Posted: October 18, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Helena IR Kowtows to the Chamber of Commerce, at the Expense of Credibility

The Helena IR is not known for its editorial page excellence.  After reading Pogie’s analysis of the IR’s city council endorsements here, I can’t resist adding a couple of points.

It’s hard to get information about city council races, which are “non-partisan.” So, there are probably are some people in town who don’t know that the two progressive candidates are Matt Elsaesser and Katherine Haque-Hausrath while the Chamber of Commerce choice is the other candidate, Lora Behlmer.

The IR knew it though.   That’s why they presumably decided they would look after their own bottom line and split the baby down the middle–endorsing one of the two popular candidates and one right winger.  The IR rightly endorsed Matt Elsaesser, who has served the community well and will certainly continue to do so.  That’s where the logic ends.

What makes the endorsement of Chamber of Commerce fave Behlmer over Katherine so weak, you ask?   It’s the IR’s own explanation of the pick.   The IR could scarcely find justifiable reasons for endorsing Behlmer over Katherine Haque-Hausrath. Let’s look down at the bottom of the barrel to see what they were able to scrape up.

First, the IR states that it is

“impressed with Behlmer’s willingness to listen to constituents” and that she would be “more aggressive and ambitious in seeking input from all corners of the city.”

It is odd and unconvincing that Behlmer does constituent contact by

“polling customers who pass through her store’s doors, but also making use of online polls and actively seeking the voices of those who aren’t necessarily working through the system.”

Just as long as those voices belong to people who spend money at a specialty gourmet tea shop most average citizens have never even heard of, that is.

Katherine has been hearing from Helenans in a much more meaningful way — by walking up to their houses and knocking on their doors to ask them.    Sitting behind the counter at your business and being nice to people as you pocket their money is not the same as going to their door on your own time and simply asking for their views, not their cash.

The IR goes on to tout the supposed diversity that Lora Behlmer would bring

“in the form of her role as a Downtown Walking Mall merchant and small retail business owner “

(There’s the Chamber of Commerce dog whistle).   What’s really  troubling though is that the IR apparently does not feel that Katherine would bring diversity as a young woman and mother. Surely, Katherine also represents a unique viewpoint that is lacking in the all-male commission.

Here’s something else weird about the endorsement piece.  In the portion of the editorial about Katherine, the IR addresses Katherine’s views on a non-discrimination ordinance, low-income housing, and the cell-phone ban. Yet nowhere does the IR give us the other candidate’s position on these issues, which are sure to be the hottest issues to come before the commission in the coming year. The IR should have reported the other candidates’ views on these issues so that voters can compare.

Do yourself a favor and forget the IR. Go to the KXLH debate between the candidates on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at the Lewis and Clark Library from 7 to 8 p.m.

5 comments

  1. ILIKEWOODS

    Well that can certainly be the truth! I used to think people in newspapers were supposed to take a non political view! Somehow a lot of reporters forget a whole story is : who, what, when, where, and why. Today a lot of reporting is missing the “why”

    Case in point: when I finally came back from living and working in big cities back east and rural communities far more west then here… when I came back to care for my family, who had become old and less steady… I read our weekly paper the tribune. we have a reporter, I thought I could respect! A kinda guy would listen to my side if I was to be part of a story, but let the other view have his! It wasn’t the case!

    In fact the more I read from this particular reporter, the more I saw a republican agenda matter more to him. And it wasn’t that I ever had a bad conversation with the man, or had a harsh disagreement; in the times I talked to him personally. It was that his answers were so final and one sided… even though all the facts weren’t in yet, and people were still digging for all the answers!

    Sometimes a story has no answer, and if told right the “No answer” is a good enough “Why!”

    It cheapened his stories in search for the truth because they always had a predictable outcome, sometimes I would see skewed data, sometimes I would see a personal preference, They were always talking to the same people. Never a fresh view!

    I felt cheapened that it was always one sided, and I wasn’t given the common decency as a reader to make a choice! All life isn’t black and white, there’s a lot more grey in the world…That needs to be brought up. Uncomfortable topics that need to be lit! Anyway, He’s allowed himself to be frightened by the grey topics… enough to allow “Why” things, to slide.

    We have a daily rag here also that counts for nothing but, death notices and marriage! A xeroxed scandal sheet! Then we have a paper… A paper that is heading the same direction as the scandal sheet. Facts not checked, stories becoming more one sided daily, because they are afraid to ask the other side, or ask the tough questions. If the publisher( whom I like dearly) doesn’t pull up on the reins soon the paper will get away from him! I like to say it could do much better. This opinion of mine alone, might be outside their comfort zone!

    So I can see Helena running that way also,, because it is the capital and because of a majority of politics being one sided these days… But it is not the whole story is it? There is always another side. Why do these papers believe it is a good idea to pander solely to one side? Because it is easier to write about the smaller white side, then the large grey area. Unfamiliar as it may be, the grey side has always held the better story and usually carries within its vagueness as you uncover the facts… the real truth!

    • Go Newspaper Go

      The problem is you assume that what MT Cowgirl wrote is true. Big mistake. The endorsement had nothing to do with the chamber. And there is no agenda at the newspaper other than reporting the truth. What’s interesting is that you would take a blog – with admitted bias – and believe it to be true.

      • Paul S.

        Oh yeah….I have never seen the IR demonstrate any bias under right-wing publisher Randy Rickman (ahem.) Of course they are a great and credible news source (sarcasm).

  2. Bobby

    My guess is that the IR really isn’t picking Katherine because she said the most important issue is that Helena should pass a non-discrimination ordinance like Missoula’s. They probably saw her as a culture warrior or a one-issue candidate. Not being in the endorsement meeting, I can’t say if that’s what happened, but that’s how the article reads to me.

  3. rleeh

    is there a hope here…
    that a corpse-rat toy designing the “news”…
    will deliver more truth…
    than the corps-rat owned politicians it helps elect?