A stroll through the state of Montana blogging, 2016

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David Crisp

When I started the Billings Blog back in 2003, it seemed cutting edge. It was the first Montana blog started by someone who was actually trying to make a living as a journalist.

For a while, it appeared that citizen-run blogs might be where the news would go, the independent, nonprofessional alternative to the ailing corporate behemoth.

From the left, we had Intelligent Discontent, Left in the West, 4&20 Blackbirds and Montana Cowgirl. From the right, we had Montana Politics, What’s Right in Montana, 2 Helena Handbaskets and the once prolific Electric City Weblog, which was valuable when Rob Natelson posted and so annoying when Dave Budge posted that I had to impose a lifetime ban on myself from commenting there.

I will say this: When Electric City Weblog went down, it went down in style. Those guys didn’t just quit posting; they totally pulled the plug—no website, no archives, no Greatest Hits album.

Not so with most defunct blogs. I recently spent a couple of long afternoons scrolling through blog rolls to check out the state of independent blogging in Montana today. I found a lot of busted links and idle sites.

At Intelligent Discontent, still the most readable of Montana’s political blogs, Don Pogreba announced a break from blogging after the election. He hasn’t posted since, but other contributors have kept the blog going.

Montana Cowgirl is still around, too, although its pace also has slowed since the election. The blog must be read because whoever writes it has good sources, but I’ve never quite trusted it.

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James Conner’s reliable Flathead Memo has been cranking out quality posts since 2006. After that, news pickings outside of professional journalists get mighty slim.

Montana Politics says it is “your #1 Source for Montana Based News Coverage!” But all of the posts now seem to be about insurance.

2 Helena Handbaskets has been on hiatus since 2013. What’s Right in Montana and Left in the West have both left the West.

Wulfgar’s A Chicken Is Not Pillage now mostly just picks pro football games. 4&20 Blackbirds hasn’t put up a new post since October 2015.

Big Sky Political Analysis, a site created by political science professors at Montana State University, hasn’t posted since Sept. 12. Before that, it was June 19.

Still active is Logicosity, an active pro-Democrat blog by “Edward R. Burrow,” whose profile describes him only as “impossibly left.” Also publishing is Big Sky Words, the blog of Greg Strandberg, the official troll of Last Best News. It’s a valuable service: Just as every village needs a town drunk, every website needs a troll. And you can’t advertise for one; they have to appear organically.

After I recently linked to Big Sky Words’ list of potential candidates to replace Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House, a reader complained that it was irresponsible to legitimize Strandberg by linking to him. The reporter pointed to a 2015 post by Strandberg that contained this paragraph:

“Many believe the Talmud is the opposite of the Torah. While the Torah worships God, the Talmud worships Satan, they claim. Rothschild used a twisted form of the Jewish Talmud to create satanic teachings that formed the basis of his secret organization, the Illuminati.”

It’s a strange paragraph, and reading the whole post doesn’t do much to clarify it. But I don’t see how linking to list of candidates legitimizes it. Actually, Montana Cowgirl now has a better list up.

The Montana Center for Investigative Reporting notes that investigative reporting “is expensive, and it’s risky.” That must be why the site has posted only three times this year. The last post, in October, carries a Utah dateline.

Laura Lundquist, a former newspaper reporter, publishes Montana on the Ground, which specializes in outdoor and environmental stories. She has put up three posts since Oct. 1, most recently on the Standing Rock protests.

Plenty of other Montana blogs publish infrequently but are nevertheless of interest.

The Button Valley Eagle is set in “Boxelder County,” which is “slightly to the Left side” of Montana. It also is home of the Button Valley High School Fighting Pikas, who won, we are informed, the 1984 state lacrosse championship. The site has posted actual photos of what purports to be downtown Button Valley and of the Our Lady of Constant Silos church.

East of Billings, by Alexis Bonogofsky, focuses mostly on the joys of life in Eastern Montana, with occasional essays on politics, environmental issues and photography. The site’s last political post, in April, was titled “Why Denise Juneau will beat Ryan Zinke in November.”

At Reptile Dysfunction, author William Skink describes himself as “a poet and political cynic living and writing in Montana.” Fellow author JC is even less revealing about his pedigree: “somewhere around Missoula, Montana.”

The site is contrarian in tone, fairly prolific and mostly entertaining to read. Even the poetry isn’t bad, as this recent opening verse indicates:

“I awoke this morning

and the coffee wasn’t hot

how did the Russians

infiltrate my coffee pot?”

Edwin Berry of Bigfork, who claims a doctorate in atmospheric physics, describes himself as a “physicist, certified consulting meteorologist, award-winning programmer, pilot with glider, power and instrument ratings, world-class sailor, national caliber athlete, teacher and author.”

He specializes in posts debunking climate change science. His books include “Choose America: Why Donald Trump is Right about America.”

The Western Word is published by Jackie “Mike” Brown, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns who has lived in Montana for 25 years. He seems to be a fair-minded fellow whose regular features include The Sunday Message, which is a religious piece, and the upbeat Terrific News Tuesday.

Bourbon & Frost, with the nifty slogan of “Montana’s politics drives one to drink,” posted once in April, then again in October. I hope the proprietors haven’t been drinking a little too much.

Prairie Mary is the eclectic blog of Mary Strachan Scriver, a writer and prolific blogger in Valier. She has at least 16 books to her credit, including “12 Blackfeet Stories,” “Valier Seasons” and “Dog Catching in America.”

The Montana Maven, which has published four posts this year, is the blog of Diane Kamp, a “cattle rancher and former actress and movie agent.”

Lance Grider is the proprietor of Little Big Town MT, a mostly satirical site that seems to put up a post or two a month.

At his home page, he says, “Originally, Little Bigtown MT was to present opinion or satire about Billings, the biggest city in Montana (105,000 population officially, 150,000 traffic-wise), and the world beyond. But as of January 20, 2017, this site is dedicated to the impeachment or resignation of Donald Trump, a lying, crooked puppet of Vladimir Putin, the second greatest enemy of the United States, after the Confederate States of America.”

For actual facts, he says, go to Last Best News.

Not a bad idea.

What am I missing? Mention your favorite Montana blogs in comments.

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