NO THANKS Missoulian

by lizard

When I read the comment suggesting “parasites” (homeless transients) should be “put into a mass grave” on a comment thread about the Poverello Center, I wondered what kind of comment would NOT be allowed. It appears tonight I have my answer.

In today’s edition of the Missoulian, there is an article about a huge VA grant the Poverello was recently awarded. The grant would provide over half a MILLION dollars toward the construction of a new facility, and 350,000 dollars EVERY subsequent year for operation costs.

Instead of just reporting this news, the article swerves toward rehashing downtown businesses alleged problem with transients, interviewing Worden’s Tim France (I wonder if Wordens selects who it sells its selection of cheap malt liquor beverages to, so as to not be contributing to the negative drunken behavior of Missoula’s street drunk population).

Once again the Missoulian’s coverage of the Poverello Center conflates the transients who aggravate downtown with the rest of the people the Poverello Center serves. Thanks Gwen!

Then, in the ensuing comment thread, a funny thing happened. An editorial note by Sherry Devlin appeared in response to a commenter by the moniker “what would jesus do.” The problem is the original comment didn’t appear, just the name, then Sherry’s response. Apparently, based on Sherry’s response, the comment called into question the way the story was reported, speculating that there was an attempt to foment controversy. Then, about ten minutes later, Sherry’s editorial note disappeared (I unfortunately didn’t copy the comment before it was taken out of the thread).

So it would appear that comments calling for murdering homeless transients and putting them in a mass grave is just fine for the Missoulian, but if you start questioning how the story is being reported, well, that’s just not acceptable to the editorial staff.

Ms. Devlin: if you have any scrap of integrity you will restore the original comment and your response to the comment thread, accompanied by an apology for your cowardly censorship.

And if you don’t it will appear you would rather stoke controversy to sell papers and drive traffic to the Missoulian’s website instead of acting responsibly as is the expectation of your profession.

Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath.

  1. Mary Jean

    lizard, I read the comments around noon, and since then she has pulled at least four comments that I can recall, including her own. Each comment was from a different person, and each comment criticized the Missoulian’s consistent sensationalist attacks on the homeless.

    Putting the Poverello Center in the newspaper, which is beginning to seem daily, is driving huge traffic to their website. It promises to bring out the worst evil and hateful commenters I have seen thus far. Their coverage is irresponsible and dangerous. It is tearing the community apart and creating controversy when good people have been collaborating.

    It should be noted that the Missoulian also continues to blur the transient, panhandler, homeless issues. As a longtime volunteer, I can tell you that there are children in that soup kitchen every day, but the Missoulian never speaks to the faces of the poor, only to the reactions of the few downtown business owners who marginalize the worst examples of them.

    On that note, as a long supporter of Wordens, I was saddened to see Tim’s comments. He doesn’t want to see homeless veterans downtown? Not in his backyard? Unbelievable.

    To think that our community was awarded a much needed grant to serve homeless veterans, and the Missoulian turned it into something negative.

    • lizard19

      thank you for your comment, Mary. and i know a few reporters from the Missoulian who have expressed to me their displeasure over how homeless issues have been covered by their paper. the piece today, and subsequent behavior by the editors in the comment thread, has exposed how unprofessional and sensationalist the Missoulian has become. and it is sad.

  2. lizard19

    now a comment i made is not being posted. my offense? i asked where Sherry’s response went. what utter bullshit.

  3. Wake up, Mr. Lizard. Nothing, NOTHING that has ever been printed in the Missoulian, or ever will be, is anything but fiction. The truth lies far below the surface, sifted between the lines and fallen through the cracks. If you look deeply into the abyss, you just might get a picture, but it won’t be a pretty one, nor will it ever include Jesus or give credit to whom credit belongs.

  4. i went back and reread this article liz and i do see how frustrating it can be to read what gwen florio wrote. but the thing you need to know about gwen is that she is a professional that is highly regarded in the field of journalism. she has covered events on the ground in afghanistan. she is fearless and undaunted in covering the subjects of her assignments.

    gwen told the story from beginning to end giving all parties involved a say in the story. every one of which deserves to be heard. mr france has put up with a lot as a businessman over the years and his words need to be measured as well as many others who have a stake in the outcome of resolving our need for more homeless shelter in missoula.

    i think everyone sensible agrees that we need to provide more shelter and a better facility for the unfortunate homeless especially as foreclosures and unemployment continue to rise accross this state. much more needs to be done. i am willing to let mayor engen’s good intentions in gathering together many heads to help solve this problem collectively while we move forward with the positive investment by the v.a. in this very well deserved grant for a fine organization like the poverello which is well equipped to help guide the process of solving the homeless situation with concurrence between all parties. i hope for the best. i am sure that sherry devlin also hopes for the best for the poverello. it behooves no one and especially the homeless that we all want to help by making enemies where there are none.

  5. lizard19

    so here’s a little update.

    the moniker i use to post my comments at the Missoulian is “William Skink.” so far i’ve had two comments not posted, both referencing Sherry Devlin’s response to some commenter that was taken down.

    so i decided to send a message to the editors expressing my anger and frustration. and guess what, those wily editors decided to post that comment–and they did it fast.

    here’s the comment:

    dear editors: you are cowards. you are gutless, pandering, sensationalist hacks. you allow people to say horrible things about exterminating human beings on our f^*!#ing streets, yet it’s criticism of your paper’s reporting that you choose to censor. here’s something you can feel good about not posting: i hope you lose your jobs and your homes and end up in need of the homeless shelter you continue to denigrate.

  6. lizard19

    obviously i’m a little worked up. i guess i’m just confused.

    if i were to say jews are parasites and should be put into a mass grave, would my comment be allowed to stand on the missoulian’s website, or would it be immediately trashed and my info possibly passed on to law enforcement?

    we know the answer to that question.

    so why would whoever filters comments at the Missoulian allow such dangerously hateful comments to be made about local transients?

    that is the context that makes my anger right now boil over. tonight i’ve watched comments critical of the Missoulian’s coverage disappear, and have had my own comments omitted from posting.

    then, when i expected to NOT be allowed to comment in the forum i had been effectively shut out of, i decided to send a VERY CRITICAL personal opinion regarding the professional competency of the editorial staff.

    it’s not ok to allow people to openly call for mass extermination of people in this community, and it’s not ok to act manipulative and deceitful as editors of a major newspaper.

    you got that, Missoulian?

  7. lizard19

    this is my last update for the night.

    it appears my highly critical comment (reposted above) and a subsequent comment i made, have both been taken off the thread at the Missoulian.

    I don’t know what to make of all this.

  8. Chuck

    According to the city officials quoted in the article the Pov does not violate the fire code. Will the Pov’s grant application have to be amended to reflect this error?

    • lizard19

      chuck, you must be referring to this article where fire marshal Bob Rajala said he was “unaware of any instances in which the Pov violated fire code.”

      Bob goes on to say “I question whether they in fact are,” he said. “I’d be happy to sit down with Ellie and (help her) make sure what the fire code is.”

      so why does Bob seem confused? in the article the Pov indicates it has documentation setting the maximum occupancy of the building at 100, and that last winter the building had nights where more than 100 people were sleeping. seems pretty clear to me those nights of over 100 people were violations of fire code.

      and Chuck, why would the grant application have to be amended to reflect the fire marshal’s confusion? nothing in the article indicates that would be the case.

      • JC

        Why does Bob seem confused? I think his words reflected carefully chosen ambiguity.

        Which is the worse transgression? The Pov being 10 people over fire code? Or having a couple of people freeze to death because they were turned away at the door?

        Unfortunately, I know that there are people who would choose the former latter [oops, must make correction! Thanks Mary Jean].

        • Mary Jean

          JC, is Bob instructing them to violate the fire code then?

          The city will likely not allow them to violate the law again this winter, which is why the Missoulian wrote the article earlier in the week regarding the city and Pov working together to find a second location to house the homeless.

          They need a new building, whether Tim France pushes to put it on Reserve Street or they keep it downtown near the other services for the low income.

  9. mr benson

    The only good censorship is self censorship.

  10. Chuck

    Bob is explaining that the Pov does not need to spend 5.4 million dollars to meet the fire codeWhy wouldn’t Ellie be all over this so they can scratch the fire code issue off of her list of reasons to build a new building . Then she can go to the next reason ( or need) and the next and pretty soon maybe she only needs 1 million.
    Sorry for clouding your thread but the Missoulian comment section is too crazy for me.

    • lizard19

      chuck, the building has all kinds of problems that make a new facility a necessity. first, it’s not ADA compliant, which is a big issue when physical disabilities is often a contributing factor to impoverishment. the general age of the facility also provides a list of issues, from terrible plumbing, to inefficient (and very expensive) heating, to bad circulation in the dorms, which allows illness to spread more quickly than an adequately vented facility would.

      of course Gwen and the Missoulian could have highlighted these issues, but it was obviously more important to them to “remind” their readers how terrible transients are, because obviously transients are subhuman animals in need of some final solution–right Missoulian?

      it doesn’t matter that transients are only marginally served by the Pov. It doesn’t matter that there are a whole host of reasons transients stay drunk and blight our precious downtown, like citizen generosity, the availability of alcohol (Grizzly Liquor, The Ox, Wordens, Charlie’s, etc.), and lax enforcement.

      no, the Missoulian decided to take a story about a huge grant from the VA and use it to continue their campaign against the Pov’s relocation.

      luckily, thanks to Sherry Devlin’s inexcusable behavior as editor in the comment thread, axing critical comments, and omitting others, it’s becoming apparent that the decision makers at the Missoulian are willing to compromise their own professional principles to exert influence against a homeless shelter’s attempt to find a more dignified way to serve an increasing amount of impoverished Americans.

  11. Chuck

    There were 74 new home foreclosure filings in Missoula for September 2010. In Montana the September foreclosure filings increased by over 400 percent over 2009. This is just starting. The training and unemployment benefits will be running out.
    Could we not use 5.7 million bucks in scarce resources to help some of these families stay in their homes or to leverage it with the private sector to create some jobs?
    I know Ellie will say the foreclosure crises is all the more reason to build Missoula’s Superdome. I’m saying we still have a chance to fix the dikes and prevent more homelessness before it happens.

    • JC

      You can’t take money from the VA and use it in the mortgage market. Using grant money like that would cause a huge uprising, if it were even legal.

      You know, we went to war (2 wars, actually). And we task the VA with taking care of our veterans. So seriously, you’d take money away from a program for homeless veterans–men and women who fought for your country–and use it to prop up the general housing market???

      You want to do something about foreclosure? Talk to the state AG and county attorney about all the illegal ways in which the banks and mortgage companies are going about it. Raise hell about how ineffective HAMP is. Go after our current Congressional reps for not doing diddly about it.

      But don’t use this issue of housing for homeless vets as another way to just rant against the Pov. It’s very… unamerican.

    • lizard19

      Missoula’s Superdome? what’s that suppose to mean? this isn’t post-Katrina New Orleans, Chuck.

      it’s interesting how there’s so much being made about cost, when Watson’s Children’s shelter is only 80,000 dollars away from their target of 4.5 million dollars. and that’s just to help a couple dozen kids. apparently on nights of overcrowding, the Poverello Center has sheltered over 100 people.

      one of the problems is the Missoulian’s coverage has over-emphasized the transient issue, while ignoring the diversity of those served by the Pov, so in the minds of many, the Pov is the main enabling factor in attracting and sustaining the transient population.

      but the Pov doesn’t hand out money. Missoula citizens do. and the Pov doesn’t sell them alcohol. Grizzly Liqour, the Ox, Wordens, they sell ’em booze.

      and let me say it again, since it never seems to sink in: transients DO NOT REPRESENT the many different folks who receive services from our local emergency shelter and soup kitchen.

  1. 1 The Missoulian, Transients, And Medical Marijuana « 4&20 blackbirds

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