“Two hundred and seventy-one miles from my driveway, and I already sense this story’s wheels coming off.” So wrote the Missoulian’s Vince Devlin on Sunday—a less-than-tantalizing lead for the first installment of a six-part series.

Devlin’s assignment—and for some reason he chose to accept it—is to drive “somewhat aimlessly” across Montana, sending home dispatches about what non-Missoula Montanans think about our city. Devlin’s “hidden agenda” is to find people to “trash” the Garden City’s residents.

Why the Missoulian’s editors sent a reporter on a 2,000-mile trek to do the equivalent of an Indy For whatever reason, Devlin hit the road, and three days and roughly 4,000 words later, he’s come to a conclusion: Nobody hates Missoula. They only hate the traffic (and a few hate the Griz). The strange thing is that by their own admission, Devlin and his editors had foreseen such unlikely-to-stop-the-presses results…though not, perhaps, how boring they’d seem in print. Live and learn.

By day three, the only Montanan to have used the dread target words “environmentalist” and “liberal” to describe Missoulians is Devlin himself. The only person he can find to deride the town is a friend and ex-Missoulian living in Havre.

Wheels long left in the dust at roadside, Devlin then takes an odd tack. Using reactionary, frazzled-parent tactics, the beleaguered writer writes: “Already, I can hear the question: Why would the Missoulian ship a reporter out across the state to look for people who have bad things to say about Missoula?

And there’s a good answer to that: Because.”

How’s that for news you can use?

•••

Devlin’s quest to find Montanans to badmouth Missoulians is only one of several reasons we suggest that the daily consider drafting a new editorial page under the banner “The Daily Divider.” Aside from Devlin’s hapless incitement of a Missoula vs. Everybody Else in Montana rift, the Missoulian’s weekly Entertainer, in Grinch-like fashion, on Sunday, Nov. 9, announced a “Why I Hate Christmas” contest. Letter to the editor writers quickly responded. One, Susan Martinsen, questioned—we think justifiably—why the paper would want to infuse hate into a holiday that has generally been considered “a time for religion, love, caring, sharing, fun…” Two others asked if the newspaper would have the chutzpa to follow with “Why I Hate Hanukkah” or “Why I Hate Martin Luther King Day.”

To top off an, umm, off week, the Missoulian editorial board suggested in an opinion piece on Sun., Nov. 16, that Montanans and the Board of Regents may want to reconsider the goal of ensuring admission to a state college or university for every qualified Montana student—the policy of the Board of Regents for eons. Taking a bold contrarian stand, the Missoulian editorial opined that “The regents will accomplish little, really, by reaffirming the admissions policy.”

Little? Since when is providing the opportunity for the state’s high school students to pursue in-state higher education a “little” accomplishment? Where, after all, do the Missoulian’s editors expect to find the next generation of reporters willing to drive around the state asking people if they, you know, like us? You can’t just train monkeys to do that kind of work.

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