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Greg Gianforte Montana Politics The Media

Media Matters: Lee Enterprises and Sinclair Broadcasting

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

It’s one of William Shakespeare’s more famous lines and comes from the play Hamlet. Replace Denmark with Montana and add media, and you’ll get my drift.

Three of the five Lee Enterprises newspapers in Montana — Billings, Missoula and Helena — endorsed Greg Gianforte for Congress. Butte’s Montana Standard and the Bitterroot’s Ravalli Republic didn’t weigh in on the special election, at least not yet.

Don got his post up first on the Helena Independent-Record endorsement. It’s a must read.

As far as the Gazette and Missoulian endorsements, let’s first take a look at who’s on the editorial board at each paper. The Missoulian board is made up of the Opinion Page editor, the managing editor and the publisher, and although the Opinion Page editor makes most of the day-to-day decisions, all three have a role in the headier editorials, like endorsements.

Mike Gulledge is the publisher of BOTH the Gazette and Missoulian, so that’s two votes right there. He’s also the head honcho at both newspapers. The Gazette has five board members: the same three positions at the Gazette as the Missoulian’s board, plus the general manager, who is in charge of the business end of things, and a community representative (and I have no idea how that person is chosen). I’m also not familiar with the Opinion Page editor or managing editor at the Gazette, but after the near weekly negative Rob Quist pieces by Gazette reporter Tom Lutey, it’s not hard to figure who they’re going to endorse.

The Missoulian editorial board, with the exception of Gulledge, is a little harder to figure out. The new managing editor, Kathy Best, comes from the Seattle Times, so one would think that she’s a savvy person. I’ve had pleasant exchanges with longtime Opinion Page editor, Tyler Christensen, and although we’ve had our disagreements, I respect the job she has done.

The endorsement is all the more surprising after a recent editorial in both the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic chastising Gianforte for piling on as an audience member threatened a Republic reporter at a meeting in Hamilton. I guess that’s water under the bridge now.

The main rule of thumb these days in the floundering newspaper biz must be “don’t rock the boat.” Ergo, two of the most backhanded endorsements I’ve ever witnessed.

Both criticize Gianforte’s anti-science stance on things like evolution and climate change. The Missoulian tackles his anti-Planned Parenthood pledge and the Gazette questions his commitment to education and health care. Those alone should disqualify him for an endorsement.

Neither paper challenges Gianforte’s contempt for diversity; you know, gay people.

All those are of such consequence compared to the few financial problems that Quist has encountered over the years. The other Quist critique is his lack of concrete policies in dealing with the myriad problems facing this country. That’s a bad thing? Instead of being a far-right ideologue, Quist is still forming opinions and figuring out the details on issues.

The most troubling to me, though, is this line from the Missoulian endorsement:

Given some of the reckless proposals and sweeping changes happening under the Trump administration…

Exactly. And what has Gianforte based his entire campaign around? Advancing the Trump agenda.

I’m completely gobsmacked by these endorsements.

And if you think Lee is bad

It was mentioned here last week that Sinclair Broadcasting Corporation purchased three TV stations in Montana: KECI in Missoula, KCFW in Kalispell and KTVM in the Butte/Bozeman market.

Also, Sinclair recently outbid Fox News for Tribune Media’s 42 stations, bringing Sinclair’s total to 233 stations, reaching 72% of all households in the U.S.

Folks might think it’s better to have these stations in the hands of someone rather than Fox News. They’d be wrong. KOMO TV in Seattle found this out the hard way. Newscasts are required to air “must-runs,” right-wing propaganda pieces produced by the home office in Maryland:

“The must-runs look like they are part of the news,” David Twedell, business manager of a local camera workers’ union in Seattle, said. “And they’re clearly not.”

Can’t wait to see these segments starting to air on our local stations.

To say there is too much concentration of Montana media in the hands of too few corporations, almost all of them from out of state, is putting it mildly.



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

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • Excellent piece, Pete. I, too, am baffled by Tyler and Kathy. But I keep hearing that Billings calls the shots. Some people believe Davenport & Lee execs truly call the shots.
    Since Missoulian editorials are anonymous, we may never know if Tyler & Kathy threw up theirs hands and said, “Then you write it.” Or if they have actually morphed into anti-science right-wing extremists who want to abolish Social Security.
    Or at the least, abolish the “security” part. This is terrifying:
    Gianforte’s stance against Social Security is based on the Bible not discussing retirement and Gianforte’s belief that Noah worked at age 600. 600. 600. Seriously. Here ya go, from multiple reliable news services: “There’s nothing in the Bible that talks about retirement. And yet it’s been an accepted concept in our culture today,” he said. “Nowhere does it say, ‘Well, he was a good and faithful servant, so he went to the beach.’ It doesn’t say that anywhere.
    “The example I think of is Noah,” he continued. “How old was Noah when he built the ark? 600. He wasn’t like, cashing Social Security checks, he wasn’t hanging out, he was working. So, I think we have an obligation to work. The role we have in work may change over time, but the concept of retirement is not biblical.” And the Gianforte audio:

  • Pete, you expect far too much from Corporate Officers.

    The time is ripe for replacement, though. Someone needs to step up and fill the void with a better read.

  • You mention the “community member” on the Gazette’s editorial board and say you don’t know how this person is selected. I don’t know, either, but I know who has that position now. The Gazette says she “did not participate in the endorsement process because of a conflict of interest.”

    • Thanks for the info, Lorraine. The conflict of interest might be that she respects the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, believes in science and health care for all.

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