“Thinking about Image and Truth”

By JC

“Thinking about Image and Truth.” With those words, last week the Missoula Independent in its “etc.” editorial column took the Jezebel article that has been making waves around the country, to task:

“Last week at the Indy, there were groans as staffers read the website Jezebel’s article “My weekend in America’s so-called rape capital.” It was the product of writer Katie J.M. Baker’s recent trip to Missoula…

Clearly, Baker came with an agenda, coupled with the belief that she was the only feminist to step foot in town, and she ignored the kinds of complexities that could have made her story interesting.”

Wow. So the Indy now believes that anyone who tries to come to Missoula to get an independent outsider’s view of what may be going on also gets tagged as distorting the truth about rape culture in Missoula. That they are unable to comprehend the “complexities” of this town that would make the story more interesting to them.

Instead of just letting the story stand on its own as adding to the body of information to be written about what is wrong in Missoula — the story contains extensive reporting from interviews Baker held with Missoulians — the writer of the Indy’s editorial decided to invoke “Image and Truth” in such a way as to discredit Baker. What an un-friggin’-believable ad hominem attack on Baker. And kudos to the Missoulian and our own jhwygirl for following the story wherever it may lead, and to expose whomever needs to get some light shone on them.

Then the Indy author had the temerity to attempt some back-handed hypocritical and censorial journalistic slap by telling Baker her work was useless, and instead suggest what should and shouldn’t be written about Missoula:

“And yet, to depict Missoula as a place overrun with dumb kids who condone rape is disingenuous and useless. A better story might have asked how a town with such a good reputation, one constantly spotlighted in outdoors and travel magazines, fell so far—and a better story would have asked what we’re going to do about it.”

Well, no… Baker did not depict Missoula as “a place overrun with dumb kids who condone rape”, that’s the Indy’s strawman at work. Baker simply let the words of Missoulians speak for themselves and reported them with some commentary and factual context. What is disingenuous and useless is for Missoula’s so-called liberal and progressive alternative weekly to lambast other journalists, when they have yet to do any useful reporting on the one topic that is roiling our community. So watch out all you journalists and bloggers out there. If you don’t write about rape in Missoula to the Indy’s standards, you’re going to get attacked. Must defend image, even at the expense of the truth.

Hey Indy, why don’t you write the stories you wish others would have (instead of writing the ones that got your staff groaning). Why don’t you write some articles about how far Missoula has fallen from its celebrated high-lights and what we are going to do about it? Isn’t that your job? Or is your job to criticize those who are attempting to put some outside perspective on our good-ole-boy network and tolerance of rape culture, because… maybe it hurts your bottom line somehow?

So yeah, you got me thinking about image and truth. About how our community gets so caught up in the fishbowl phenomena that we can’t even comprehend an outside perspective on our problems (and yeah, I’m talking about you too, Fred Van Valkenberg and your disbelief at being the subject of a federal investigation).

And you know what, I think the Indy’s editorial take on Baker’s story on rape in Missoula — let’s beat up on the messenger — is about as unproductive and damaging as can be, and will do nothing to bring the dialog and soul-searching needed in this community to address the issues and bring about change. It serves to stifle independent thought, investigation and debate. You are a part of the problem here, Missoula Independent. Try being a part of the solution, instead.

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  1. Fleischmann Jim

    This is a very good piece of journalism and I’m going to follow this blogger.

  2. AltWeeklyWatcher

    Ran across this on-line exchange a while ago concerning Robert Meyerowitz, the Indy’s current editor.

    http://ilind.net/weeklyconcerns.html

    • Steve W

      Wow, that’s quite the archive, AltWW

    • lizard19

      I second that wow. good stuff to know about Robert, although really, how can someone resist making fun of anti-war women from Homer, Alaska in an editorial (snark).

      as for the Indy’s etc., it appears Erika Fredrickson wrote it. at least that is what the gratitude in the comments lead me to believe.

  3. lizard19

    at least Pat Williams made some inspired comments in this NYT piece:

    “I’m very sorrowful one of the premier universities in the Rockies has been scandalized by a few knuckleheaded students,” said Pat Williams, a former United States congressman and a member of Montana’s Board of Regents. “The football team has been terribly hurt by this.”

    gee, I wonder what that says about what the board of regents might do (or not do).

  4. JConrad

    The past writing of the new Indy editor, Robert Meyerowitz, posted by AltWeekly, is a cause for concern for those who appreciate the Indy covering issues in a manner that differs from mainstream corporate media. A true progressive he is NOT. The Circus, Circus article is especially cynical and shows little concern for the suffering of the Iraqi people or the views of those who speak out about what is essentially an illegal war of aggression.

    Personally, I have been following Ochenski’s writing since he began at the Indy as he pulls no punches when it comes to the “truth” of Montana politics seasoned with decades of his own direct involvement with critical issues. And he slams both parties equally.

    He also presents views of national and international issues that affect us in Montana and are of concern to Montanans. I know of no other columnist in the region saying what he says. We can expect censored views from the big corporate rags, but we come to the Indy looking for improved information.

    Since Meyerowitz arrived at the Indy I have seen much less writing from Ochenski on national and international issues. A friend has told me that Meyerowitz has literally censored Ochenski when it comes to larger national and international issues. And apparently he has been stepping on the toes of other Indy writers.

    But what madness, as what happens outside of Montana does affect those living here. $5 Trillion in tax money (or rather debt) blown in Iraq and Afghanistan is a problem for everyone and very few writers anywhere address the corporate imperial war issues. I have also not seen other Montana columnists pointing out that Social Security funds have been looted (borrowed) by Congress. Etc.

    One can only wonder what the motives are behind this type of editing. Does Meyerowitz have a personal political agenda or has he been brought in to move the Indy to the right to please a less critical audience ? I must admit that I am NOT very excited to see a New Yorker deciding what Montanans will be able to read in what is supposed to be an alternative publication.

    Is the Indy headed downhill like so many other forms of American media ? Time will tell.




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