I didn’t want to write this. Honest.
You and I both know that my criticism of some of the Lee coverage of Montana is about as effective as asking Troy Downing how to legally get a hunting license, but some stories are so bad, so one-sided, and so poorly edited, that I just can’t help myself.
Just how bad was today’s Lee story about Senator Daines?
- It was so bad that even though Daines is in the midst of a historically bad week, the story was so one-sided that the National Republican Senatorial Committee retweeted it to help raise money for Republican candidates. I’m no journalist, but that’s not exactly a great sign that the story was balanced.
- It was so bad that it’s very headline “socialism versus freedom” is how Fox News covered the story and how Daines was fundraising earlier in the week.
- It was so bad that it included a monstrous chunk of presumably uninterrupted text from Daines that reads like he was badly paraphrasing the form letter he sent to Montanans explaining why he defended the President’s racist tweets. See the images at the end of the post to compare the Gazette story and the Daines form letter to get a sense of what I mean.
- It was so bad that, despite clearly being a political story, it afforded exactly zero column inches to either of Daines’s announced opponents for the Senate race or any other Democrat for that matter.
- It was so bad that even though the central dispute is whether President Trump was being racist, it did not quote a single expert on racism who might have offered a contrary view, nor even ask Daines to explain how he can defend the tweets as anything but racism.
- It was so bad that, even though the Daines wall of text impersonating news wandered off to discussion about attacks on ICE centers, there was no explanation offered or context provided.
- It was so bad that, even though the Gazette editorial board condemned Daines’s remarks just days ago, noting that “to characterize those with whom you disagree as hating America seems like a return to the red scare of the McCarthy era and witch hunting at its best,” today’s story let Daines repeat the same “indefensible” claims that some fellow members of Congress are un-American without offering their spokespeople the chance to respond.
Montana newspapers have done an admirable job in the past week editorializing against Senator Daine’s choices to defend the indefensible in the past week, but strong editorials like that are badly undermined by news coverage that offers a megaphone for the views those very editorials condemned. And for many readers, the news coverage will, despite its manifest flaws, be seen as the objective take.
Of course, the Billings Gazette (and the Lee papers that later ran the story) should give Senator Daines the chance to explain his position, but not at the expense of full reporting that provides context and demands answers. Today’s story about Senator Daines was worse than a puff piece; it was propaganda from a reporter who has repeatedly offered cover for Senator Daines and Congressman Gianforte over the past few years.
In one of its editorials condemning President Trump’s tweets, the Gazette proudly recalled the moment when Billings rightly and proudly said “Not In Our Town” to reject anti-Semitism. Isn’t it about time for the Gazette to say “Not in Our Newspaper” to reject this kind of coverage?