Reckless Insinuation Finds a Haven

by Justin Robbins

I recently found myself wanting to make a contribution to the local newspaper, but I ultimately thought better of it.  I believe my offer is still relevant, but let’s call it a service; to the public more than to the Helena Independent Record and its staff. Those folks seem tragically confused about what constitutes a contribution and what does not. Confused, for that matter, about what constitutes news.

Take, for example, new staff writer and budding innuendo-ist James DeHaven’s most recent unabashed hit piece, “reporting” that Montana Republican Party staffers are “irked” about campaign contribution rules that apply equally to both political parties. Perhaps it was because the rules apply to both parties equally; DeHaven never really clarifies. He just wants to assure the reader that not only does the Republican Party believe itself morally superior to its counterpart, its not happy that different rules don’t apply. It might also be the GOP is frustrated they don’t understand the rules…again, DeHaven is not really clear.

Where DeHaven does succeed, is in bringing the reader along on “Lee Newspapers Archive Day”. This seems to be a new feature (similar to “Random Employee ByLine Day”) where an old story which was accurately reported by a genuine newsman (in this case, former Lee reporter Mike Dennison) is revamped by someone like DeHaven. That may be unfair…re-vamping a story would take effort. DeHaven essentially trots out Dennison’s 2008 piece about political party staffers working on individual candidate’s campaigns, and assures the reader that the Republican Party is still in a snit that [then Attorney General candidate] Steve Bullock didn’t do anything wrong.

The DeHaven article is truly a study in journalistic hackery and frustration. Not only does DeHaven take 1,736 words to remind us Governor Bullock plays by the rules, he strikes a tone that showcases the impotent rage he seems to feel at not having an actual story. He also tackles the dual challenge of making his story less relevant by soliciting a quote from convicted campaign fraudster Art Wittich, while simultaneously highlighting his own ignorance of Wittich’s offenses; on which DeHaven himself reported.  Remarkable.

But, I digress…I had intended this essay to provide a public service. It is simply to illuminate for the public that the Helena Independent Record no longer provides a service. It has rid itself of its finest reporters and, with them, its last vestiges of intelligence, integrity and impartiality. It no longer even seems interested in concealing its own disgrace.  Okay, the classifieds aren’t terrible.

To Mr. DeHaven and his Grand Old Publishers I would say this: spend a little more time in the archives. Pay particular attention to Mike Dennison and Chuck Johnson. If their writing doesn’t help you develop more respect for your profession, perhaps it will at least engender a little more respect for your reader.


16 Comments on "Reckless Insinuation Finds a Haven"

  1. It is not just the IR with a problem but the entire newspaper business called Lee Enterprises that is trying to be a newspaper business in Montana. They can’t even get their subscription rates standardized let alone get a newspaper’s stories written by competent journalists published.

  2. Matthew Koehler | April 26, 2016 8:56 AM at 8:56 AM |

    Um, Justin, you are aware that a few months ago James DeHaven won a Sidney Award for “outstanding journalism that fosters social and economic justice,” right? Like I said on Twitter, Haters gonna hate and Diggers gonna dig. Here’s hoping that James DeHaven keeps digging into Montana’s political establishment on both the right and the left.


    January, 2016

    Las Vegas Review-Journal wins January Sidney for Unmasking the Shadowy Buyer of Their Own Newspaper

    James DeHaven, Howard Stutz, and Jennifer Robison with the Las Vegas Review-Journal win the January Sidney Award for unmasking GOP powerbroker Sheldon Adelson’s secret acquisition of their newspaper.

    Adelson’s furtiveness is puzzling in an era when billionaires buy media properties as openly and casually as they buy yachts, but the Sidney winners’ coverage might help explain it.

    • Um, yes. I am. I followed that link and read all of his stuff I could find. I’m also pretty sure the Sidney Award does not come with carte blanche permissions to lower your journalistic standards. He should know, or be made to realize a writer is only as good as his last piece.

      Do you think the “The GOP is Irked” story was an impartial report of currently relevant material?

  3. The Sidney Award is given out every month and recognizes one story. That’s it. Anybody can get lucky. Whether DeHaven deserved an award for reporting before he came to Montana, or not, he certainly deserves no accolades for his work here. His “reporting” in Montana has been consistently selective, slanted, and unfairly partisan. His overt bias is a main reason I will no longer pay for any paper published by Lee Enterprises.

    • Exactly! it was who he, Dehaven, worked for , because that Newspaper The “Las Vegas Review-Journal” does have standards there Journalists actually have to work underneath. You all want to know what the standards Of Lee Newspapers are now Matthew? NOTHING since they fired their two biggest assets, Chuck and Mike! What are their standards NOW?

      Making Banks Happy!

      Lee enterprises are under the control of Banks and their money. Then in arrears, they are behind the eightball, so they have turned to Banks not subscribers and good reporters!

      When Banks need a Journalist spokesperson they look to Lee and others to Disseminate their propaganda for a buck. Lee are practically at every big feel good bank conference in the world peddling their wares to Banks who need big press. Selling their souls so to speak to big banking interests.

      And as Americans we wonder why our Newspapers do not produce good news from Montana anymore.

      With Lees Financing in the Tank, and struggling they have gone to the two biggest money giveaways in the world. and they are proud of it!

      From their own words just this year alone they have gone to two big Conservative Banking confrences:

      Mar 8, 2016
      PALM BEACH, Florida (March 8, 2016) — Today, at the Deutsche Bank 24th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, in Palm Beach, Florida, Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (NYSE: LEE), a major provider of local news, information and advertising in 50 markets, will provide a review of its strong local audiences, digital sales and subscriber strategies, and a financial update.

      Feb 29, 2016
      MIAMI (February 29, 2016) — Today, at the J.P. Morgan Global High Yield & Leveraged Finance Conference in Miami, Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (NYSE: LEE), a major provider of local news, information and advertising in 50 markets, will provide a review of its strong local audiences, digital sales and subscriber strategies, and a financial update.

      Selling themselves to banks. and not just any banks but two with the worst records of freedom of the press there is.

      Even Our biggest internet provider in Montana. Charter is doing it also

      So step back Matthew, and let this kid prove himself. Let’s see if Dehaven can get past all the banks firewalls to do real news, like at his old job. Lets see how he gets past the propaganda now that he isn’t with a newspaper that has its own anatomy and money!

      Because Lee has become a propaganda sheet for the banks now. and will do anything for those lump sums of cash from them. Including allowing no Journalistic rules of fairness to get in the way!!!!!!

      Justin isn’t bought off. and so far his nose for news is a hell of alot better for the truth than Dehaven has proven since he has been here.

      Dehaven only shined when he was with better reporters and news organization. It was the company he kept MAtthew. That company is gone

      What you don’t remember Dustin Hurst? and how he fell from a journalistic Grace he has never been able to come back from once he got fired in Washington. Now working propaganda with KOCH and ALEC money. Now working for right wing Organizations like Idaho Freedom Foundation.

      Stick with what you know Matthew. I liked it better when you were watching our Natural wilderness!

  4. From the archives: A comment from the Twin Bridges Monitor that included the Helena Independent before it absorbed the “Record” from the Republican Party (May 1910)

    “In these days when the larger papers, many of them owned and run in the interests of the big corporations; and when the editors are unknown and merely hacks who are given their subjects to write upon as a child is given its writing lesson; the people have turned to the magazines and country press for honest utterances.”

    This is still good advice. Thank goodness for the Internet bloggers.

  5. “He also tackles the dual challenge
    of making his story less relevant . . . . . . .”
    remains for me, a quite humorous sentence
    in a well composed, short piece of importance
    about the newspaper in Helena.

    That no big deal???
    Here’s a non-conventional response to the importance of newspapers:

    “Without newspapers, there is sometimes disorder.
    Without them, there is always slavery.”
    Benjamin Constant 1767-1830

  6. I have to give kiddos to Dehaven for stepping up and giving coverage to issues that should have received more light of day. I for one am concerned about the exception to campaign finances being subverted by party donations. It is hard to track and harder yet to follow who is donating. I have no problem with donations as long as there is transparency. But what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Democrats would be crying foul if the republicans were doing this for Gianforte but he doesnt need to be sneaky in how he gets his money. He just writes the check. This is an exception to the campaign finance laws that needs to be closed.

    • This is not a rule that favors either party; it is simply a rule. You cry foul when somebody breaks the rule, not when your strategy doesn’t involve availing yourself of it. From DeHaven’s article:

      “Gianforte campaign spokesman Aaron Flint didn’t deny the party had stumped for his candidate, nor that Gianforte’s donations to the state GOP could go to support his own and dozens of other Republican campaigns.”

      They just say the Democrats do it more. This is not “secret” or “dark” and was hammered out in light of day (and the Courts) in 2008, as reported by Mike Dennison.

      This is a “reporter” regurgitating one of the Gianforte campaign’s lines of attack, on the front page, as though it were investigative journalism. He then evokes to Art Wittich’s campaign violations to imply some imagined equivalency. This is the Independent Record campaigning for Greg Gianforte. You deserve better for your money.

  7. Gary, I do not disagree that there are problems with transparency with regard to s apolitical party paying for staff to assist with a campaign. However, this “loophole” is not the same as contributing cash. DeHaven’s statement: “It would be illegal for Bullock or any other candidate to directly receive corporate and union donations. The fact the same cash can be legally accepted in unlimited quantities when passed by a PAC through a political party’s bank account …” is demonstrably false. It also shows DeHaven either ignores Montana law and recent Montana history, or is simply unaware. Rick Hill’s acceptance of the Republican Party’s illegal $500,000 contribution in October 2012 is the same sort of cash accepted in “unlimited quantities” that is clearly illegal (contribution limits are imposed on political parties) and may have cost Rick Hill the election when he was caught red-handed. DeHaven is a shill who fabricates to support an agenda, not a journalist deserving any credit.

  8. The MTGOP was only looking for a friendly headline and they got it, “Uncapped services criticized: Bullock’s party-paid campaign staffers irk GOP”….they are now using the headline and a false narrative in their fundraising emails and social media. The MTGOP knows the low information voters don’t read articles, they only read the headlines….The MTGOP played James DeHaven like a cheap fiddle.

    • To add to that…….. Hadn’t the GOP party in Montana gone Broke?

      With the exception of people like right wingers GianForte donating??? Only “Tin Hatted Conspiracy Birds” of a feather. or Nuts from the same tree are left in the GOP?

      I know our County GOP started Hemorrhaging badly when the right wing took over as political officers of the party here. the bigger donations just dried up from the Moderate GOP.

      IN all actuality Like the newspaper of Lee, Moderate Republican subscribers are leaving in droves and so the infusions of trickled cash and Ideas that they do get as a party…. just like “Lee enterprise is failing as a subscriber business, is now from extreme right wing organizations, and heads of corporations. whose funneled money comes with strings attached for paid shills in government offices, or stories mostly being written by corporations themselves?

      The Moderates who have gone independent are not even showing up at the meetings here anymore. According to a lot of my Moderate GOP friends they are now sitting on their wallets, and going to meetings outside of party eyes.

      It was bound to happen, the Fringe have been pushing to get inside Montana Politics since 2010. the forefront of a nascent nullification movement, People like Derek Skees, and Art Wittich being picked mistakenly by duped voting republicans…. Fringe People which argued states can fight Supposed US government oppression by refusing to follow unconstitutional federal laws and win.

      I think the MOderate republicans in the state grew up, and saw they were endorsing goofballs.

      Anyone remember the statehouse session that wrapped 
up on April 28,2011???

      A lopsided GOP majority launched an all-out blitz of conservative legislation in the state, including a “birther” bill, a declaration emphasizing global warming’s
 unsung benefits and a measure that would have legalized the hunting of big game
 with spears. Tea Party Republicans introduced nearly a dozen bills to nullify State and federal laws
 governing everything from health care and food safety to animal
 protections and gun restrictions. They went after children, women and gays. They stopped funding Education…..

      I remember one bill, known as a “Sheriff’s First” law, would have
 forced federal officials to get the local constable’s permission before 
making an arrest. Another, authored by Skees, would have established an 11-
person commission to examine all federal statutes and eliminate those deemed unconstitutional.

      Looking back Moderate republicans realized,those were all crazy bills.

      Lee Couldn’t push their best reporters to keep writing stories on that crap back than, Couldn’t get them to put there name on a corporation written story and call it their own…..So they let Mike and chuck go to find others willing to report on stuff that just wasn’t true. Dehaven is the result of Lee looking for those willing to sell their name to rightwing politics.

      Anyone notice he is writing articles that favor GOP Nut Monforton?

      Just saying! the Republican Party and Lee enterprises seem pretty intertwined with the fringe now, while everyone else sane is jumping ship!

  9. The Daily Interlake is another right-wing screed fest posing as a legitimate newspaper. Its readership and size have shrunk. Coincidence?

Comments are closed.