Today in so-called journalism

typewriter-1031024_960_720I live in a small town in a rural county in a flyover state. It’s not often we get news of a local variety that merits blogging on an international platform. We’re at one of those moments. As much as anything, I’m sharing my experience to see if anything I’ve encountered passes the sniff test.

Backstory: local county sheriff, Carl Suta, terminated an officer on his force, with some stated regrets, because said officer had his certification revoked. I’ll let the reader be the judge of whether or not that appears to be on the merits according to the at least satisfactory reportage from the Great Falls Tribune on June 22 of this year. As far as I’m concerned, the reasoning appears to be legitimate. Sheriff Suta appears to be concerned about the credibility of his officer should he ever be grilled by a defense attorney.

Full disclosure: I voted for Sheriff Suta. I call him Carl when I see him, even if he doesn’t remember my name. And barring any reason substantiated with evidence, I’ll vote for him again. This isn’t an endorsement, per se, just disclosure. Another local’s mileage may vary.

On July 17, another news outlet, KRTV, providing coverage for Great Falls and North Central Montana, published this piece.

Of note:

“A petition to recall Pondera County Sheriff Carl Suta has been approved by the Pondera County Clerk & Recorder.

The petition is now ready to be circulated.

Petitioners will hold a meeting soon to have the circulators notarized and informed.

Petitioners cite incompetence as their reason for recall.”

At no point in KRTV’s coverage of July 17 do they name the petitioner(s). As the petition was approved by the Pondera Clerk & Recorder, I can only assume for the moment that the process and the paperwork surrounding the petition must be a matter of public record. I plan on finding out when I stroll over to the courthouse. It helps to live in the county seat just blocks away from it, perhaps. Why Julianne Dellorso didn’t see fit to mention either the names or the reason for anonymity is more than a bit mind boggling.

Among other allegations in the petition, we find:

“openly created dating profiles while married and cited sex as a hobby.”

Well, then. That’s pretty scandalous. It also appears to be a point worthy of finding evidence to substantiate it before just including it in the “news.” I’m sure some waffler could say that KRTV is merely reporting on the fact of the petition, not the facts claimed by the petition, but I would suggest such a waffler is lazy at best, unethical at worst.

On July 18, KRTV followed up with an interview with “both sides” (if you can call this an interview). At least this time they bothered to name a petitioner, Stacy Welker. At no point in her few seconds did she offer even a shred of evidence. And while KRTV at least mentioned the allegation of a dating profile and “sex as a hobby” in yesterday’s coverage, apparently neither KRTV nor Ms. Welker saw fit to mention that particularly scandalous point in front of cameras, unless that’s the “this stuff” Ms. Welker alluded to without evidence. And again, the point remained unsubstantiated.

Just in case the busy reader only noted the link to the Trib article above without reading it, it’s probably worth mentioning that the officer that was terminated due to being decertified, was decertified retroactively based on prior decertification in Utah for improper sexual conduct (apparently consensual, but probably not with consent from his wife) in his police cruiser. He didn’t learn from that mistake and engaged in similar unseemly conduct down in Arizona, for which he was charged and plead down to pay a fine while his partner in public in flagrante delicto was actually convicted of the charge.

To be fair, that was 13 years ago, and he claims to have paid his dues. Sheriff Suta even defended the officer’s service on the force.

What this reader perceives from the foregoing is that a disgruntled ex-employee, terminated on what appears to be sound grounds for sound reasons having more to do with his credibility than with his current performance, is now supported by a politically motivated attempt to unseat the duly elected sheriff of Pondera County while he plans to run against Sheriff Suta when the chance arises.

Mostly what I see is KRTV engaged in sloppy, slipshod reporting so bad that it comes across as politically slanted on its face. I personally commented to the above effect on their Facebook post and had my comment deleted, apparently in direct violation of their own stated comment policy. On questioning the removal of my comment, since it appeared to be blatant censorship, I was directed to email to Eric (their news director) at ahem krtvnew@krtv.com. Thank you for the typo, unknown KRTV Facebook admin. Luckily I noticed that looked rather odd and included krtvnews@krtv.com in the addresses.

For the record, the email I sent to Eric is as follows. In good form, I included my name, phone number, and mailing address in that email, omitted here for obvious reasons. I not only look forward to Eric’s response, but I look forward to yours as well.

Am I the only one who sees a hatchet job in this hamfisted, rookie-level coverage?

Dear Eric,

I got your name from a KRTV Facebook admin who directed me to you should I have a complaint about KRTV’s coverage of the aforementioned issue.
For reference, here is a link to coverage from the Great Falls Tribune dated June 22 of this year:
Yesterday, KRTV reported with this:
Not mentioned in that article are:
The name(s) of petitioners.
Any interview comments with the Pondera County Clerk & Recorder as to how such a petition could be approved.
Any evidence whatsoever substantiating a single one of those claims.
Any mention of the backstory, generously provided by the Great Falls Tribune, that would shed some light on the political dynamics of this situation.
As such, the KRTV reportage comes across to the discerning reader as novice reporting at best, horribly slanted at worst.
On commenting to this effect on the KRTV Facebook post regarding the interview with “both sides,” my comments were removed, apparently in violation of KRTV’s own stated policy:
I look forward to your response.
Best regards


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1 reply »

  1. I’d be interested in Eric’s response.

    On an unrelated note, I’m flying to Great Falls next month to help my sister and her family move back to Kansas. She lived in GF for a few years, but now lives in Havre.