Corrections and guarding English usage

Shawshank Redemption, (c) Castlerock Entertainment

The Montana State Prison’s spokeswoman public/victim information officer sent out an email Friday to newsrooms across the state (emphasis theirs):

Thank you for your recent articles and coverage of Montana State Prison.  We appreciate your interest in the shortage of correctional officers.

I do have one request.  Over the years, the professionalism of correctional staff has changed substantially.  Whereas the term “guard” was appropriate historically, over the past decade, the training and expectations of prison staff have increased.  We now use the title “correctional officer” to refer to the security staff in Montana’s prisons.  In keeping with that, it would help us if you would refer to prison staff as correctional officers and, where space is limited, as officers.

As one wiseacre in the newsroom noted, I suppose this means calling them “screws” is out?

For the most part, news reporting uses common words. I can’t say it happens with 100 percent certainty and reliability, but so long as the majority of people call them prison guards, newspapers will continue to call them that too.

Fierce backlash over John Walsh plagiarism

Montana Sen. John Walsh has been in trouble this week after the New York Times demonstrated that he had plagiarized large portions of the final paper he wrote in the U.S. Army’s War College back in 2007.

Campaign trackers are saying this is a devastating, if not fatal, blow to his bid for election to the Senate this November against Republican Rep. Steve Daines.

I storified some of the reaction I found today. Predictably, veterans are unhappy that Walsh mentioned post-traumatic stress in connection with his plagiarism, an especially troubling prospect considering Walsh has used his military background to court the veteran vote, and according to our own reporter Troy Carter, Montana’s estimated 101,600 military veterans represent 11.4 percent of the voting-age population.

Meanwhile, Democrats are supporting him fully, at least in words. Democratic bloggers are asking why one incident of dishonesty speak for the whole man and wondering at the timing and origin of this political torpedo.

By far, though, my favorite reaction so far is this one, which Twitter brought to me tonight.

The former writing teacher in me is laughing mightily — and then sighing deeply. You know you’ve made the big time when you’re lampooned on the “Tonight Show.” Or, as the distinguished mayor of Bozeman put it this morning:

But seriously…

On a more serious note, some supporters of Walsh have asked in comments on the Chronicle’s Facebook page and on our articles why this is even a story, and as I noted above, they have asked us to do “real reporting” on the timing of this story’s release.

Is this a story? Yes. Does the single incident of academic dishonesty so far found in Walsh’s past define his whole character? Perhaps not. But Walsh is a public figure, and his mistakes — even seemingly small ones — have consequences for him. And right now, those consequences are a War College investigation into his writing and a media firestorm that’s threatening his campaign. The Chronicle simply cannot ignore it. It’s news.

As for the timing of the release — just a week after a poll showed Walsh closing the gap on Daines in the race… Well, you’re adults. You’ve watched “House of Cards.” Do we really need to explain where the news tip probably came from? It’s politics, and tipping off reporters isn’t illegal.

Regardless of how the Times got the story, once it broke, it was news. And you can’t put that cat back in the bag. Walsh is riding a tidal wave in a dinghy with only a tiny oar to steer with. We’ll have to see where he washes up, if he survives.

The quotable Brian Schweitzer

Brian Schweitzer

The website Roll Call published an entertaining interview with former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer today that’s making the rounds online.

Judging by my past experience with Schweitzer on the handful of times I spoke with him, reporter Kyle Trygstad quoted the governor accurately.

The whole interview is worth a read, but I thought I’d exerpt the portion of it that I got the biggest kick out of. Trygstad is trying to get the cagey Schweitzer to say whether he’s going to run for Senate.

Trygstad: So it wouldn’t be accurate to report you’re close to jumping in the race?

Schweitzer: No, that wouldn’t be accurate. But that shouldn’t stop you. You know, it’s yellow journalism. Say whatever you want.

Trygstad: Well, I won’t do that. I want to write what’s actually happening.

Schweitzer: You’re not going to make it in this business, my friend. You gotta get with the program.

University of Montana joins coalition to improve campus-area broadband

The University of Montana is one of about 30 universities that has joined the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project or Gig.U.

Gig.U’s goal is to expand broadband service into the communities surrounding campuses so that modern learning can be extended beyond the university’s walls. The project also emphasizes that increased access to broadband will help these campus communities economically.

…the networks our leading university communities depend on do not provide the necessary advanced connectivity.   Nor does the current market plan to upgrade the networks sufficiently to retain our leadership.  It is not surprising that the mass market will not meet the high bandwidth needs that are specific to our communities.  We cannot, however, accept the current reality, as it would cause us to lose our leadership and forego many opportunities for future leadership and economic growth.

How does Gig.U hope to build out these networks? By telling private ISPs that they want to see it happen and hoping that those private companies will share the Gig.U vision:

Through an RFI process, the Project will work with current and potential network service providers, as well as others, to create a critical mass of next generation test beds by accelerating the offering of ultra high-speed network services to their communities.

I’m sure the universities will offer some measure of support to entice private companies to put out money to build infrastructure, but the nature of that support was not clear in my reading of the Gig.U website.

Gallatin County approves ViaSat dishes west of Bozeman

The Model VA-73-KA 7.3m Ka-Band satellite dish from ViaSat Inc.
The Model VA-73-KA 7.3m Ka-Band satellite dish from ViaSat Inc.

A Carlsbad, Calif.-based communications company won approval from the Gallatin County Commission last week to build a pair of 34-foot-tall satellite dishes along Love Lane west of Bozeman.

The dishes will be connected to fiber-optic landlines and will provide high-speed data for government and civilian use, the company, ViaSat Inc., wrote in a letter filed with the county.

The new dishes will be built at 5330 Love Lane behind an existing commercial building, architect John M. Banks wrote to the county planning department.

Some details:

  • The dishes will be set back 660 feet from Love Lane, 420 feet from the side property line and 505 feet from the rear property line.
  • The dishes will be inside a 100-by-150-foot fenced gravel lot that will also contain a 20-by-36-foot equipment shelter and two backup diesel generators.
  • Access to the site will be controlled by a rolling gate and security keypad that’s monitored 24 hours a day by a security company.

The property where the dishes will be built is owned by Aim Inc. KBZK reported that Aim’s president, Ron Page, told commissioners Tuesday:

“This certainly seemd like an ideal business, creating four to 10 trips a year with no need for water, no need for sewer and providing the vital Internet infrastructure for all of Gallatin County and rural Montana.”

You may remember ViaSat from the deal it announced in September with JetBlue to provide in-air wi-fi service on the airline’s 160 planes, as the New York Times reported.