Dirty Pool

"Never get into a p*ssing match with someone who buys ink by the barrel." Good advice, but I just can't follow it. What the Tribune has done with this mayoral race is beyond the pale. I am offended by their abuse of a right that so many people have died for. This is a sacred right in our society; journalists are not anointed by journalism degrees as puppet masters.

I know for a fact that at least two people with IP addresses from the Great Falls Tribune look at this website daily. I cannot believe anyone who is even halfway fairminded could think the Tribune's little stunt is ok.

What has me all up in arms? Well, the same thing that has angered just about everyone I talked to today. It is the Tribune's well-timed (for Mayor Gray), last minute smear of Dona Stebbins and her candidacy for Mayor. I will not link to their trash, but suffice it to say that the Tribune picked today to try to portray Ms. Stebbins as beholden to "casino owners." They could not print the article before today because she would have a chance to respond. (The deadline for election oriented letters to the editor expired today at noon.) After today would be too obviously a cheap shot. So, today it is. They can argue, with a marginally straight face, that a reader would have had time to submit a rebuttal between 8:00 a.m. when they got their paper and noon, when the deadline expired.

I may not have a journalism degree, but I'm pretty sure journalistic ethics would suggest that journalists not actually create their own stories. For example, turning in the Great Falls Leaderless into the Commission on Political Practices and then reporting on their investigation without telling readers that it was all instigated by them. Quite ethical. And then this trash on Dona Stebbins. It is completely contrived.

Let's look at the numbers. The Tribune says: "Stebbins received $720.00 from tavern-casino owners...In addition, relatives of Great Falls casino owners -- plus an attorney involved in a past casino dispute in the city, and his wife--contributed $1,010 for a total of $1,730, or more than one-third of Stebbins' contributions from others." Let's see, she received $720.00 from casino owners, out of total contributions of $4,620.00, or just under 16%. Wow, not much of a story there. Let's throw in relatives of casino owners. Nope, that's not even 32%. I know, let's also add in the contributions of a lawyer who once represented a casino owner and his wife. (I guess wives can't have their own, legitimate political opinions?) There you go...more than a third of Dona's donations...bingo.

Why do we allow the Tribune to select members of our community and declare their opinions illegitimate? Because people own a Montana State gaming operators license their political beliefs are somehow suspect? Is that not the implication of the story? If not, why is it newsworthy? Why wouldn't an industry oppose a candidate who opposes them? What if we took a different industry, say lawyers, and declared their political beliefs illegitimate?

Well, let's just see. Did you know that attorneys, or relatives of attorneys, gave Mayor Gray $2,120.00, or 38% of his total contributions. Why was this figure not emphasized, or even calculated? Maybe it's because of Mayor Gray's $5,600.00 in campaign contributions, he has spent $3,600.00 of it with the Tribune, compared to Dona Stebbins' $00.00 in Tribune ads?

Did the Tribune, so willing to broaden the net to include a lawyer who once represented a casino, even bother to investigate whether any of these generous attorney donors ever had cases in front of the City Commission?

Or maybe the Tribune could point out that virtually all of the attorney donors are plaintiff's trial lawyers. What, you say, could be wrong with that? Being a plaintiff trial lawyer is legal, right? So is owning a casino. But one is made the point of a smear. Why?

Earlier I alluded to the fact that at least some people from the Tribune read this blog. You tell me. Comment anonymously if you must. Is it a journalist's job to shape the news, to influence it? Or are you just supposed to report it?

If this sounds like I take it personally, I do. I own an interest in casinos, I represent casinos, and I have friends in the industry. And you know what? We're not evil, we're not demons. I will bet my community service against anyone, I give away all kinds of money and time to kids and other causes, and I think I'm a reasonably decent family man. Boy am I tired of self-righteous, tinhorn dictators looking down their snoots at me.

The Tribune's story crosses the line.

(By the way, I'm not alone. See what Aaron has to say.)


SallyT said...

If it's any comfort, I laughed out loud at the headline, "Gray says casinos want him out."
Do I hear a distant echo of the national democrats? The 'it's all a big conspiracy against me by those people' accusation?

I thought the article made Dona look pretty good, though that may not have been the intent. Perhaps the rhetoric will resonate with CasiNo and the other self-righteous meddlers...but I think this could backfire in a big way. Especially since it reveals Gray to be the whiny elitist he is.

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