Media Accountability Project: Great Falls Tribune Advertises Mailing Services to Candidates

The Great Falls Tribune, a Gannett owned news company, sent out an email to Montana political candidates last week advertising a political mailing service, further expanding the newspaper’s participation in the 2012 elections.

Although newspapers profiting from advertisements is nothing new, news organizations advertising for political mailing services to candidates is uncommon. The newspaper stated in their advertisement that they will design the mailer, or accept specifications, and that “custom, geographic zone mailing is available.”

“The Great Falls Tribune is your #1 source for inserts and direct mail made simple,” the flyer reads. “It’s everything you need for marketing success.”

In a direct appeal to political campaigns, the Tribune e-mailed a flyer to candidates with a placeholder “John Smith for Governor” heading over a patriotic background.

According to Tribune Business and Marketing Director Terry Oyhamburu, the company acquired much of its printing and mailing equipment in 2006 when Northwinds Printing and Publishing decided to end their printing business.

“[The Tribune] hired about 15 former Northwinds employees and started a new division named ‘River’s Edge Printing’,” wrote Oyhamburu in an e-mail to Media Trackers. “River’s Edge Printing offers full-service printing and mailing services.”

“The Tribune, if approached with a mailing, political or otherwise, contracts with River’s Edge Printing & Distribution.”

According to campaign finance reports, the only Great Falls candidate who has directly employed the services of River’s Edge this election cycle is Republican incumbent Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick (HD-20).  Other candidates may contract with River’s Edge through political strategy groups; however, candidates are not required to disclose contractors hired through intermediaries in campaign finance reports.

Despite the anonymity often involved with who actually carries out mailer contracts, Oyhamburu says River’s Edge is still fairly new to the business and seeks to add more customers.

“We only have a handful of political print jobs – but we’d like an armful,” Oyhamburu stated in a follow up e-mail.

A research effort by Media Trackers found that the Billings Times, a local “statistics based” paper, is the only other newspaper in Montana that provides political printing services. Steve Bullock’s gubernatorial campaign has already paid the Billings Times for more than $3,500 in printing services during the current election cycle. In early July, the company also served as a platform for Bullock’s announcement to reduce the state’s business equipment tax.

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