The Missoulian’s Take on the Poverello Debate… Clearing out the bullshit

By CFS

After attending the public meeting last night focusing on the future of Missoula’s Poverello Center I came away very impressed with the format of the meeting and the positive feeling that most people came away with.  The amount of information provided to attendees that had previously not entered into the debate was substantial.  Especially interesting was the limitation placed on the pov in choosing a new site due to local zoning codes, basically most of the possibilities are within the downtown core or along commercial corridors such as Broadway, Higgins, Russell, etc.  For more information on the process, stay tuned to the City’s neighborhoods website for updates including a map of possible sites from last night’s meeting and details on future public meetings and chances for public comment.

Of course this morning I read the Missoulian article on the event and that positive feeling went away when the first quote they chose to run came from a person in opposition throwing out inaccurate  facts about the pov.

Here is the offending quote:

Despite the Poverello’s efforts to track sexual offenders, “there are 10 offenders there right now” and 85 more within a five-square-block of Lowell School, said one parent, answering a question that each group answered on sheets later shared with the audience. “And that’s just too many for this neighbor.”

Did the Missoulian bother do any fact checking at all?

A quick search of the Montana Sexual Offender Registry shows that the figure of 85 was close… for the whole zip code of 59802, which includes the pov. Rather there were a total of 81 sexual offenders residing within the 59802 zip code.  There were even more within the 59801 zip code, with a total of 83 and an astonishing 93 within the 59808 zip code.  Does that mean that a sexual predation is positively correlated with income level?

59802… looks to cover about five square blocks

When searching by the address of Lowell School I came up with the grand total of 16 sexual offenders within a very generous five-block radius and a total of 6 that have listed the pov as their residents not the quoted 10.  Is it possible that my numbers are wrong? Yes, as the registry’s disclaimer states, “Users are cautioned that the information provided on this website is information of record that is reported to the unit and may not reflect the most recent residence, status or other information regarding an offender. The unit makes no express or implied guarantee concerning the accuracy of this data,” and that for offenders with more than one address the first address is the one that comes up in searches.  Does that mean the first address an offender may have ever listed upon release?  I’m not sure.  So are my number any more accurate than the person quoted? Maybe not but they certainly are different.

Its also disturbing to see a great many of the registered offenders flagged with this note… Non-Compliant/Address Verification Overdue. It really is in red.

Is it possible that the person quoted simply misspoke? Yes, and my guess is that when they stated the statistics for sexual offenders they also included violent offenders in their numbers.  I don’t mean this post as an attack on the people who are opposed to the poverello center or the person that was quoted in the Missoulian.  My beef is with a newspaper that doesn’t seem interested in doing its job properly.  It took me all of 10 minutes to put the above information together and I’m sure I could have gotten more accurate information if I had contacted local law enforcement… like maybe a local reporter might have done.  You think that a professional that is supposed to be interested in journalistic integrity and providing unbiased fact would have taken the time to conduct the same level of verification if they are going to quote statistics in their story.

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  1. JC

    Thanks for keeping us up to date CFS! I read that story and was like, this can’t be right. I used to live right by Lowell, and checked the offender databases, and knew that the numbers were grossly incorrect.

    But what do you expect from the Missoulian? They’re just staving off bankruptcy these days.

    Sorry for going off topic, but:

    “Newspaper publisher Lee Enterprises has gained support from two main lenders for a large debt-exchange offer that aims to help the company avoid filing for bankruptcy protection, said people familiar with the matter.

    Two main creditors, Goldman Sachs and hedge-fund Monarch Alternative Capital, have agreed to support the debt exchange, the people said. They could end up owning about 13% of the newspaper publisher under deal terms being discussed, one of these people said.”

    Yeah, Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund could soon own part of our local newspaper. Wonder what that’s going to do about editorial content and direction (not to mention accuracy)?

  2. lizard19

    yes, thank you CFS.

    i was at this event also, so now i can really see how dedicated the Missoulian is to continuing to impose their framing of this evolving conversation.

    there was a lot to pull out of this dynamic, three hour community discussion; lots of different angles that could have been taken, like how ultimately constructive the night was, how virtually un-scandalous and civil the conversation remained, all night. how there were common themes, like safety. everyone talked about tangible concerns about safety. sexual offenders were mentioned, but that was just one small part of the larger question of the Pov’s ultimate value, and its need for a new facility.

    or, they could have taken the angle that you mentioned—that misinformation has continued to plague this conversation, but that would have required some actual journalistic follow-through instead of just regurgitating inaccurate information brought by a concerned community member.

    if this process of community involvement in the very difficult topics of poverty and homelessness is to be successful in building support for a new facility, it will be in spite of the Missoulian and its lazy, inaccurate, divisive reporting.

  3. jim

    Actually, 59802 goes up the Rattlesnake and nearly to Turah on the north side of the river.




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