What is true, unbiased journalism? Sometimes it feels like we'll never really know the answer as the mainstream media "news" is clouded with opinion and political agendas.

But one Montana representative is calling out this so-called "journalism" for what it is right here in Montana.

Rep. Dr. Jane Gillette (R-Bozeman) wanted to publish an opinion piece in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle addressing the publication's political bias but was shut down by the editor.

 

Rep Jane Gillette
Credit: Rep. Dr. Jane Gillette
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Rep. Gillette's full column is available here that deserves to be seen:

Integrity in journalism is expected by the public and it’s of paramount importance for people to understand and trust information that’s presented to them. The public often assumes that journalists and editorial boards are presenting the news and their analysis objectively and with minimal bias. We hope that the information shared is a presentation of the facts and not meant to further any particular business, organization, or political party’s agenda.

 

Unfortunately, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle appears to lack that integrity, at least when it comes to political bias. Many have known the Chronicle’s strong liberal, anti-conservative, bias for a long time and have distrusted their editorials and the fairness of their news coverage as a result. What finally drove me to submit these observations to the Chronicle to print was its recent editorial calling concern for election security “kooky…nonsense…silly…absurd.”

 

Wanting to be sure of and reaffirm the integrity of our elections, the foundation of our entire system of government and freedoms that we hold dear, is none of those things. Degrading and shaming those who dare express concerns about the specifics of our election processes suppresses legitimate questions.

 

Just within the past week, one of my staff members told me that during the last election she received two ballots, one from Gallatin County and one from Yellowstone County. Is it legitimate to ask how that happened, and how it can be prevented in the future? According to the Chronicle, it would be “insulting” and “dangerous” to raise those questions.

 

The Chronicle titled its editorial “GOP engaging in absurd political theater”. What I consider “absurd political theater” is a newspaper consistently attacking one political party while claiming it’s an unbiased source of information even as publicly available information tells a very different story.

 

I searched through the political donation history of the Chronicle’s editorial board. It’s enlightening. While the Chronicle’s publisher, managing editor, and opinion editor haven’t made any donations, they’ve stacked the community members of the editorial board with Democrat partisans. The Chronicle’s editorial board members and spouses have collectively made 108 donations to political candidates and causes totaling over $8,500. All but one of those donations were to Democrats or liberal causes. The one donation to a Republican was only for $50 and it came from a board member who also made 6 donations to Democrats for $1,400. In percentages, 99% of the editorial board’s political donations and 99.4% of the dollars have gone to Democrats and liberal causes.

 

Given that data, it’s no wonder that throughout this past year the Chronicle’s editorial board authored over 40 editorials which have been anti-Republican, in total or, in part. By contrast, the Chronicle did not author a single editorial which negatively highlighted Democrats. Furthermore, when Democrats were mentioned, they were praised for their actions, values, and policies.

 

The Chronicle is not an unbiased, objective newspaper. It’s a liberal newspaper, but it doesn’t disclose that information to readers. As a scientist and public health professional, I’m required to disclose any conflict of interest in every manuscript I publish. In my world, conflicts of interest are financial. In the Chronicle’s world of brokering ideas, the conflict of interest is political persuasion. The nondisclosure of the Chronicle’s political conflicts of interest is shocking. Newspapers, including the Chronicle, should strongly consider disclosing their underlying reporting biases. Then readers can decide for themselves if they believe the authors’ presentation of the issues might have a certain political influence.

 

Journalism has high standards such as the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. Those ethics include “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “abide by the same high standards they expect of others.” In my opinion, not disclosing political conflicts of interest, stacking an editorial board with partisans of one party, then attacking concerns of the other party as “nonsense,” “silly,” or “absurd,” is well below that ethical standard.

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