Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Montana Watchdog and Online News Reporting

We have made no secret that we love the fair accurate reporting of the folks over at the Montana Watchdog. Their news always seems to be well researched and they don’t have the normal biases that we have become accustomed to in our local papers.

According to the Watchdog’s website mission statement they “operate as an independent news-gathering organization that shares its research and findings with the public and other media organizations. It is a project of the Montana Policy Institute, a nonpartisan policy research center and an associate member of the Montana Newspaper Association.”

I have noticed when I read articles from various towns around Montana that many of them use articles reported in the Watchdog. I have often wondered why our local Havre paper doesn’t follow suit instead of always running AP articles such as the one they ran from the San Francisco paper a few days ago. I would encourage our readers to give the Havre Daily people a call and ask them why? Their contact information can be found on this Montana Newspaper Association website. Wouldn’t open honestly reported news articles written about Montana generate more interest with Havre readers than say an ObamaCare love article written for a San Francisco paper?

The Montana Watchdog organization is just one of a trend towards nonprofit journalism that utilizes website based reporting. You may have noticed recent articles about the Lee Newspapers laying off staff and reporters because of declining revenues.  The Montana Watchdog website has the following information posted on their webpage answering some questions about their organization.

Why an online news service in Montana?
Why not? Cash-strapped news organizations are cutting back in many areas, leaving voters less informed. MontanaWatchdog.org is committed to helping fill this void with objective non-partisan news reports. We’re part of a growing breed of nonprofit journalism organization media outlets.

Are you in competition with newspapers and other media?
We’re not here to compete. We’re here to help. We want to enhance news coverage.

What do you do?
MontanaWatchdog.org provides original, thoughtful and detailed investigative reporting. Our main focus is on government waste and inefficiency, political corruption and anything that goes against the core values of the U.S. and Montana constitutions.

We support open, transparent, and accountable state government by reporting on the activities of agencies, bureaucracies, and politicians in Montana. We have an office in Helena, just blocks from the state capitol. We also have a reporter in Bozeman.

Who is your audience?
Everyone. We’re a resource for reporters, editors, bloggers and the general public. We also want to be a place where residents can learn how to make their city halls and school systems more transparent—and to keep public officials honest.

Who is behind you?
MontanaWatchdog.org is a project of the Montana Policy Institute, a Bozeman-based nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank dedicated to a more open and accountable state government.

How can I get your stories?
It’s simple. Our stories are e-mailed to newsrooms and radio and TV stations. Or you can go to www.MontanaWatchdog.org and check out our website. Help yourself; all of our stories are free. All we ask is that you credit us for our work. Or call us at (406) 442-4561 or (406) 219-0510 for more information.

Do you have an agenda or bias?
No. MontanaWatchdog.org operates independently as a newsgathering team and has complete editorial control over the subject matter and content of our stories. MontanaWatchdog.org reporters strive to provide balanced and original reporting on issues of importance to Montanans. The Montana Policy Institute has a point of view on certain issues just as every newspaper editorial board takes a position on certain issues. We work hard to ensure the line between editorial and news content is not crossed.

Who funds the work that you do?
We are supported through grants and gifts from private citizens and foundations. Donors may wish their support to be private for personal or professional reasons ranging from the virtue of anonymous giving, to concerns about being associated with any of the controversial topics that MontanaWatchdog.org might cover. And like virtually all nonprofits, we respect and honor that desire and right to privacy. Like any news organization, we believe that we should be judged on the quality of our work and hold ourselves to a standard of well researched, independent and accurate stories.

How can I support this new wave of journalism in Montana?
Visit our website and read our stories. Tell others about us and the work we do. You can send a check to: MontanaWatchdog.org, 900 N. Montana Ave, Ste. B6, Helena, MT 59601. Or you can support us online at www.MontanaWatchdog.org

Just a few days ago a fellow Montana blogger pointed out a website to me as a source for news articles that is similar to the Montana Watchdog which is called the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. On their mission statement page it says in part:
Specializing in state and local government, Franklin Center has focused its efforts on reaching maximum penetration within small and mid-sized media markets – on driving a conversation about transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility at the grassroots level and putting a human face on public policy. We specialize in reaching a layman’s audience through local media, coordinating our nationwide network to ensure that we are hitting this audience in every state.
What I found most interesting was that the Franklin Center is advertising to hire a journalist and bureau chief to be located in Helena, Montana. The job posting says:
Energetic, experienced journalist sought to start up and run a Helena, Mont., statehouse bureau for Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a leader in non-profit journalism. The ideal bureau chief will be knowledgeable about Montana politics, work independently and have a proven capacity to lead others.

Meeting stenographers and clock watchers need not apply.

We want someone who will break new ground in statehouse coverage and will shun “pack journalism.” We are unapologetic and uncompromising in our mission: Our journalists write their stories from the perspective of taxpayers. We are not only committed to uncovering waste, fraud and abuse but to being the agenda setters in Montana. Montana statehouse news stories will appear online and may be used by newspapers, radio stations and television stations across the state.
Did you catch that? This person must “shun pack journalism” and be “committed to uncovering waste, fraud and abuse” and in addition report from the perspective of the taxpayers. It has been apparent for some time that the liberal media in Montana is faltering and has been laying off people and cutting costs to stay afloat and yet news operations that do some actual investigative reporting are expanding. This is great news and here’s hoping that Montana gets another great reporter, like Phil Drake over at the Montana Watchdog.

Don’t forget to call your local newspaper and ask them why they don’t use articles from the reporters at the Montana Watchdog instead of just printing “filler” from out of state AP articles.  Since the Watchdog relies on donations to stay in operation I would also encourage you to send them a few bucks to help them continue to provide Montanan’s with accurate news articles.


  1. Gee, I would like to see if we could get one of these investigative reporter guys here in Havre. I think there is loads of waste and fraud in Havre that need looked into by a real investigators and the attorney general too for that matter.

  2. At least you can’t accuse the HDN reporters of writing anything “from the perspective of the taxpayer” I usually agree with your take on the HDN writing from the “liberal slant” but this blog is definitely “slanted towards the very-right wing” viewpoint.

    I still enjoy reading it but wouldn’t it be fantastic if we had a news source we knew had painstakingly investigated the facts without the author’s personal opinion being evident in the story? Neither the HDN nor this blog does that and it is one thing Havre is truly lacking. I would support a non-profit reporter starting up a news bureau for Havre and the hi-line