“Sorry, Senator, she’s not interested in that kind of Deep Throat:” Lest you’ve ever wondered what life is like in the trenches for news correspondents who cover the statehouse, this tidbit comes from the pages of Editor and Publisher Online (E&P), a national journalism trade publication. During last month’s not-so-special session of the Montana Legislature, amid the serious business of slashing school budgets and gutting Medicaid benefits to the poor and disabled, lawmakers were issued a warning from the legislative leadership about making “flirtatious overtures” toward members of the Helena press corps. According to an Aug. 14 memorandum sent out to legislators, two Helena-based reporters filed complaints about a couple of members of the Legislature who were acting “too clingy” and “too flirty with young, female reporters.” E&P writer Lauren Wiener reports that one legislator propositioned the reporters for a night of dinner and dancing, while another kept hassling one of the reporters, coming down to her office for numerous unwanted visits. (Mr. Speaker, let the record show that both motions to reconsider were promptly tabled.) The names of the reporters and the lawmakers were not made public in the memorandum, though House Speaker Daniel W. McGee (R–Laurel), who was involved in issuing the memorandum, told E&P that “It’s the first time this has ever happened that I’m aware of.”

•••

Getting malled by the grizzlies: Researchers from Montana State University (MSU) have found that tourists tend to spend more money in shopping malls than locals do—and apparently are much happier about doing so.

“We found that we [Americans] like to shop, but not at home,” says Tim Christiansen, an MSU professor of business and marketing who, along with MSU Professor Dave Snepenger, recently completed a study on the spending habits of Americans in shopping malls. In a study entitled, “Is it the Mood or the Mall that Encourages Tourists to Shop,” Christiansen and Snepenger found that on average, tourists tend to make more impulse buys and spend an average of $40 more than their local counterparts. Moreover, the study found that even consumers who don’t ordinarily enjoy shopping seem to find it more pleasurable when they’re on the road.

American shopping malls, with their climate-controlled environments, indoor greenery (either real or artificial) ambient music, and assorted sources of entertainment, have become more than just relaxing places to shop or pass the time, serving as “surrogate city parks” where people of all ages and genders interact. They have even become tourist destinations in their own right. (Snepenger claims that the Mall of America outside of Minneapolis is now “the number one tourist destination in America.”)

Although the appeal of malls may be disheartening to some small downtown business owners, the researchers stress that much of a mall’s appeal to tourists is simply the novelty of shopping in a new environment—which many of Montana’s city downtowns offer as well.

“Exploring a new shopping venue may bring some the ‘thrill of the hunt’ back into the shopping experience for the consumer,” the report reads.“Tourists don’t supply the meat and potatoes of a mall’s economy,” adds Christiansen, “but they definitely put on the gravy.” Which begs the question, who picks up the check?

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