DeHaven’s Deferred Decorum

by Justin Robbins

There’s a certain inevitability to the gradual decline of print media. Television, radio, Internet and mobile technologies provide an array of choices by which interested persons might consume the news of the day, any time of the day. Newspapers simply can’t keep up; leaving little for them to do, save to choose the amount of grace with which they exit.

Some try to maintain relevance and credibility while they are consolidated under a single corporate overlord, like Viacom, CBS or Comcast. Still others try to use technology to their advantage by utilizing automated story writers; sacrificing quality for volume. The Helena Independent Record (IR) seems to have settled on (developed?) a third approach. They chose to simply rid themselves of talent and integrity, simultaneously reducing both their overhead, and the readability of what has become the type of cage liner that will convince your parrot not to bother learning English.

To ensure they leave no trace of dignity, the IR has entrusted fact-phobic conspiracy theorist James DeHaven to pilot the nose dive. Alert readers who remember Mr. DeHaven from his previous innuendo-laden diatribes will be disappointed to discover he has done little to enhance the image of his chosen profession. His latest piece is a study in shoddy journalism; weaving vague allegations, unfollowed leads and unanswered questions into a knitted bag of hot gas one assumes floated somehow unseen past the editor’s desk, directly to the printer.

In fairness, I’ve never met Mr. DeHaven. Although my previous encounters with his work are the basis for the somewhat personal critique above, I do not intend this as an ad hominem attack. If journalism is to be considered a profession, then its practitioners, not unlike police and fire fighters, should be held to a standard of professionalism. In Mr. DeHaven’s chosen line, it is called the Code of Journalistic Standards and Ethics.

There are a number of organizations within journalism which seek to set the bar high.  According to Wikipedia, “One of the leading voices in the U.S. on the subject of Journalistic Standards and Ethics is the Society of Professional Journalists.” Their code is worth a read in its entirety; however, for brevity, I would draw the attention of Mr. DeHaven and his editors to this nugget:

      – Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.

In his newest piece, titled “Top Montana Officials Accused of Stifling DPHHS Auditors’ Work”, Mr. DeHaven cites one former DPHHS staffer and a litany of her allegations. He seems to take her at her word, but fails to identify the ‘top officials’, she claims acted under the direction of Governor Bullock and his predecessor Governor Schweitzer, as far back as 2005. He notes, somewhat greasily, that the men (“both Democrats”) denied the allegations; but forges ahead with yet more.  These allegations are left standing by unnamed “officials” who did not respond to requests for comment.

It is worth noting I made every effort to learn more about Mr. DeHaven’s story. He referenced “previous IR interviews” and “June 2015 legislative testimony” by his source; however, I was unable to locate any mention of her in IR archives, or the 2015-2016 online legislative archives. As he ultimately, perhaps unintentionally points out…there’s really nowhere else to look.

I bear no enmity toward Mr. DeHaven. Neither do I take pleasure in assigning to him even slightly disparaging adjectives; save to say the evidence, in his own words, seems to bear them out. Aside from illuminating the complete lack of journalistic integrity in Mr. DeHaven’s apparent propaganda piece, my only goal would be to offer some small contribution toward improving Helena’s last print news source; for, you know…nostalgia.

In the meantime, Mr. DeHaven, as an occasional consumer of your product, I will readily defend my critiques, offer more, or accept yours at whollysecular@gmail.com.

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9 Comments on "DeHaven’s Deferred Decorum"

  1. Interesting, perhaps where the is smoke there is fire. Sometimes journalists don’t have to have the answer, but just have to ask the right questions. Hopefully the press will push harder. Have you tried to FOIA the documentation? Filed a complaint with the Feds? Also, then there was Lt. Gov. Angela McLean leaving because she was perceived as disruptive. Emails regarding this were also requested by, but not released to, Lee Newspapers. Attempts to reach Bullock’s chief legal counsel, Andy Huff, who earlier acknowledged receiving Lee’s request, at the Capitol on Friday were not successful, nor were attempts to work with Bullock’s staff to get the documents. Good Luck. Sounds like the Benghazi investigation stonewalling. And of course, the still there is still issue that Gov. has shorted the state on reimbursement regarding illegal use of the state aircraft. What would happen to me if I was a state employee and I had some wet cement left over from a state job and used to for my patio in my backyard or even knowingly ordered to much with the intent to cover my patio? If I got caught could I pay it back and get hugs from all?

  2. It sounds to me like this disgruntled former employee with a less than firm grasp on the facts let loose on Mr. DeHaven, and he didn’t have the wherewithal/mental talent to get to the truth. Absolutely incredible.

  3. Hey, isn’t this the same James DeHaven who recently won a prestigious Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for reporting on the secret sale of the newspaper while working at the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015?

    Earlier this year, the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications gave James DeHaven and six of his fellow reporters at the Las Vegas Review-Journal the award, which is intended to honor journalists for “their commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards in the face of extraordinary pressures.”

    While the Montana Democratic Party may not like DeHaven digging around in their dirt, DeHaven was given the award from exposing the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s new owner as casino mogul and major, multi-million dollar GOP political financier Sheldon Adelson.

    That award from the Duck’s Journalism School, follows a similar award given to James DeHaven in 2015 by Northwestern University for “Courage in Journalism.”

    Yep, the whole print media world must be so in the gutter that well-respect journalism schools around the country are now forced to given their prestigious awards to “fact-phobic conspiracy theorists” like James DeHaven.

    Finally, I’ll also point out the tremendous irony of a largely anonymous blog like Montana Cowgirl (which apparently prides themselves on serving up “POLITICAL GOSSIP” [Seriously, look at the mast-head, it’s the first words!]) getting their undies in a knot when reporters dig for the truth about politicians with a “D” after their names.

    • It is he, Matthew. Perhaps I was hasty. How many awards do you need before you’re qualified to print vague innuendo and stop checking your sources? How many before your next piece is immune from critique? Before your politics, your agenda are above reproach?

      Yes, there is some irony. Then again, if the IR advertised itself as a political gossip source, Mr. DeHaven’s “work” would not have an issue.

  4. If only the media, both in print and the bullshit on the tube were put under the same magnifying glass as the Clinton’s, Bullock’s, Lewis’ etc., we might begin to see some real reporting. Lee Newspapers in Montana are a piss poor excuse for news reporting. Thank you Justin for a nice piece.

  5. http://www.krtv.com/story/33077014/montanas-political-bloggers-who-are-they-what-influence-do-they-have

    from Mike Dennison, nice SHOUT OUT for Cowgirl, Flathead Memo and Intelligent Disconnect, and some conservative blogs!

  6. Big mistake!
    Read Robbins before DeHaven!
    Read lurid curiosities before reading
    a well structured sequence of alleged events
    that no one wants for Montana.

  7. The American Fascists are on the march and must be stopped. “In a fascist system, it’s not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can’t tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.” -Naomi Wolf

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