Our annual roundup of the year's strangest news and most dubious accomplishments

Page 4 of 4

Cherry-picking the "local" brand

Safeway stores in Missoula started liberally promoting "locally grown produce" throughout its produce aisles, despite only carrying melons from Dixon and cherries from the Flathead. The cherries, however, are sent to Washington state to meet the chain's stringent packaging requirements before being shipped back to Montana.

If at first you don't succeed, sue

Three members of Missoula's City Council sued the city they represent after not getting their way in a debate over revised zoning laws. A Helena judge rejected the arguments brought by Dick Haines, Lyn Hellegaard and Renee Mitchell that the city failed to adequately notify the public of the process, finding the city "is thoroughly complying" with its legal requirements.

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Letting the inmates run the asylum

Officials in Hardin, Mont., signed a contract with Michael Hilton in September to have his American Police Force operate the city's $27 million jail facility, which had never been used before. After purchasing a fleet of Mercedes SUVs brandished with "Hardin Police Force" logos—there is no official Hardin Police Force—media reports revealed that Hilton had an extensive criminal history. Specifically, the Associated Press reported he spent several years in a California prison for grand theft, and had at least three civil judgments against him for fraudulent investments.

We're clucked!

Needless to say, the Indy's not above making the occasional mistake. In putting together this year's collection of cluck-ups, we realized it was only fair to list our own dubious achievements of the year.

Boosting the freelance budget

The launch of our new website included the usual glitches—and one that longtime readers may have found a little ironic. Former arts editor, current film critic and notoriously prolific wordsmith Andy Smetanka shared a byline on thousands of archived stories along with the correct author.

Betsy who?

Similarly, thousands of stories were also listed under the byline "Betsy Kepes." A seasonal worker for the Forest Service in Kooskia, Idaho, Kepes wrote one "Writers on the Range" essay that appeared in the Independent in July.

Lost in translation

In June, we got flak for removing an online comment from "Ass-rammer for Jesus" because, the commenter thought, someone objected to the use of the word "queer" in the post and not the username.

Howling mad

A group called Missoula Skeptics went absolutely batty after we profiled pet psychic Keek Mensing in a February issue, calling the story unscientific and uncritical for not thoroughly debunking her alleged skill. Fair enough, but we regret not hearing a whimper from the group when we previewed an art exhibit featuring photographs by a dog and wrote a Spotlight about an elephant who paints.

Brought to you by talented editers

A story remained on the front page of our website for six days with the byline "By contributers."

Racial profiling

During back-to-back issues in mid-February, we put old, white, male bureaucrats on the cover of the paper. They were two of our slowest moving issues of the year. By contrast, our two most popular issues featured medical marijuana and Huey Lewis.

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Flush to judgment

Numerous readers believed a recent cover image of meditating staff writer Matthew Frank—pictured alongside the items he used for an herbal cleanse—should have more prominently displayed the enema bag.

Drinks on us

In an advertisement for Sportsman's Bar that boasted "the biggest collection of boozers, cynics, hillbillies, malcontents, miscreants, mountain men, perverts, rednecks, shodders, trailer trash, transients, some great cleavage, horrid manginas and everyone's favorite bum" we incorrectly listed the address of the Alberton establishment as the home of a local law enforcement official.

Close, but yet so far

An "etc." column meant to tout a new website called failed to do so after we sent readers to a nonexistent site at Similarly, a news story on a property in Huson that violated the Clean Water Act included a photo of an adjacent piece of land.

If only we'd listened to our own advice

We were criticized for taking what was perceived as a cheap shot at Lee Enterprises—owners of the Missoulian—when we listed its stock options in our 2008 budget gift guide. In listing the 50 shares at an approximate value of $25, we wrote that it made a good gift because we had "every confidence that the value of your gift will go nowhere but up." Sure enough, it did. Those same 50 stocks would be worth approximately $190 today.

Swing and a miss

In the aftermath of the Tiger Woods scandal, we received a photo from an anonymous source showing Missoula native and alleged Tiger mistress Kalika Moquin canoodling with Dennis Haskins, better known as Mr. Belding on "Saved by the Bell." We held off from reporting the "story."

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