by Travis Mateer
On the first week of students returning to campus, I biked to the journalism building to document a hilarious example of narrative control silently emanating from INSIDE this ugly building.
While my opinion on the aesthetics of this building are subjective, the historical incident the timeline inside disappears is an objective fact. I guess, if I’m giving the J-School the benefit of the doubt, I could say that, with limited space, what is chosen to be represented is where subjectivity enters the picture.
Since there wasn’t room on this timeline for what happened in Missoula in the year 2000, here’s a link that explains the significance for students and anyone else who appreciates press freedom.
Linda Tracy’s effort to tell the story of a July gathering of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in Missoula evolved from a journalism internship project into a legal struggle over reporter’s privilege when local prosecutors subpoenaed her unbroadcast footage in October.
Tracy, a 32-year-old senior at the University of Montana, used about three hours of footage to produce a 20-minute documentary on the event that involved altercations between protesters and police. The documentary has aired on Missoula’s public access television channel and is available at a local video store.
Prosecutors issued a subpoena for the footage in ongoing investigations and pending trials stemming from the two-night affair, during which 63 people were arrested.
Tracy filed a motion to have the subpoena quashed under Montana’s shield law, but prosecutors responded by saying she has no such privilege because she is not a journalist, only a student.
Montana’s shield law, the Media Confidentiality Act, gives absolute privilege of information and sources to “any person connected with or employed by” any agency responsible for “disseminating news.”
Tracy’s attorney, Rick Sherwood, and journalism administrators at the university said her status as a journalism student satisfies the requirements of the law. Additionally, Tracy owns a production company, Turtle Majik Productions, for documentaries and investigative news pieces.
While Linda Tracy’s name is no where to be seen, another name is, and that’s John “CIA” Talbot. Here is a picture of his plaque, which is located, appropriately I’d say, over a trash can.
After dismounting the chair I stood on to get this shot, I traveled to the second floor to pop in the Kaimin office. I introduced myself and described some of the crazy stories I’m working on, telling the youngsters their student journalism is needed now more than ever.
Why? Because the same year the Missoula Independent was shuttered (2018), UM’s last Dean was promoted, and questions lingered about whether or not a Dean-level position would still exist.
Larry Abramson, dean of the University of Montana’s School of Journalism, will become a special adviser to the provost starting Monday.
The move was announced Friday amid speculation that the journalism dean’s position is being eliminated as part of the university’s ongoing reorganization.
While I’m not entirely sure what happened since Abramson left, I did happen to see the J-School has a new “director”:
Unsolicited advice? Sure, Lee Banville, I’d be happy to. How about creating a class on Gonzo Journalism, New Media and the Breaking of the Grip of Authoritarian Narrative Control. I know just the person who could teach this class.
There is so much I could bring to a class like that. For example, narrative control by committee. How does a government entity, like the Criminal Justice Oversight Council, function to control narratives, you ask? They set up a panel, poorly promote the event, then, when a few people DO miraculously hear about and try to participate, they are told you had to PRE-REGISTER.
That was what happened to Sean Stevenson’s father, Dr. Kenneth Stevenson, so instead of his comment describing how his family has been treated by Montana’s criminal justice system being officially acknowledged by this “oversight council”, I’ll reproduce it here, on a blog.
Victims of crimes and their families need to have confidence that they will be adequately supported by authorities. They deserve the attention of those that are publicly funded to support the public. There needs to be transparency. Responsible parties need to be held accountable for their roles in any criminal activity and/or response to it. We are a family from out of state whose loved one, a Montana resident, was murdered under extremely strange circumstances. There has been absolutely NO transparency or honesty from any authorities involved. To this day, (nearly three years later) we have received no response from anyone in charge of the public center where he was assaulted nor the Hospital where he was euthanized.
Questions remain unanswered
Who authorized his removal from life support without family notification, why was law enforcement present?
Why was the person accused of assault arrested, released and later also killed by authorities under strange circumstances?
Why, despite our attempts and attempts of attorneys outside Montana, have we been unable to acquire the legal representation and cooperation from attorneys authorized to work in your court system?
We could list a multitude of other details that imply corruption of law enforcement, the judiciary, and public institutions. Over the past 3 years since his murder, we’ve unfortunately noticed that we’re not the only family of victims left without support. There have been no less than 4 murders that police have not responded openly to questions regarding their responsibility in the investigations.
What are you willing to do to hold law enforcement, the courts its agents and public service institutions responsible?
Thank you for hearing our concerns,
Family of a Victim, No Justice
The reporting from the Missoulian a week after Sean was assaulted still bothers me when I think about it. To get a sense of what I’m talking about, I wrote this post in October of 2020, after editor Gwen Florio resigned, because even back then there was so much NOT being reported. And still hasn’t.
Perhaps it’s unfair of me, as I go about my day, to ask people in this community if they know names of people who have met violent ends under strange circumstances with immense questions left unanswered as months turn into years, but I do, over and over again.
I even had a chance to laughingly comment on the effort of an old woman to get students registered to vote. She didn’t know the names I asked about, but she definitely knew John Talbot’s name, and further exemplified her ignorant support of unaffordable housing by saying Tax Increment Financing is the best thing to happen to Missoula.
Though I don’t share her enthusiastic support for the shadow government of unelected bureaucrats, I do appreciate the woman’s dedication to her cause. Maybe I should head to campus more often to share my perspective on local voting irregularities that can only be spoken of in the mocking tone of someone who must ridicule to keep the evidence at bay.
Is the idea of narrative control a difficult concept to wrap one’s head around? To risk sounding like Donald Rumsfeld, you don’t know what you don’t know about, so what’s the problem? Not knowing seems kinda nice sometimes.
I don’t think the students I spoke briefly with will be satisfied with not knowing why their campus is still a hunting ground, and why the organizations I told them about are more important to protect than the future victims of the un-charged sexual predator allowed to walk free in our community.
There will be much more to report on this front, so stay tuned.
Now, here’s that footage the J-School should be more proud of. Thanks for reading!