Tag Archives: Helena IR

Double Talk from a Right-Wing Publisher

Montanans have reacted with outrage to the lies being spread by the fake newspapers called the Montana Statesman and the deceptive mailers that arrived on doorsteps courtesy of the American Traditions Partnership.

But the reaction from Randy Rickman, the right-wing publisher of the Helena IR and Montana Standard looks more like jealousy.

Whatever his “reasoning” Rickman has decided to get into the double-talk game himself.

Last month, the Montana Standard and the Helena IR, the Lee Newspapers controlled by right-wing publisher Randy Rickman, sent letters [PDF] to democratic candidates saying they “decided not to endorse the statewide offices this year.”

This week however the Montana Standard endorsed Steve Daines for Congress.  

The letter reads:

Dear candidate:

The Helena Independent Record and the Montana Standard editorial boards has decided not to endorse the statewide candidate offices this year. However, we are going to provide space starting Sunday, Oct. 7, and going forward to candidates and their opponents to outline their vision and goals if elected. To that end, we would like you to submit a 450-word personal editorial outlining your goals. It will run adjacent to your opponent, but we insist that you not take the space to bash the opposition, rather promote yourself. If you have questions please feel free to contact me. Deadline is by 5 p.m. Wed., Oct. 3. Thanks for your attention to this matter.

 

 

Size Matters: Whose is Bigger, Bullock’s or Hill’s?

Take a look at the photo here.

Clearly, Rick Hill’s lectern was taller than Steve Bullock’s, as has been much discussed. That’s a bad thing for Hill because he is a tiny man and does not want to appear diminished next to Bullock who is above six feet tall.

Certainly the Helena Independent Record, the newspaper which sponsored the debate, did not intentionally give Hill a bigger lectern. If somebody at the IR had done that, Randy Rickman, the conservative Republican publisher, would have already fired the person.

Most likely it was dumb luck that the debate facility (a middle school) did not have two identical lecterns. Hill got the bigger one.

But part of it is not luck at all. During pre-debate walk-through, a good campaign staff would have noticed this discrepancy and corrected it. Clearly Hill’s team of green campaign staffers dropped the ball.

This is campaigning 101. You have to check these things out ahead of time, sweat the details.

It’s sort of like a presidential debate in 2000, when Al Gore never tested the debate lighting with his make up on. Result? When the debate started, he looked to TV viewers like he was trying to impersonate somebody from another racial designation. His skin was dark orange–he looked like a wannabe Bill Richardson, not Al Gore.

Democrats should be emboldened. Hill is running an amateur shop, and we will probably see further screwups.

Questions at the IR

A series of strange occurrences at the Helena IR in recent days.

First, a bizarre editorial was penned  Sunday by the paper’s CEO, suggesting that the very existence of the newspaper may be in doubt.

Randy Rickman, the paper’s boss, wrote that “rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated,” but that “if the Independent Record is dying, it will never have had a better audience to watch its demise than today.”

The job of Managing Editor was posted in the help wanted section of the newspaper.  (Perhaps I’ll apply.) And other top staff are rumored to be jumping ship, including Business reporter and Opinion Page editor John Harrington.

No doubt it’s a tough job running a print newspaper nowadays, as print editions which sell for $1.00 are fast becoming dinosaurs that drain money.  Once upon a time if you were a newspaper baron, ink-by-the-barrel was something to be proud of having under your control.  Today, it’s nothing more than a dark, wet and heavy financial burden, weighing down companies like Lee Newspapers as they desperately try to find a way to monetize digital content which most people simply read for free. I don’t envy them.

There had been talk in the media world, not long ago, that single-newspaper towns would be immune from the financial difficulties being faced by national papers.  The theory was that if you run a newspaper in a one-newspaper town, you have a natural monopoly and can’t lose.  But judging by Rickman’s editorial board and other shakeups recently at Lee Newspapers, Inc.,  it appears monopoly status no longer guarantees success or even survival.  Or perhaps Helena is not big enough to impart this monopoly advantage to the IR.

Even though Rickman is an anti-choice Republican and is employed by a historically Republican company, I do wish the newspaper well.   It might require new management and a new philosophy (such as covering news, rather than ignoring it, and such as jumping on stories, rather than sitting around and letting a bunch of two-bit blogs beat you to the punch), but I am hopeful the IR will be around many years longer.

However, there’s another dark cloud over at the IR that concerns me. I’ve been told that the departure of several members of the editorial board is imminent.  This timing would be questionable, given Lee Newspapers’ conservative bent.   The IR’s (newly women-free?) editorial board is due to make political endorsements soon.   There have also been rumblings that the IR and its sister papers, the Missoulian and Butte’s Montana Standard, may be planning to make endorsements with no input from their community ed board members. A source at the IR would neither confirm or deny the information.

So is Rickman, or some corporate honcho, putting the fix in for candidates like Hill, Rehberg et al?  Certainly Rickman and his company have used his perch to deliver pure political advocacy in the past (like when he ran a virulent anti-choice column).

I hope it’s not the case.  It’d be bad for business, among other things.

A Commissioner’s Wrath

There’s an interesting article in today’s Helena IR about Helena City Commissioner Dan Ellison (the conservative on the commission).  Mr. Ellison used last night’s City Commission meeting to  publicly assail one of the IR‘s best reporters, Sanjay Talwani.

It looks like Mr. Ellison felt that the reporter mischaracterized him in an article last week.  The blurb stated that he “abstained” from a vote on the non-discrimination ordinance, which will help protect LGBT people from discrimination. In fact, he did not voice his support but also did not oppose (which one might call an abstention). Mr. Ellison took issue with that, because technically it was not a “vote” under procedural rules.

It seems Mr. Ellison complained directly to IR publisher Randy Rickman.  The IR then took what appears to me to be an unprecedented step.   Instead of issuing a correction, today’s IR reports,

The Independent Record ran a front-page story Saturday correcting the error and outlining Ellison’s concerns, as expressed Friday in a telephone interview.  In particular, [Mr. Ellison] asked whether a nondiscrimination ordinance should also apply to various other groups — he mentioned the bald and the left-handed, among others — that might also suffer discrimination.

I hadn’t realized that left-handed people can’t find a landlord who will rent to them.  But I’m glad Mr. Ellison was given front page real estate in the capital city’s newspaper to discuss this important problem.

Not satisfied with the whole extra article he got, he used the commission meeting not to work on expanding the Helena non-discrimination ordinance to the bald and left-handed, for whom he had previously voiced concern, but to lecture everyone else about the “injustice” that was done to him.

There They Go Again

Responding to a Lee Newspapers questionnaire in today’s Helena Independent Record, the seven GOP gubernatorial candidates all said that Montana must “develop our natural resources” as a way to reduce unemployment and make our economy strong, and that “red tape” and “excessive regulations” are standing in the way of such development.

Which raises an interesting question: what resources, exactly, are we not developing?  Are there oil wells known to be pregnant that have not been tapped, because of regulations?  I doubt it.  The amount of exploration taking place in Eastern Montana is comprehensive.  Landowners often receive giant checks from oil companies just for the right to test the ground and search for oil.  Any identified oil deposit whose recovery would not be hindered by some geological problem is already being drilled.

And coal?  The rights to the Otter Creek coal deposit are now owned by the largest coal company in America, with designs on extracting it after paying an up front bonus of $80 million to the state of Montana.  To my knowledge, the Arch company has not indicated that any rules or regulations are causing a hindrance to development.  Nor have the owners of any other coal deposit, or oil field.

As is well known, Montana is developing its resources at a faster rate than at any time in the state’s history.  So the question that should have been asked of these candidates is: What resources are not being developed?  Where are they, precisely? Who owns them? And why are these owners not registering the same complaint as these seven buffoons running for Governor?

Perhaps the able newspaperwomen and men at the Lee company will ask these follow-up questions in the future.