Creepy shenanigans at the Missoulian, and an Xmas index

Sometimes, it’s hard for us to tell if our rivals at the Missoulian are devious or just plain dumb. Take for instance the fiasco with their new readers’ poll.

You’d think that the Independent’s well-established annual “Best of Missoula” poll would have given the putatively professional staff at Missoula’s daily newspaper a clear blueprint for their boring knock-off, the Missoula’s Choice awards. But apparently, they managed to screw it up despite their best effort to copy by rote what the Independent does so successfully every year.

The special section with the results of the Missoulian’s poll was supposed to be published last Friday, Dec. 8. But after printing some 30,000 copies, Publisher David Fuselier opted to trash the lot of them because he didn’t like the editorial content.

In a friendly interview with the Independent, Missoulian Managing Editor Mike McInally declined to identify the specific editorial lapses that led to the decision to spike the publication. But we’ve got a hunch it had something to do with the introduction written by Missoulian arts and entertainment reporter Sherry Jones.

“As we look over the Missoula’s Choice ballots—all 311 of them—we can arrive at only two conclusions,” Jones wrote in an article that Missoulian readers will never see, but which was obtained by the Independent. “The contest doesn’t mean much. And it’s a heck of a lot of fun.”

“There was some copy there that I had a problem with,” McInally said. “It just didn’t seem like it was a good fit for the section.”

And then there’s the question of the number of ballots submitted. The mathematicians at the Missoulian are obviously having trouble getting an accurate count. Jones reported an unimpressive total of 311 votes, while Missoulian Marketing Manager Valerie Freeman puts the number at more than 500. Freeman explained that Jones based her report on only a portion of the ballots.

That would explain the notice in last Friday’s paper explaining that publication of the results would be delayed one week “due to overwhelming response.”

Yeah, right. Just don’t act too surprised to learn that you’ve earned the title of Missoula’s Chumps.

As we’ve pointed out several times in several ways over the past few weeks, Christmas is big business. But no one made that fact more abundantly clear than the U.S. Census Bureau, which released some rather telling—yet tantalizingly trivial—statistics about the commercial side of the holidays earlier this week. We thought we’d share some of them with you in this Xmas Index, a list of figures that you never thought you’d know. This is what your tax dollars have been spent calculating: Amount America’s farmers received from Christmas tree sales in 1998: $460 million Percent change over Christmas tree sales in 1997: + 4 Total imports of artificial Christmas trees from China to the U.S. between January and August 2000: $78.2 million Total imports of Chinese Christmas tree lights during the same period: $210.5 million Total imports of Chinese Christmas tree ornaments during the same period: $535 million Retail production of all Christmas cards shipped from U.S. greeting card publishers in 1997:$571 million Percent change over 1992: + 21 Increase in revenue by U.S. department stores from November 1999 to December 1999, the largest increase recorded last year: $14.8 billion Total imports to the U.S. from Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Pacific Ocean, from January to August 2000: $197,239 Total exports from the U.S. to Christmas Island: $545,899

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