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Concerning the threatened protests at Bozeman High and MSU

I was somewhat disappointed that the paper covered the announcement from the Westboro Baptist Church that its members plan to picket at Bozeman High School and Montana State University in early September.

After all, the church’s members have promised to show up here before and have consistently failed to do so.

The likelihood that anyone shows up on Sept. 9 is slim. The church simply seeks to boost its SEO with these threatened protests, convincing media outlets to report on their impending arrival and generate buzz around the group’s name.

It’s a game meant to keep their ideas and their church on people’s minds. It doesn’t matter that the majority of it is negative publicity. The church doesn’t care what others think of them; the majority of those against them are going to hell anyhow, they reason.

And there is the subtle manipulation of scheduling protests for the afternoon hours, guaranteeing that the first part of everyone’s day is focused on the WBC in some way, whether it’s wondering if they’ll show or wondering if we have to plan a backup story or not.

Of course, news organizations report the picket threats straight because we all have First Amendment rights, even if they are used to spew foulness. Plus, there is the added remote possibility that protesters actually will show up. They obviously do fulfill some of their threats, otherwise they’d cease to carry any weight.

And of course it doesn’t hurt the newspaper’s online presence either, as articles mentioning WBC picket plans tend to draw wide readership, lots of comments and plenty of social shares.

No matter what, though, our reporters will show up on Sept. 9, just in case. And if the WBC shows up too, the Chronicle will tell the story.