t get any press attention for public policy?

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.

About the author

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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  • The thing is, its easier for the two controlling parties to stay in power if there is no press.  And these state newspapers being called a press?  Sorry, but they’re not – they’re jokes.  All the problems you listed with outdated stories is the same on the Missoulian. 

    Honestly, I don’t think they want to improve.  And remember, editors aren’t running things.

  • There is plenty of good press….. but too few Reporters left who know what they are doing and too afraid to rock the boat,   and ancient conservative thinking in this state.

    I guarantee those good articles never hit print because of Campaign Advertising… Another thing I noticed is the News gets Lousier the closer we get to an election because real Reporter articles are getting bump by Campaign written propaganda.

    “Dont believe me look at the research of newspapers. Pew states for 2013- 2014: In local TV, our http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/the-changing-tv-news-landscape/ reveals, sports, weather and traffic now account on average for 40% of the content produced on the newscasts studied while story lengths shrink. 

    Nearly one-third—31%—of people say they have deserted a particular news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to, according to the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults in early 2013. And those most likely to have walked away are better educated, wealthier and older than those who did not—in other words, they are people who tend to be most prone to consume and pay for news.”

    ” Local TV audiences were down across every key time slot and across all networks in 2012. And the off-peak news hours like 4:30 a.m. that stations had been adding for years seem to have hit their audience ceiling. While local TV remains a top news source for Americans, the percentage is dropping—and dropping sharply among younger generations.  Regular local TV viewership among adults under 30 fell from 42% in 2006 to just 28% in 2012, according to Pew Research survey data. What’s more, the topics people go there for most—weather and breaking news (and to a lesser extent traffic)—are ripe for replacement by any number of web- and mobile-based outlets.  While many stations ramped up their digital news offerings in the past year, they are late to the digital game. Advertising revenues were up for the year, but that was largely due to a windfall of $2.9 billion in political advertising revenue, something that cannot be replicated in non-election years. Over all, average revenue for news-producing stations declined by more than a third (36%) from 2006 to 2011.”

  • Ilikewoods Most people don’t like to read political propaganda, and since newspapers are unwilling or unable to replace that revenue it ensures they’ll just produce content that caters to that revenue and attracts it more.

    Then you have to ask what the value of a local paper really is to you.  Many people already have and that’s why newspapers are a dying business.  I just hope I don’t have to bail out their incompetence and reliance upon one revenue stream above all others.

  • So otherwise in news outlets like Great Falls Tribune Pontificating, is all they believe they can afford. And with the amount of Advertising the GOP swells into Montana Papers…….All they want to afford!

  • If it wasn’t for sports coverage, I think the GF Spitoon would have folded long ago.  Sports and obits is about all there is that’s actual news.  It hasn’t been a real newspaper for a long time.  The endless military stories make me vomit.  What drivel.  I think that we had no less than five front page stories on the visiting Vietnam Memorial Wall.  Really?  Five days?  Where maybe ONE wouldn’t have sufficed?
    And the photos!  Lots of photos of returning troops and joyful reunions with loved ones.  Jesus.  Kinda hard to believe that they don’t understand that most folks have war fatigue from Georgie’s Orgy of Slaughter against totally innocent countries!  We must welcome home our “heroes” from their participation in senseless, evil wars that bankrupted our country!
    Yep, that’s news alright!

  • And the lead story today?  You guessed it!  The Vietnam Wall one more time!  What does that make now, five or six.  I forget.  What a joke. 
    Ya know, when Walter Bruneig was alive, they Spitoon must have done at LEAST fifty stories on the guy.  He was an everyday feature.  Bizarre.

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