"Shut Up and Eat your Damn Breakfast"

When I think about it, that's really what made me decide to write this weblog. A few days ago, like many mornings at our house, I was railing on about something or other I had read in the Tribune. I'm not even sure what it was now. But my wife, tired of these morning outbursts, finally told me to "do something." As she listed off the things I should do, she finally ended on starting my own newspaper. Recognizing that, of course, that really wasn't practical, I decided to do this...something I had been thinking about for some time.

At the heart of it, the real motivation for this is our local newspaper, the Great Falls Tribune. Other than gossip and snippets of local news on the TV and radio stations, the "Trib" is really our only source of local news. And, to be honest, I think sometimes the Trib leaves something to be desired.

Now this is not and will not be simply an attack on the Tribune. I know quite a few of the people that work there, and I genuinely like them. I sincerely believe they try to do a good job, and that they work hard at it. This is not going to be some sort of right wing screed against the Trib, although I do think there is a bias in the paper.

No, what this is about is simply a different point of view. I am often struck as much by how much is left out of the stories, as by what goes into them. And, since I spend so much of my free time on the 'net, I sometimes feel like there is pertinent information that isn't making its way out for public consumption. Is it because they purposely leave it out of the stories? Is it because they don't have the time or space to cover everything? Why this is so, I do not know.

Ok, how about some examples?

Let's start with HB642, the proposal to allow the City of Great Falls to become our default power suppliers. The Tribune recently published an editorial in which they supported the bill. They use this editorial point out what they call the "irony" of advocates of deregulation opposing this bill which the Trib Editorial Board claims would create more choices and competition in the energy markets. They claim that HB642 is a "
a mechanism by which local entities could provide such competition, and the party that brought us deregulation is standing against it." What they didn't point out, though, is that if the City utility survived a Public Service Commission review, it would thereafter be not only our default supplier, but for the average consumer, it would be the only supplier from which we could buy our power. Is that choice??? And they didn't point out that the City would be exempt from PSC review to ensure it provided services at "just and reasonable rates."

Now maybe public power is a great idea. But why should we not know all of the facts? Why didn't the editorial explain that there really wouldn't be alternatives?

How about another example. Everyone knows that the City of Great Falls is considering adoption of a new zoning code. The Tribune has run several articles on it. Now, in fairness, they don't have room to go through the entire code with a fine tooth comb and raise questions about it all. But if they don't have time, they whose job it is to report this stuff, do you?

  • For example, did you know that our City Commission is proposing to tell us how big our homes must be, what the pitch of our roofs must be, and what kind of siding we can or can't use? ( That might be pertinent if you're planning to build a home, right?
  • Did you know that all non-residential projects will be required to have sprinkler systems? ( So, now our 'business friendly community' is going to add to the cost of doing business?
  • Did you know that if you have a use for your property that the zoning folks haven't thought of yet, it's prohibited? (
Now none of these might be huge matters of interest, but the fact is that the vast majority of people in this community have no idea they exist, and will not know they exist until they want to build something and are told by City Hall that they can't do what they want to do. Shouldn't some of us at least ask the question: Should the City really be able to nitpick the use of our property, the property we pay for and own and pay taxes on? How much control should they have over our property?

One more example. Anyone who has ever read the Tribune editorial page has heard their mantra: If we want economic growth in Great Falls/Montana we have to spend more money on education. In some ways, this is counterintuitive; government spending takes money out of the private sector. This usually does not lead to more economic growth. More education spending may be a good thing or not, that's not my issue. My issue is with the fact that the Tribune cites this mantra over and over and over, and they never offer any evidence of a correlation between education spending and growth. Don't you think someone, somewhere would have studied this? And, if so, shouldn't our paper rely on facts when it tries to persuade us of something? Where are the facts?

Wow, I feel better already. As I told my wife, I doubt anyone will ever read this. But I'll keep writing it. And then in the morning, I'll go eat my damn breakfast.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep up the writing and construtive criticism.