Rick Tryon has taken some direct shots at me and at KRTV (and the Tribune), so here is my (personal) response.
Ever since he lost to Tracy Houck in the 2015 City Commission election, he has attempted to blame KRTV and the Tribune (he hasn’t mentioned KFBB, as far as I know). But every few weeks, he posts on Facebook that KRTV and the Trib failed to properly report on Houck’s campaign violations, which I guess he thinks caused him to lose to Houck in a very, very, very close election.
In the last few days, a rumor began circulating that the Children’s Museum of Montana was being “evicted” from its location, and Tryon and some like-minded people are spouting vague conspiracy theories and near-accusations of corruption over at E-City Beat.
Houck’s name got dragged into the conversation on the E-City Beat Facebook page, and Tryon wrote the following:
There’s so much to say about this but I’ll just begin with this: The notion that Tracy Houck has her hands in setting, directing or coordinating city policy in any area whatsoever should be troubling to every citizen in Great Falls. Houck has demonstrated that she is more than willing to lie, cheat and commit fraud in order to benefit her own agenda at the expense of the public good… Houcks extremely shady and dishonest behavior will continue to impact every citizen in Great Falls because, aided by her little pals at the Great Falls Tribune and KRTV Great Falls, she has never been held to account or taken ANY personal responsibility.
I posted a comment in response – a simple “WTF?” over the “little pals” reference.
Here is one of Tryon’s responses:
You guys gave her a total pass, Dave. Don’t try to pretend otherwise. Screenshots and facts are pesky things. You also personally supported her during the campaign by “liking” her campaign page and posts.
Um, “giving her a total pass” implies that KRTV didn’t report on the accusations, the investigation by the Commissioner of Political Practices, or the findings by the COPP. In fact, all of those things were reported by KRTV (and the Trib, don’t know about KFBB). The KRTV articles included verbatim info from the investigation by the COPP, and a link to the complete COPP report.
So this is what getting a pass looks like (in addition to broadcast and newspaper coverage), according to Tryon:
KRTV: Houck pays fine to settle campaign violation
KRTV: Houck responds to ruling about violation of campaign practice laws
KRTV: Official Complaint filed with Office of Political Practices (PDF)
KRTV: Recount deems Houck the winner in Great Falls City Commission race
KRTV: Tryon files for recount of votes for Great Falls City Commission seat
As for “liking” or following a Facebook page or post by a political candidate — sorry, Rick, that does not qualify as “personally supporting” a candidate. That is how many people – including reporters – keep tabs on candidates and political discussions for reference.
He then followed up with this:
Sorry I don’t share your amusement at lying, cheating, blatantly unethical public officials like Houck who get a pass from so-called news organizations like yours because she’s your buddy. How much advertising on KRTV did Houck authorize for PSG? How about her campaign finance manager Alison Fried for Dragonfly Dry Goods? You and your “news” organization didn’t even ask the simplest Journo 101 questions of Houck, y’all just swallowed her bullshit lies without a second thought. You call yourself a reporter? I’ll be happy to refresh your memory with screenshots and documents any time you like, in public. Your “coverage” was a joke.
OK, let’s take this step by step.
1. I am not a “pal” of Houck. I have met her just once, when she walked by my office as she prepared to do a candidate interview (as other candidates, including you, did). We were introduced, we exchanged a few pleasantries, and that’s it. We have never hung out together, or met for drinks after work with buddies, and don’t run around in the same social circles, etc. I have literally never seen her outside of that one meeting.
2. How much advertising did Houck authorize for Paris Gibson Square? And how much did Alison spend on advertising for Dragonfly? I have no idea. I honestly don’t even know if either of them advertise on KRTV. The truth is – and I’m so sorry that I have to break it to Tryon – the advertising people at KRTV and the news staff at KRTV rarely interact.
People like Tryon like to imagine that a sales person came running into the newsroom and and said something like, “Hey! Tracy Houck just bought $5,000 worth of advertising on KRTV, and Alison signed up for $5,000 of ads for Dragonfly! So you better not report ANYTHING negative about Houck’s campaign!”
Sorry to break it you, Rick. When it comes to sales staff and news staff — we pass each other in the hallway, cruise by each other’s desks to grab a donut, exchange jovial greetings in the morning, and sit next to each other at “all staff” meetings (safety briefings, baby showers, etc). The sales people do their job, and the news staff does its job. I have never, in my 8+ years at KRTV, ever seen a sales person directly or indirectly try to influence news coverage. I can’t speak for the policy at the Tribune or KFBB, but I suspect it’s basically the same.
As for his assertion that “y’all just swallowed her bullshit lies without a second thought” – when an elected or appointed official gets caught doing something wrong, it is extremely common for that person to issue a press release to address the matter. Questions (either in person, by phone, or email) from reporters in such cases often go unanswered, or otherwise simply replied to with the text of the press release. Done by politicians at all levels – municipal, county, state, federal.
Tryon seems to think that KRTV and/or the Trib don’t try to get additional information or responses, and that reporters should be pounding on Houck’s door in the middle of the night demanding the truth, with microphones pushed in her face, etc. DUDE – if a person does not want to comment on a matter beyond a press release, we (media) can’t simply force them to talk, as much as you would like to believe otherwise.
Could Houck have decided to go on camera and do an interview? Sure. But she didn’t, and no one can force her to.
Ultimately, she left her fate in the election up to the voters and public opinion, in terms of news outlets reporting the allegations of campaign violations, the investigation by COPP, the findings of the investigation, and her payment of a fine. ALL of those things were reported by KRTV and the Trib, broadcast on TV and in the newspaper, published on news websites, posted to social media, and widely shared.
On Sunday, Carrie Galvez defended Houck (in terms of the Children’s Museum rumor) and wrote: “Tracy and I don’t share politics, rather run on opposing ends of the spectrum. However, I don’t see her as one to try to sabotage the Children’s Museum. It’s almost funny that would be suggested. Tracy has a huge heart for children.”
But even that is too much for Tryon to abide – his response: “She may have pulled the wool over your eyes and David Shermans, Carrie Smale Galvez, but not mine nor a great many other folks here. Since you guys are such wonderful pals with Houck, who tried to palm off fraudulent documents on state officials, maybe you could convince her to develop “a huge heart” for honesty and accountability.”
GOOD GRIEF. Who on earth said that Tracy and I, or Tracy and Carrie, are “wonderful pals?” Why do you believe that Houck “pulled the wool” over our eyes? I know that Houck violated campaign laws – and got caught – and paid a fine. That doesn’t mean that I believe she is the “most unethical and dishonest local public official I can recall in my hometown,” as you do.