Thursday, February 22, 2007

A little truth in advertising, please

Recently, the Billings Gazette published an editorial critical of Rep. Denny Rehberg, an editorial that drew a critical opinion of our own here at Montana Headlines.

In that editorial, the editors told readers that Rehberg had just met with the Gazette editorial board. This gave the editorial an extra punch, since it had a "live at the scene" immediacy.

Since the editors were looking him in the eye, we assume that when the Gazette says that Rehberg "defended" something, that he seemed defensive. We assume that when the Gazette says that Rehberg "complained," that he sounded like he was complaining. They were in the room, not us.

Any reader would also reasonably suppose that Rehberg had ample opportunity to state his positions clearly and to respond to any criticisms the editors might raise.

Today's Gazette editorial is likewise critical of Republicans, this time of the House GOP leadership's decision to reject HB2 -- the appropriations megabill -- and instead break it down into multiple smaller bills, each devoted to a segment of state spending. We have already discussed this plan here at Montana Headlines.

The editors' criticisms are neither original nor surprising, and they do express valid concerns about whether this approach will be able to produce a timely, balanced budget. Their specific criticisms are, in fact, pretty much those that Democrats have been raising -- only without the histrionics.

For that matter, while Montana Headlines likes the Republican plan, the same questions have certainly crossed our minds. We think Mike Lange and the Republican leadership can succeed, but we realize that success won't come easily, since Democrats have a lot to gain if the GOP fails (or appears to fail) in this politically creative endeavor.

But what the Gazette editorial is missing is a little truth in advertising. You see, the editors don't tell their readers that they had just had an editorial board meeting with Governor Schweitzer that morning, just before the editorial was written. One has to get to paragraph 5 of a story in the state/local section to learn that little tidbit of information.

Call us fussy, but we think that readers deserve to know that the governor was bending the editors' ears in person just a few hours before they penned an editorial that essentially repeated Democrat criticisms of the Republican budget plan.


Hallie said...

They'll be more honest if they know you're paying attention.

Montana Headlines said...

Our readership in Montana, in Washington, D.C., and indeed all over the country has been steadily growing -- and at a rate that has surprised us.

How much the Montana media is paying attention has yet to be seen, but given the trends, we are optimistic.