On Trolls, PR Puff Pieces And Local News

by William Skink

I just took an online survey about local media that indicates former staff of the shuttered Indy are still looking at the feasability of resurrecting the alt-weekly in some form.

If the Indy was still around I wonder if columnist and free-lance writer, Dan Brooks, would have used his column space to reply to Martin Kidston’s hollow mea culpa over the embarrasing twitter battle that ensued when Brooks pointed out a Missoula Current article seemed to be a re-printed press release with a by-line slapped on.

Here is a portion of Kidston’s damage control:

Growing up, I was told more than once to “not let my alligator mouth outsize my canary ass.” It was an odd way of urging me to think before I speak, or not bite off more than I could chew. I’ve gotten better over the years, tempering my words and my response to things that deserve a response. Anymore, I usually let it slide, knowing there will come another day, and with each new day, a new beginning.

But last week, I violated my own rule when a social media troll called the Missoula Current out on Twitter. It had been a long day and I responded poorly, breaking my standards of social media conduct. It led to a torrent of replies from our cross-town competitor and by the end of the night, we all looked rather foolish.

I’ve since apologized to said competitor for the part I played in allowing the conversation to escalate the way it did in full view of the Twitter universe. While I’m sure the troll and those like him who enjoy instigating such conversations will reappear, my response next time will be more measured.

Guess what, Martin Kidston, you still look foolish and also petty for calling Brooks an internet troll. Brooks is not a troll, he’s an accomplished, talented writer with pieces that have been in the NYT. Thanks to the corporate competition you apologized to, his local platform is gone, which means he can’t correct your unfair depiction of him.

I so so miss the Indy. The Missoula Current is absolutely no substitute. That point was driven home when I saw this non-news “article” written by County Commissioner, Dave Strohmaier, about his health scare last year.

This is not news. What this looks like to me is a nice fluff piece that allows Strohmaier to garner some sympathy after accusations that he has a conflict of interest over the Maclay bridge controversy.

Is the Missoula Current an online news journal or a PR platform for local political personalities like nanny-state Dave? I can’t tell with this piece, and that is a problem.

The news I care about is how arrogant politicians like Dave Strohmaier think they can moonlight for a special interest group and get away with it.

I guess without any adversarial media platforms to hold them accountable, maybe they can.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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