by Travis Mateer
As I do this citizen journalist thing I’d like to share some tips about stuff I’m learning along the way, like what kind of information might be useful to better understand local power dynamics.
For example, when you’re talking with someone who has been burned by a local influencer to the point they don’t want to publicly risk more retaliation, avoid frustration by looking for information that might help you understand the situation better.
One of the pieces of information I have found helpful is name changes. Why? Because it helps to be specific when you’re searching online for information. I’ll use the Executive Director of United Way, Susan Hay Patrick, as an example.
When Susan Hay Patrick moved to Missoula her last name was CRAMER. Searching online under that name produced for me, earlier this morning, a VERY interesting Rotarian article by Tom Clynes from January, 2007, titled Big Sky City: Montana’s Cultural Hometown.
Here is a cute little excerpt from this Connecticut transplant describing her RIGHT SIZE town:
A native of the Northeast, Cramer moved to Missoula five years ago and set up her own business as a consultant to non-profits. Rotary became a big part of her life and she was named a Paul Harris Fellow in April.
“This town is just the right size for me,” she says. “I love running into people I know in the street every day. There’s a big sense of community.”
If it’s not obvious why I am bolding Susan Hay Cramer/Patrick’s comment from 2007 from the vantage point of our rapidly gentrifying city which has, with Susan’s help, adopted the failed policies of our western cities with reckless abandon, then let me ask a question of our non-profit influencer: is Missoula STILL the “right” size for you, Susan?
Directly after the above quote, Susan takes Tom Clynes to City Hall to meet Mayor Engen. Then she jaunts to the Poverello Center, where I believe she was a board member at the time of Ellie Hill’s arrival in Missoula.
Later in the article we run into Ellen Buchanan, but if my timeline is correct, this is BEFORE Buchanan became the Director of Engen’s slush fund at the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. From the link:
We stop by to say hello to a friend of Cramer’s who makes homemade sausages and another who runs a local restaurant. Then, we run into Ellen Buchanan, who is organizing an upcoming jazz festival that will features blues, jazz and bluegrass music.
“This town loves its festivals,” says Cramer, checking her watch. “Speaking of which…”
It’s all just casual and lovely and NEVER a conflict of interest, right?
Another local influencer who can be challenging to track due to name changes is Democrat State Senator, Ellie Boldman. I don’t say this as a point of criticism. I say this as a generous citizen journalist describing the challenges that can arise when understanding networks, like the Missoula nexus of non-profits and politics.
For example, let’s say you want to figure out the many hats worn by a school board member like Grace Decker, who ALSO is a paid staff member of United Way under Susan Hay Patrick and ALSO shows up in news articles with Ellie Hill Smith. From the link:
Ellie Hill Smith of Missoula will launch her campaign for Montana Senate District 45 on Friday in what she’s billing as a “tribute to activists.”
Friday’s campaign kick-off, planned in the Old Post parking lot at 6:30 p.m., includes a number of musicians, including Tom Catmull, Jeff Medley, Meg Hänsen and the Cigarette Girls Burlesque. It also includes Bob Wire, Guthrie and Summer Quist, Grace Decker, Josh Slotnick, Kat Hawkins, Bob Zimorino and Cash for Junkers.
This June 2019 “article” from the Missoula Current gives a nice little snapshot of how politics functions in Missoula, but you might not have come across it, as a citizen journalist, if you were only using Ellie’s latest name choice, Ellie BOLDMAN, with which to search.
And thus concludes today’s lesson for any aspiring citizen journalists.