Billings Gazette

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Defending the use—and abuse—of mugshots

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An editorial in today’s Billings Gazette—in the print edition anyway; the online version for some reason is dated Feb. 3—made some good points about a bad bill. As originally introduced, House Bill 236 would have made it explicit that jail booking photos—mugshots—are public information. Current law is not quite so clear, with the result that some law enforcement agencies have refused to release mugshots. The bill was introduced by Rep. Frank Garner, a Kalispell Republican and former police chief, and it had the support of the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police. Continue Reading →

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You Won’t Believe Who’s Writing All Those Gazette Stories

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Regular readers of the Billings Gazette might be wondering, “Who is this new writer who seems to know so much about Montana?” I am referring to Jessica Wick, whose byline reads “For The Gazette.” I plugged her name into the Gazette’s search bar and got hits on 32 stories, all published this summer. Every story under her byline follows the same pattern: the five best of this or the six best of that, all with a Montana theme. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Gazette says ‘no comment’ to online readers

For some reason, when you Google "Darrell Ehrlick images," this picture of Gordon Lightfoot, left, comes up on his Twitter feed.

The Billings Gazette on Tuesday shut the spigot on the firehose of public comments that had marked its online edition for years. The decision to kill public comments was announced in a Sunday column by Editor Darrell Ehrlick. He gave readers until Tuesday to respond. More than 200 did before the comments section went dark on Tuesday. Ehrlick wrote, “What began as a noble experiment in conversation has been mired in name-calling, epithet and trolling.” He noted that National Public Radio also recently ended reader comments on its website and said that other newspapers are following suit. Continue Reading →

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Prairie Lights: Did NPR usher in a new era on the web?

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I was still a reporter at the Billings Gazette when that newspaper’s online edition began accepting comments from readers. That development nearly sparked a revolt among the reporters. It wasn’t a case of our being afraid of criticism, of having our mistakes pointed out, or even of seeing our crystalline prose lampooned. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Billings Gazette’s new redesign, explained

Kevin Mowbray is CEO of Lee Enterprises.

Somebody was wondering the other day why the Billings Gazette had not announced its new redesign. Good question. The redesign rolled out on July 22, when I was in Texas, so I figured I had just missed the announcement. But going back through the paper, I see no mention of the changes that day, or the next, or on the Sunday opinion pages. Google also didn’t help. Continue Reading →

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Prairie Lights: Lancaster at his best in ‘Edward’ books

When Craig Lancaster was still working on his first novel, which would eventually bear the title “600 Hours of Edward,” I went to hear him do a reading at Off the Leaf coffee shop. He was there as part of a writers group, with each of the writers taking a turn to read from his or her work. It was a tough setting. The place was crowded, mostly with teenage girls, and the din of conversation nearly drowned out the readings. (more…) Continue Reading →

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‘Passed away’ sneaking into newspaper lexicon

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I couldn’t get past this sports headline in the June 25 Billings Gazette: “Three-time NFR qualifier Bill Parker passes at 62.”

I didn’t know Bill Parker and mean him no disrespect. But “passes”? A quarterback passes. A point guard passes. Even an offensive lineman with a C-minus average passes. Continue Reading →

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David Crisp: After all these years, newspapers still needed

Adieu

Last week, I was asked to speak to the American Association of University Women about the meandering path that brought me to Last Best News. What follows is a condensed, and possibly improved, version of those remarks. To begin at the beginning, a long, long time ago, in a place far, far away, I was born. That beginning is more relevant than it may sound, because even before I really knew how to write letters properly, I was already self-publishing little family newsletters, commentaries and magazines, sometimes using little toy printing presses that my brother and I had. (more…) Continue Reading →

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‘Cranktown U.S.A.’—the myth that won’t die

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This morning on Facebook, Gary Robson, the owner of Red Lodge Books & Tea, shared a link to my latest story on the Red Lodge police drug raid in Bearcreek. Gary had some interesting things to say, as always, but what really caught my eye was the ensuing discussion of how the perception of crime in a given community affects tourism. One commenter said there was no effect on visitation after “Billings was called ‘Cranktown USA’ on the cover of TIME magazine.” I already added my two cents on that page, but allow me to elaborate here, because this was, for me, a fascinating experience in charting the invention and cultivation of myths. Way back in 2005, I did a multiple-day series of stories on the so-called meth epidemic in Billings. Continue Reading →

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Prairie Lights: Who will do the work newspapers once did?

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Sometimes, one of the best things a newspaper can do for its readers is to assign reporters to watch paint dry. During the years I covered City Hall for the Billings Gazette, I spent hundreds of hours so employed, and even when the process was stupefyingly boring it never seemed like a waste of time. (more…) Continue Reading →

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