by William Skink
Yesterday I put up a post critical of both the Missoula Current and the Missoulian’s omission of the full story of what transpired at this week’s Monday night Council meeting.
I was particularly critical of the Missoula Current article for its depiction of an unnamed individual who supposedly claimed in his public comment to have also produced a threatening video.
Here is the original quote, which has since been altered:
Monday night’s meeting got off to a rocky start, prompted by public comment rooted in false facts and conspiracy theories, including those surrounding the arrest of a Brandon Bryant – a man who threatened to murder members of the City Council and others.
One of those speakers, who has protested during public comment several times in recent weeks, admitted that he too has made a threatening video. Like Bryant, he also contends his video was taken out of context by what he described as a digital stalker.
He accused the council of trying to make an example of Bryant. But council members unanimously disputed the accusation, saying the Missoula County Attorney alone made the decision to arrest Bryant for threats of murder and intimidation against public officials, as permitted under Montana law.
The bold part of this excerpt is no longer there.
Here is how the piece reads now, with a comment at the bottom indicating the change:
Monday night’s meeting got off to a rocky start, prompted by public comment rooted in false facts and conspiracy theories, including those surrounding the arrest of Brandon Bryant – a man who threatened to murder members of the City Council and others.
One of those speakers, who has protested during public comment several times in recent weeks, accused the council of trying to make an example of Bryant. But council members unanimously disputed the accusation, saying the Missoula County Attorney alone made the decision to arrest Bryant for threats of murder and intimidation against public officials.
“I think it’s super important we don’t propagate misnomers,” said council member Stacie Anderson. “It’s really important the public knows that we had absolutely nothing to do with putting anyone behind bars. We don’t have that authority.”
This story has been modified from its original version to account for discrepancies in one man’s public comment.
I reached out to Martin Kidston after seeing a comment pop up claiming the individual never stated he also made a threatening video. To his credit, Kidston did provide a comment:
The comment made at City Council was rambling and incoherent at best, moving between first, second and third person points of view. We simply clarified the graph after the gentleman in question called with concerns over how his comments were reflected in the story as a matter of courtesy. His comments were ultimately rebutted by City Council, and we stand by that reporting. Thanks for reaching out.
Seeing this response I wondered why a “rambling, incoherent” public comment was worth including in the story about storage units, while Heather Harp’s letter stating her opinion that charges against Bryant should be dismissed was not included.
So I asked Kidston why the rambling comment was more newsworthy than Harp’s letter, and this is his reply:
We were there to cover the hearing on the storage project. The only reason the issue of the gentleman’s comment was included in the story was because it received sharp criticism from council members and a short dispute over decorum when it came to voting on claims, as it set a negative tone for much of the meeting.
While Kidston was busy altering his article before the litigious thoughts of the aggrieved commenter got too far, the Missoulian did run an article on this story, and it’s a good article I encourage everyone to read. Here’s an excerpt
Tuesday, Harp shared the reason she wanted to write the letter. She said she was not defending Bryant’s actions but wanted to treat him fairly.
“When we talk about better outcomes for criminal justice reform — especially for a defendant with mental health issues — it requires a paradigm shift in approach,” Harp said. “I advocate for the most vulnerable amongst us to be treated with compassion and fairness.”
At the meeting, Harp said that although Bryant’s actions caused “fear and intimidation,” she does not believe Bryant is a violent person based on time she has spent with him. But she said “there are times when you say violent things, and that scares people. As a City, we have to respond. We have to act to ensure the safety of our citizens. But we must also act with compassion and fairness.”
Heather Harp’s statements are very newsworthy. I hope Martin Kidston can get around to covering this development in a case that could put a well-known whistleblower and activist behind bars for a decade if he is found guilty.