I don’t know what Helena IR ‘policy’ might be out there this time, but today’s paper came and went without a single mention of the one-year anniversary of the Rehberg boat wreck.
No update on the legal and criminal trials and nothing on the workers’ compensation claims of Rehberg and his staff – the cost to taxpayers of the whole drunken debacle.
Speaking of policy, James Conner of the excellent blog the Flathead Memo, had some excellent points on the IR’s supposed policy of not writing about political endorsements that merit further examination. If you read what Doran wrote, he doesn’t actually say the IR has a policy against writing about endorsements, just that “many newspapers” do.
It’s a longstanding policy of many newspapers not to report on political endorsements, unless they somehow significantly break the mold. Political endorsements are a dime a dozen this season.
What was a union endorsement worth when Mike Mansfield was running for Congress, what is it worth now, and how do we know? That’s not necessarily a “this breaks the mold” story, but I suspect it’s a “the mold shrinks again” story, and a story worth reporting. For example, we know that industrial unions lack the clout they had back in the heyday of the Berkeley Pit: can we quantify that decline?
This is not a new idea, and I know it has occurred to the editors of the IR, which I read online from Kalispell. And I certainly understand how difficult it is to allocate resources with so many worthy stories out there and so few reporters available to run them down. If I were in Mr. Doran’s shoes, I might walk the same route he chose.
Still, political journalism in Montana could stand some improvement. In some cases, print editions need to be better coordinated with online editions. which is where the best, most detailed, and enduring stories will be published.
And all political journalists need to start digging deeper into the backgrounds of the candidates, and reporting what they find. A number of Republican candidates, for example, have replied “yes” to teabagger questionnaires asking whether if elected they would support legislation to nullify national health care legislation. That kind of information is getting out on the blogs, but out as much in the traditional print and electronic news media. Doctrines of nullification and succession led to the Civil War. If we elect legislators who espouse, and probably believe, such doctrines, what consequences could that have for Montana?