Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gazette should admit that Burns loss was bad for Billings

In yesterday's (December 19) Gazette, the article "Council approves wish list" reports the worries of the Billings City Council that $15 million in federal funding for various projects around the city may be in jeopardy.

Tucked in the article is a shocking revelation by Bruce Putnam, who lobbies in Washington on behalf of Billings. He apparently stated that in the past, Conrad Burns's "position on the Senate Appropriations Committee made his job easier."

Really? Who would ever have guessed?

If the Gazette editors were honest, they would have run an editorial in the same issue apologizing to the people of Billings for having shot their own city in the foot by smearing the man who worked so hard to bring money to his home-town.

While Montana Headlines will generally be found to advocate cutting both federal taxes and federal spending across the board, one doubts that the Gazette editors are so fiscally conservative in their politics that they are hoping for drastic slashes in all domestic federal spending, including federal spending in Billings.

One also doubts that the editors are so politically dull that they actually believe that Jon Tester, who ranks dead last in seniority in the Senate and doesn't even sit on the Appropriations Committee, will be able to deliver what Burns did.

The only possible explanation is that the editors of the Billings Gazette are more interested in promoting the Democrat party in Montana (and nationally) than they are in the interests of their own city.

It will be a long time before Billings and the small towns and rural areas of Eastern Montana -- where the Gazette has most of its readership and generates most of its income -- have a U.S. Senator who has such an intense interest in and personal love for them.

As was pointed out in the inaugural post on Montana Headlines, the Gazette's endorsement of John Tester alone probably accounted for the latter's miniscule margin of victory. When combined with its unrelenting negative coverage of Burns, it is an uncontrovertible fact that the Gazette had it in its power to send the most powerful advocate for Billings that the city could possibly have.

All that would have been necessary would have been balanced reporting and an endorsement that stated the obvious: having a U.S. Senator that loves his hometown is a tremendous boon to a city. That the editors chose otherwise says it all about how interested they are in their city and their readership.