On October 26, twelve days before the November election deadline, an article by Chad Sokol was published in the Spokesman. It was entitled “Rep. Matt Shea takes credit, criticism for document titled ‘Biblical Basis for War.’” Mr. Sokol followed this with several articles detailing corporate sponsors who wanted their money back from the Shea campaign.
How did this article take shape? How did Chad Sokol come upon Shea’s manifesto? It did not happen in a vacuum. The leads came from local people. With Mr. Sokol’s writing the story spread. There are lessons here.
Some credit is due Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. For years he has gotten local media attention over his running feud with Matt Shea over Shea’s ties to white supremacists and far right “Christian” groups. Sheriff Knezovich has never shied away from the threat he feels the Matt Shea wing of the local Republican Party represents [from The Inlander on August 2]:
“I’ve grown tired of the media going, ‘Oh, this is just a fight between Matt [Shea] and Ozzie,” Knezovich says. “No. This is a fight between this ideology. This ideology is dangerous, and if we do not address it, it will eventually hurt this community and this nation.”
But it wasn’t Ozzie who acquired and brought attention to Shea’s now infamous manifesto. It was a young man with a long goatee named Tanner Rowe of Nine Mile Falls. Rowe was mentioned as the source in Chad Sokol’s article in the Spokesman on October 26 I referred to above. Tanner Rowe posted Shea’s “Biblical Basis for War” in a video on Facebook three days earlier. Facebook posts are frustratingly ephemeral. At this writing one can still see Mr. Rowe’s post by visiting his page (here) and scrolling way down to October 23. Based on his other Facebook posts, Tanner Rowe appears to be right of center himself. Nonetheless, in his video Mr. Rowe presents his disgust with Shea’s theocratic bent. Rowe likes the idea of a 51st State, but he’s very leery of theocracy under a man like Shea. (That said, I wonder for whom Mr. Rowe would have voted if he lived in the 4th District, Shea, Cummings, or “none of the above”?)
What prompted Chad Sokol to write his Spokesman article on Matt Shea October 26? He had written an article critical of Shea and mildly complementary or Cummings on October 8th. How did Mr. Sokol become aware of Tanner Rowe’s Facebook post of Shea’s manifesto? Was Mr. Sokol monitoring Facebook or did someone bring Rowe’s Facebook video to his attention? Or was he further tuned to Shea’s extremism after reading an article in Rolling Stone on October 23, the same day as Rowe’s post? That article, “Something’s Brewing in the Deep Red West” was written by Leah Sotille, an excellent Portland-based freelance writer who once covered Spokane’s music scene for The Inlander. Does Chad Sokol know Leah Settle and/or follow her writing? [BTW, check out Ms. Sottile’s other writing at Rolling Stone. It’s well researched and exemplary.]
From Mr. Sokol’s October 26th article on Shea’s “Biblical Basis for War” the story catapulted to the national media scene. It was covered by Rachel Maddow, the Associated Press (AP), Newsweek, the New York Daily News, and U.S. News and World Report. The story rattled around the internet for a few days, no doubt buffing up readers’ memories of the Inland Northwest hosting the odious Aryan Nations for several decades in the recent past.
Several contributors to Shea’s campaign funds, presumably embarrassed by the national media coverage made local news by withdrawing their support. (More about that in a later post.) Matt Shea did not lose the election but he lost some votes and his infamy is growing. His time will come…
The larger point is this material doesn’t appear out of thin air. Writers and broadcasters in the local and national media need leads. Leads are provided by local observers, by email, telephone, and through personal relationships. I cannot connect every one of the dots in this story, but I am aware the the leap from a local Spokesman article to Rachel Maddow and Associated Press was aided by local people who were paying attention and passing the story along.
Get to know your local media people. Interact. Send them ideas and stories. They cannot possibly keep tabs on everything by themselves. Like us, they depend on human interaction for the material with which they work…and without their work (and ours) we have no democracy.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. With a brief nod to the AP article, even Fox News mentioned Shea’s manifesto on November 1. But with the exception of that article, stories covering the “Biblical Basis for War” are notably absent from the right wing media silo. Searching two of my favorites, Brietbart and the Daily Caller, draws “No Results.” They appear thoroughly immunized against criticism of their own kind.