I can already tell we’re getting to the time of year when reporting in Montana falls off a cliff.
I call these the slow times.
Fun fact: There are 8 posts on this blog with word “slow” in the title.
Here’s what I had to say back in May 2017:
“Not much is happening here in Missoula.
Now that the special election is over there’s not a lot of political news.
The state’s fiscal year-end will be coming up in a month, and shortly after that many state agencies will cut jobs.
Just one consequence of the 2017 Legislature.”
When the 2015 Legislature ended I put it like this:
Wow, things are slow, huh?
The legislature shut down and the cooks left town and now we’re all standing around. What the hell to do?
It happens post-election time too. Here’s one from December 2015:
“Things are going to get slow.
I guess they already are. Most of the bigwigs of state government will be taking the holidays off.
That could be most of this week, just a few days, or even from now until the New Year.
Must be nice making those big bucks.
Don’t forget who’s paying you – the taxpayer.
We don’t much care what the taxpayer has to think, however, except for the election cycle.”
It’s very easy to identify the slow times in Montana political reporting. Just go to Twitter’s #mtpol. If there are only a dozen or so tweets for that day, it’s the slow time.
Sadly - and I think politicians know this - this is the best time to get shit done ‘under the radar.’
Most people just aren’t going to notice, and a big reason for that is the state newspaper reporting apparatus moves away from the Helena Capitol and back to the burbs.
Stories are missed, plain and simple.
I already asked one of the reporters for the Montana Free Press if they’ll continue after the session. “We’re here for the long haul,” he replied.
I was kinda surprised to hear that, but then I don’t typically read the site’s stories or listen to its podcasts. Most people don’t.
I did a quick check of their site and found it has a global ranking of 3.9 million, and no rank at all in the US.
This means virtually no one visits that site or reads its content.
For comparison, the Missoula Current has a US rank of 169,000 and a global rank of 904,000. (The Missoulian has a US rank of 26,000).
That means the Current is the 169,000th most visited site in America.
Most of our Montana blogs no longer have a US rank. People just don’t visit those sites. The Montana Post has a global rank of 3 million and James Conner’s site has a global rank of 9.9 million. (I think the latter has much better content).
Reptile Dysfunction is at 16 million, but I think that site has outstanding content.
My site is 1.9 million.
Now, just because no one is visiting your site or reading your content...it doesn’t mean what you’re doing is bad.
It just means that no one knows or no one cares. And let’s face it - Montana politics is a very small niche that most Americans simply aren’t interested in.
We have a million people in this state and 509,000 of them voted last year. For many, that’s a chore. They sure as shit ain't reading about politics in their free time.
Even if you had 10% of the voters reading political news and blogs, it’d only be 50,000 people. I doubt even 1% of voters read the Montana blogs.
Over the past week, I’ve had just 108 people from Missoula visit my site...and that’s my largest group in the whole state (Helena came in second with 69, and then Butte with 46).
I mentioned this to Martin Kidston once, that very few people read our stuff. He admitted that was true. Despite that, we continue to trundle on.
Americans do care about news - 63% actively seek it out.
And we know that here in Montana, our politicians typically do read the news sites and the blogs. They especially read the ones they don’t agree with.
But does it matter...does it change anything?
Hard to say.
Even when the slow times really notch into high gear when the legislature ends, I hope we continue to read good stories here in Montana.
I have a feeling we will, though they might come a bit more ‘few and far between.’
I suspect we’ll have some blips on the radar when Bullock announces his presidential run sometime in the next two weeks, and we’ll probably get a few more when more statewide candidates declare for whatever 2020 races they’re going for.
The upcoming city council races will largely be ignored, as the school district races are being ignored now.
But if Montana history teaches us anything, it’s that anything can happen...and at any time.
The news sites will report on it when it happens, and the blogs will give you the opinions you seek.
Until then, enjoy the break.