Closing Range

Guarding Against the Guardian

Both Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte and Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs were in the wrong

During a visit with a North Dakota rancher, he said, “Your guy Gianforte floored a reporter last night.” Wow! Back in Mandan, I fired up the blurry motel TV. After I learned Gianforte’s victim was the London Guardian’s Ben Jacobs, well, I was less amazed.

First, a little about Mr. Jacob’s employer. The London Guardian began in 1821 as the Manchester Guardian. Significantly, in 1936 the Guardian was placed under the Scott Trust Limited, with profits “reinvested in journalism rather than to an owner or shareholders” — at least in theory. In reality, the Guardian has lost money for decades, with other Scott Trust businesses cross-subsidizing news, print and now online.

After 2008, the Guardian wound up with what is basically an endowment, 838 million pounds sterling. Partly to preserve cash, the Guardian emphasizes an online presence, yet without “paywalls” like most other newspapers making the same move. The Guardian instead uses a voluntary “membership” donor model — giving away scads of “news” for free.

This “free stuff” has gathered the Guardian 42 million worldwide readers, including enough Americans to justify operations in America covering American issues.

The Guardian does produce significant, worthy scoops, such as the British phone-hacking scandal, Edward Snowden’s leak of PRISM surveillance, and former Brit Prime Minister David Cameron’s offshore banking problems.

Scoops aside, I’ve never liked the blanket of urban, Euro-liberal slant the Guardian wraps facts in. One close-to-home example is a new Guardian series called “This Land is Your Land.”

“America’s public lands are in danger. Help us fight the government sell-off.” And, “America’s public lands are under threat. Support coverage of this critical issue.”

“Help us fight?” That’s not exactly objective, is it? Seeking purpose-driven donations to “support coverage” driving toward a partisan political outcome? Like Sierra Club? Yeah, that’s “objective journalism.”

As for Washington, D.C.-based Ben Jacobs, he hit Montana’s news radar April 28 with a story on Gianforte’s investment disclosure report, headlining “Financial ties to U.S.-sanctioned Russian companies.” It’s important to note that Montana’s Mike Dennison covered this same disclosure report April 5, generating little fanfare.

Jacobs reported first on $242,400 in two Russian index funds as “substantial, but only a small portion of Gianforte’s wealth” of between $65 million and $315 million, then let the campaign spokespeople wax eloquent over “Russian aggression” versus “shady Russian investments.”

Hmmm. $242,400 into $65 million makes Gianforte’s Russian stake, at most, 0.37 percent of his total. If you had $1,000, would you be Putin’s lapdog for $3.70? Yawn.

Nonetheless, because of the “national impact” of the Quist/Gianforte race (yawn), and the national media’s “Russia” fetish (yawn), Jacobs’ story got huge play in other outlets, such as The Hill, Business Insider, and Associated Press.

The next day, April 29, incidentally the very same day of the only debate in the campaign, hundreds of generic wire feeds carried a “lede” about “investments in Russian firms under sanction by the U.S. Government.” Brilliant timing, that … and why does a Brit paper, or Ben Jacobs, suddenly give a rip about Montana?

So I took about five minutes to check out Mr. Jacobs’ history. I’m certain Gianforte’s staff did the same easy research, then briefed the candidate as they should.

Jacobs came to the Guardian from the liberal Daily Beast, bringing a Duke law degree on top of a 2006 history BA from Grinnell College in Iowa, which Jacobs himself describes in a Guardian article as “an elite liberal arts college [long] a bastion of progressive thought.”

Even better, according to a 2008 article in the left-wing magazine Nation, “former Iowa College Democrats president Ben Jacobs […] has worked in electoral politics since graduating [from Grinnell].” Hmm, former Democrat operative gets law degree then turns “journalist?”

Amazing, right? No, too typical — yet another way journalism keeps building its rotten reputation with those who don’t share the “mainstream media” world view — including me.

It was wrong ($50,000 and counting) for Greg Gianforte to stuff Ben Jacobs. But for an obvious partisan like Ben Jacobs to push into Greg Gianforte’s personal space, safely wrapped in the robes of free press protections? Just as wrong.