Montana media’s deafening silence

Crickets chirp in the forests and plains of Big Sky Country, but the sound does not announce the long-awaited spring blooming in the Rockies.

Instead, the eerie noises of crickets are all that can be heard amid the complete and utter silence of Montana newspapers and other advocates of the public’s right to know.

As a major scandal involving the judicial branch of the Montana government continues to unfold, those normally at the forefront of open cases, freedom of information, and the public’s right to inspect government documents are clearly absent.

What did we hear from them when the state’s Supreme Court administrator deleted public emails?

Crickets.

When Supreme Court Justice Dirk Sandefur wrote to the Legislature that he had been regularly deleting emails “for 18 years”, what did we hear?

Crickets.

Instead of calls for the release of public documents, requests for explanations on the removal of government emails and questions about the activities of the Supreme Court, we heard …

Crickets.

When the legislature launched an investigation into deleted public records and other misconduct by the judiciary, what did we hear?

Crickets, from everyone except the editorial board of the newspaper Butte, which told the legislature to “bring down” without saying a word about the judiciary destroying public records.

That same newspaper, along with a dozen other Montana media outlets, went so far as to sue the legislature a few months earlier when lawmakers held a private meeting without a quorum of a committee.

A single private meeting with too few lawmakers to vote resulted in immediate legal action from a dozen right-to-know public attorneys. The Billings Gazette also continues to boast of winning a different lawsuit with the Civil Service Commission over public records. Yet when Supreme Court justices and their staff admit to destroying public documents, we hear no noise from the same people.

Maybe the difference is that the Republicans control the legislature and the PSC, but the liberals control the judiciary. Montana’s media are always quick to say they are not partisan and are committed to holding everyone in power accountable, regardless of their political affiliation.

And yet, every day the cries of the crickets become more deafening in the silence of those who should be raising their voices about the supreme misconduct of the Supreme Court.

Senator Keith Regier
R-Kalispell


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