When I read the headline “Businesses to Daines: Cut government regulations” in my Billings Gazette feed, I confidently predicted two things: that the piece would be a news-free puff piece and that it would have been written by Tom Lutey. Lutey is the Gazette’s sometimes political reporter and tends to follow Republican Senate candidates to PR events with the kind of starry-eyed intensity you’d expect from a new intern at Capitol Hill.
This piece didn’t disappoint on either count. In it, we learned that Republican businessmen do not like regulations placed on them and that Congressman Daines is offering this bold policy proposal to address their concerns:
“I think in Montana we’re all in agreement that we all believe that Washington, D.C., should look more like Montana, not the other way around.”
Call the Pulitzer people. That is reporting.
The story doesn’t mention who was invited, if the event was public or private, or quote a single voice in favor of government regulations—you know, those things that protect our health, water, air, and working conditions. Maybe Mr. Lutey could have run a Google search to learn that the host of the even, the National Federation of Independent Business, received more money from the Koch Brothers than any other source last year or that NFIB was investigated by Congress for violations of its tax-exempt status.
Hell, the story doesn’t even mention that one of the “regular folks” businessmen cited in the piece was a Republican candidate for Secretary of State just last year.
You know, that context stuff that makes news news.
I’m not foolish enough to believe that mocking the puffery that passes for reporting will ever change it, but it’s astonishing to see how just easy it is to get some of these reporters to function as campaign staff for these candidates. Seven years ago, Stephen Colbert described what’s happening to the press as well as anyone has, a description that’s only more true today:
Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction!