A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

18 April 2017

Montana Associated Press flunks News Reporting 101

Here’s the lead (I neither like nor use “lede”) paragraph from an Associated Press story in today’s Missoulian, Senate endorses utility cost-sharing plan in surprise vote:

The Montana Senate has endorsed a bill that would require NorthWestern Energy to absorb some of the financial burden that results from unexpected outages instead of passing all of those costs to its customers.

What’s missing?

  1. The number of the bill, and its short title.
  2. The name of the legislator who introduced and is carrying the bill.

Okay, I’ll concede those data need not be in the lead paragraph — but if they’re not in the lead, they ought to be in the second paragraph — and they sure as hell ought to be somewhere in the story.

But — inexcusably — they’re nowhere in the story.

I think the bill is HB-193, “Revise utility electric cost recovery,” jointly sponsored by Reps. Tom Woods (D-Bozeman) and Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings).

Delete “I think” and the paragraph above fits nicely after the lead.

Contrary to what the Associated Press obviously believes, a bill’s number and short title, and the name of the sponsoring legislator, are important to readers.

A student at any reputable journalism school who wrote a story omitting a bill’s number, short title, and sponsor, would receive a huge, red, “F” on his assignment and fail News Reporting 101.

So why are MT AP writers getting paid to omit vital information from their stories, and why are the Missoulian’s editors not correcting the AP’s mistakes before publishing the story?