Friday, January 11, 2008

More here

The story about how Celebrate Billings paid for ads that appeared in the Billings Gazette backing a school mill levy election takes a new twist.

When I interviewed Gazette Publisher Mike Gulledge about this, he assured me that The Gazette intended to do, and would do, the right thing. I believed him not, I hope, because I am hopelessly naive but because it wouldn't really make sense, so far as I could figure, to do it any other way. When a reader telephoned to ask if this was "dirty money," I said I didn't think so.

But I find the Gazette's accounting for the expenditures obscure at best (as, apparently, does the commissioner of political practices and, perhaps, MSU Billings). I can't help but wonder if the explanation is that the Gazette wanted to count that $225,000 in Celebrate Billings membership dues as Gazette revenue rather than as a separate account. If so, the intertwining of funds, especially funds used for political purposes, may have been a bad mistake.

Naturally, I was skeptical about the whole Celebrate Billings project from the git-go. Daily newspapers exert considerable influence just from their natural role. To try to leverage additional influence using nonprofit partners stretches my understanding of what a newspaper's place in the community ought to be.

UPDATE: The curse of running a weekly. I checked with the commissioner on political practices on Monday; on Tuesday, a formal complaint was filed.

Interesting that one of those involved in the complaint was Donald Cyphers, who has experience in such matters.

By coincidence, I raised skepticism both about Celebrate Billings' political involvement and about Cyphers' political ad practices in the same column six years ago. More here.


Anonymous said...

David, this is an "interesting" story--to say the least. I am somewhat suspicious of the Gazette. Please keep following it.

Vince said...

David, after reading the account of this in today's Gazette, I was amused to see that you and Cyphers are working on a common cause. Who'd have thought?

Anonymous said...

Get a life David, the Gazette could care less about what you have to say. At least YOUR FRIEND Cyphers learned from his mistake and has never repeated it. More than I can say for your old employer the gazoo. They know better yet are breaking the law intentionally. MNA is not the story here, the Gazoo is. It took the Outpost to write about it and the MNA to actually Stand up and do the right thing and file a complaint. At least your working together David for a common cause.