Eric Whitney

News Director

Eric is the news director for Montana Public Radio.

Ways To Connect

American paddlefish
Timothy Knepp - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

One week into Montana’s paddlefish season on the the lower Yellowstone river, biologists say they’re not seeing any negative impacts from an oil spill on that stretch of river in January.

Jonathan Motl, Montana Commissioner of Political Practices speaks during a forum about the "Disclose Act" in Missoula, MT
Josh Burnham

Montana’s new campaign finance law still has at least one loophole that needs to be addressed. That’s according to state Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl.

New data says Montana does a good job at placing placing kids in its child welfare system with relatives or foster families, which is seen as preferable to placements in group homes.

Alexander Blewett III
Courtesy photo

A Great Falls trial lawyer is giving the University of Montana law school $10 million, and the school is one step away from being re-named in his honor.

The public is getting a chance to ask state and federal wildlife managers about bison management in and around Yellowstone National Park.

For the second time in two years, a Missoula hospital is entering a joint venture with a hospital in Billings. Last year, Billings Clinic and a for-profit partner bought Missoula Community Medical center. The new joint venture announced this week isn’t a merger, but it does have Missoula’s other hospital, St Patrick, joining with St. Vincent hospital in Billings.

Dartmouth College may be looking at a substantial fine for violating Montana’s campaign finance laws.

Today State Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl found that the school, along with Stanford University, broke state law last October, when the two mailed fliers to 100,000 people in Montana purporting to rank candidates for state supreme court on a liberal to conservative scale.

Author Jon Krakauer speaks as moderator Larry Abramson listens during about his book "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town" during a community forum in Missoula, MT Wednesday May 6.
Cheri Trusler

This is a recording of the entire event with Author Jon Krakauer and Larry Abramson, dean of the University of Montana Journalism School, sponsored by Fact and Fiction bookstore, held at the Doubletree Inn in Missoula, May 6, 2015.

Author Jon Krakauer speaks during about his book "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town" during a community forum in Missoula, MT Wednesday May 6.
Cheri Trusler

Author Jon Krakauer got a standing ovation at a forum last night about his new book: Missoula Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.

The capacity crowd of more than 500 people at the Doubletree Inn ballroom applauded Krakauer several times when he stood up for rape victims, and repeated the main point of his book.

“Rape is a serious crime that’s not being taken seriously,” he said.

Steve Jess, MTPR

    

Yesterday Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, signed a Medicaid expansion bill into law that was sponsored by a Republican senator, Ed Buttrey. Buttrey has long been opposed to Medicaid expansion as called for in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. So how did the businessman from Great Falls come to sponsor a Medicaid expansion bill? I asked him about that immediately after yesterday’s bill signing ceremony at the capitol.

Eric Whitney

Montana's U.S. Senators want Secure Rural Schools payments distributed in short order, now that President Obama has reauthorized the act. S.R.S  funds compensate rural counties with federal land that have experienced declining timber production.   

Gov. Bullock signs the Medicaid expansion plan into law on April 29 at the captiol. The bill's sponsor Sen. Ed Buttrey, and supporter Stephanie Wallace look on.
Steve Jess

Backers of Medicaid expansion celebrated in Helena today as Governor Bullock signed the bill extending the health coverage to an estimated 45,000 more Montanans.

Global energy leaders are meeting at the University of Montana today through Friday for the Asia-Montana Energy Summit.

Leaders in global energy issues from five different countries are converging at the University of Montana Wednesday through Friday for the Asia-Montana Energy Summit. Hosted by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, the summit will highlight trends that are shaping the world’s energy future, and Montana’s role in it. I talked about the summit with the Mansfield Center’s director, Abraham Kim.

Eric Whitney

The book that author Jon Krakauer released Monday, "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town," paints a very unflattering picture of Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst.

Krakauer writes that when Pabst was a county prosecutor in 2011, she dismissed the allegations of at least one sexual assault victim, and that Pabst was, “simply wrong” in recounting what that victim said happened to her. The book is sharply critical of prosecutors’ decisions not to prosecute sexual assaults.

Eric Whitney

The following is a statement by Kirsten Pabst, Missoula County Attorney: 

Tuesday, a book was released about Missoula, addressing the very heartbreaking issue and challenges surrounding acquaintance rape, an important topic that affects so many of us. UM President Engstrom said, "We have strong relationships with officials, the business community and groups across our valley, as he said “when our community faces challenges, we work together to find answers.”

University of Montana

This is a message from University of Montana President, Royce Engrstrom:

Dear Colleagues,
This morning, Jon Krakauer’s book “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” was released. I want to share with you my thoughts about sexual assault and the University of Montana because it is such an important topic that all college campuses – student groups, staff, faculty, and administrators – must address.

Courtesy Photo

A bill to allow residents in some elementary school districts to vote on building and operating new high schools will now face a third and final vote in the House.

Currently the bill affects the elementary districts of Missoula Hellgate, East Helena, and Lockwood near Billings.

Courtesy Photo jonkrakauer.com

Tuesday sees the release of Author Jon Krakauer’s new book, “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. The book chronicles high profile sexual assault allegations involving University of Montana students starting in 2010, and their investigations. 

The large fire at A1 Salvage yard near Somers is out, according to Somers-Lakeside Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeremy Hayes.

“We don’t have a total yet of how many cars were in the fire,” Hayes said, “but no structures were involved.”

The source of the fire is under investigation. 

Barrett Hospital

Two hospitals in Montana have earned 5-star ratings in patient satisfaction from Medicare. Those hospitals are Barrett Memorial in Dillon, and Great Falls Clinic Medical Center.

Flathead National Forest

The latest in our series of interviews on the new draft management plan for the Flathead National Forest is with Keith Hammer, chair of the Swan View Coalition, and Arlene Montgomery, the program director for Friends of the Wild Swan.

The Flathead National Forest’s scoping period for public comments on its draft management plan runs through May 15th.

One of Montana’s best known and well-respected authors has died. Ivan Doig passed away today at his home in Seattle from multiple myeloma at the age of 75.

Doig was born in White Sulpher Springs in 1939, and his books were set in Montana.

We’re continuing our series of interviews on the new management plan for the Flathead National Forest. We’ve heard from the Forest Service and the Montana Wilderness Association so far. This time we’re talking to a prominent timber company executive.

Paul McKenzie is the lands and resource manager at F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber in Columbia Falls. I spoke to him in his office.

Clementine Lindley says she had a great college experience, but if she had it to do over again, she probably wouldn't pick an expensive private school.

"I could actually buy a small home in Helena, Mont., with the amount of debt that I graduated with," she says.

Fresh out of school, Lindley says there were times when she had to decide whether to pay rent, buy food or make her student loan payments.

"There was a time where I defaulted on my student loans enough that I never was sent to collections, but just long enough to, honestly, ruin my credit."

Cheri Trusler

Closing arguments were heard Monday in the condemnation trail for the City of Missoula’s water system.

The city has been trying to buy the privately-owned Mountain Water Company since 2011.

Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13
Montana Legislature

Tuesday brings a crucial test for Medicaid expansion in Montana. Republican Senator Ed Buttrey’s bill to offer the government-funded health coverage to about 70,000 more Montanans faces a hearing before the same committee that killed a similar proposal by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.

Eric Whitney

We’re continuing our series of interviews with people involved in writing new Flathead Forest plan. One of those people is Amy Robinson, a staffer for the Montana Wilderness Association. Robinson talks about her organization's vision for the Flathead National Forest.

The Federal Aviation Administration today approved expansion of the Powder River Training Complex, a huge new airspace for military bombers to practice. It covers portions of Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota.

Montana’s congressional delegation fought the expansion, saying it will disrupt agriculture and interfere with operations at rural airports.

http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2195006

A new study says that the youth suicide rate in rural America is growing, compared to the number of youth suicides in cities.

Ryan White wrote about the study for the website Reporting on Health.  He is a contributing editor at the website. White talked to MTPR News Director Eric Whitney about a new study in JAMA Pediatrics that shows youth suicide rates are twice as high in rural counties as in cities.

 

Hacking Rural Medicine

Most of Montana’s hospitals are small and rural. And these are hard times for small town hospitals. The National Rural Health Association says about 300 rural hospitals are in danger of having to close in the next few years.

Monica Bourgeau is an executive with a federally funded project to help Montana hospitals adapt to the rapid changes in healthcare and survive.

"Rural healthcare is really facing a lot of kind of new and unique challenges right now."

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