The Sidney Herald’s Incompetence and Bias is Why This Article Had to Be Written
The Montana Daily Gazette, as its publisher explained to statewide press outlets inquiring of the event, stated that it did not plan to publish an article on the event that occurred at 2181 W Holly Street in Sidney, Montana on November 29, 2021. The only press allowed, the publisher (I am the publisher, by the way) told them, was the local press, which could handle the job.
In case this is news to you, we don’t exactly trust the media, but locally, we can at least reach out and shake someone when they get something wrong. For example, when the RoundUp Newspaper “fact-checked” Congressman Rosendale on something he said at a Republican meeting about COVID, I speed-dialed the editor, Jody Wells, and quickly explained it’s not the job of a reporter to interlace articles with “fact-checks” handed down by the Associated Press (AP). Jody was agreeable to my suggestions that such a practice be discontinued and assured us such wouldn’t happen again. This is why we preferred to have local news present…we know who to gripe at when they show bias and are usually quick to make a retraction.
The meeting was to be held for Sidney Health Center employees only at 7 PM. The purpose for privacy was Sidney Health Center workers being concerned about discussing legal strategy in a public venue, rather than a private one.
However, like so many other towns, rallies were held across the state protesting the CMS federal mandate for COVID-19 vaccinations, passed down by the federal government an affront to state and – now we know (thanks to the courts) – federal law. Sidney, although being dwarfed in size by other cities that took place in such protests, came in third in attendance between 120 and 200 people at any given time.
During the protest, which was held at Veteran’s Park, word got out that Sidney Health Center (SHC) employees were going to be hearing from speakers on this subject the next evening at Fellowship Baptist Church, which opened its private venue to SHC employees, as it does for organizations or community meetings regularly throughout the year.
The local protest rally organizer (and GOP county chairwoman), Tanya Rost, conferred with Joe Quiroz, an SHC employee and several others with a conundrum; the public wanted to attend. For example, an 8-month pregnant mother wondered whether the OB would be available, should Jen Doty fire the unvaccinated on December 5. A cancer patient, whose doctor would be fired, wondered what would happen to them. Community members wondered aloud what would happen when many in the Operating Room were fired.
It’s at this time, a compromise was made between myself (MDG publisher and FBC pastor, Jordan Hall), rally organizer, Tanya Rost, and SHC employees; the public would be allowed to attend but would be segregated into the over-flow seating and could watch, but not participate in the event (excepting the legal strategizing) and see what was happening at SHC. The RoundUp newspaper would be allowed to cover the event. One caveat was included; the press would have to promise not to publish the likeness or image of attendees of the event, but only the speakers and cellular phones would need to remain in the pockets of the non-press (like is common at comedy shows, music concerts, etc). SHC workers did not want the Sidney Herald present because of a clearly biased piece recently published that omitted comments from opposition to SHC executives, including those from Joe Quiroz and Richard St. Germain. The meeting would be professionally recorded by Fellowship Baptist Church (FBC) audio/visual equipment and given to Quiroz, who could do with it as he saw fit.
One other caveat was provided; the executive board of the hospital, which was requiring medical or religious exemptions, would have to provide a Freedom of Assembly exemption to attend, and it would need to be taken to an ad hoc committee of SHC workers for approval before being allowed entrance. After all, the Freedom of Religion and the Freedom of Assembly are both covered under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and fair is fair.
It was my prompting – I will take the blame – for talking SHC workers into allowing the Sidney Herald to attend the event. I spoke with Mark the day before, who admitted his previous story was biased because it took place in the hospital’s venue so he gave the hospital’s point of view only. He agreed to our above-mentioned caveats.
The event went swimmingly. More than 100 were in attendance with nearly a dozen or so community members in the balcony and the rest were SHC workers and their spouses, sitting in the main floor. Additional seating was in the Fellowship Hall below, with a 72-inch (or so) television set up, broadcasting the live proceedings. It was not needed, but available.
Upon entering the lobby, a welcome team – complete with welcome badges that say, “Welcome. We are here to help you. Please let us know if you need anything” asked who the individual was, asked them to sign in as SHC staff or community member, and pointed to the proper location to choose a seat. No one was turned away. All were asked to leave their cellular devices in their pockets and to please go to the lobby to make/take phone calls (if downstairs) or a room adjoining the balcony (if upstairs). To repeat: This was to protect the privacy of SHC workers.
I was asked by SHC workers to emcee the event and stated that I would prefer they find someone else, as I was only concerned with providing a venue and earlier in the day told a publication I did not plan to speak. We had many volunteers present to show people the restrooms, provide refreshments, and so forth that I needed to coordinate. Moments before the event, no other emcee was found, so I took the role.
I began the meeting in prayer, and Representative Brandon Ler was asked to lead the crowd in the pledge of allegiance. Sitting next to Ler was Senator Steve Hinebauch, Commissioner Duane Mitchell, and Mayor Rick Norby.
I then began with these words, which you can hear below. The press was free to record the speakers and powerpoint of speakers, including anyone standing on stage speaking (including me, Mayor Norby, etc).
I introduced Joe Quiroz, who works in the Operating Room, who began the meeting.
Quiroz, after some brief introductory statements, which included thanking his wife and co-workers, added, “We don’t want to be told want to do. If you ask me to mop the floor, I’ll do that. But don’t ask me to put something in my body I don’t want to. If you want to do it or not do it, it’s alright. I’m not going to hate you. You have your rights, just like I have mine.”
Quiroz continued, “The folks that want us to do this thing, I don’t wish them any harm at all. I don’t judge them. I want them to succeed in their lives. I want their families to be healthy and fruitful, just like my friends and family. I’m not against them, I just don’t agree with what they’re doing it.
Quiroz then went on to elaborate about the work environment at SHC, before introducing Richard St. Germain, who had been terminated for what is best understood by this reporter for lodging a complaint that hospital execs had broken HIPPA rules (the story, to me personally, is still convoluted; my personal belief is he was fired for speaking boldly in favor of constitutional rights).
St. Germain then spoke, who had been put on administrative leave earlier in the day. He said, “God makes the day and it’s up to us to enjoy the day…God has a plan, and then he expects us to work those plans out. That’s what we’re doing.”
St. Germain seemed oddly unconcerned with his ostensible firing, instead encouraging the crowd to follow their conscience and love one another. St. Germain recalled a previous meeting in which he said, “Listen, I’m not against the people. If you’re not a Christian, pray for these people’s salvation. But the Lord has given us the right to fight for what we think is right.”
St. Germain pointed out that he could get either a religious or medical exemption, but reiterated, “The mandate is not right to put on any citizen of this nation.” He then added, “Intimidation, bullying, is not acceptable at Sidney Health Center.” St. Germain then included a story of the CEO telling employees without the vaccine to “take the walk of shame.”
St. Germain said, “That’s not right. Should I [feel shame] because don’t group-think?”
St. Germain then pointed out there’s a list of 600 or so names, with 100 names – color coded – by whether or not one has been vaccinated. It was disseminated by hospital executives in violation of HIPPA. They then fired him (essentially) for pointing it out.
None of this was reported by the Sidney Herald because in a now-infamous article, Mark Berryman, editor of the dying, out-of-state owned newspaper, claims that he could not see over or through the plexiglass petition in the balcony. No one, in 15 years I have served FBC Sidney, has anyone complained they could not hear as well in the balcony as in the main sanctuary (the speakers are mounted on the ceiling, as one Facebook commenter pointed out). There was soon a deluge of comments on the Sidney Herald Facebook page, on the article which reported the meeting as “Cloak and Dagger Antics Keep Story from Being Told” from people in the balcony with Berryman who reported hearing everything just fine. Comment after comment was left from people present at the event, calling his article – in no uncertain terms lies.
That the meeting could not be heard was a lie, except by the hearing impaired. But Berryman was told he was free to move throughout the building and did not ask for clarification. Had he, he would have been moved directly in front of the 84 inch television broadcasting the event below or the front row – as close to the speakers as possible. One hospitality team member, William Clark (an elected precinct captain of the Richland County Republican Central Committee) did ask me personally if Berryman was free to use his very large camera, placed squarely in his lap. I confirmed he could use it as he wished, so long as photographs were not of attendees, but speakers only. Facebook comments, prior to their deletion, demonstrate that he indeed used his camera. His op-ed complained the plexiglass partition obscured his view and hearing. Afterward, noticing Jody Wells of the RoundUp did not have a camera, pointed out to him directly that as the press he was free to use his cellular phone to take photos or record the event, so long as caveats were followed. Wells will back me up on that if asked.
My secretary took photos of me from Berryman’s seat, which he claims obstructed his view and hearing (above, left).
I took my own photos of my secretary both through the plexiglass and over it. Keep in mind, however, most speakers were on the screen near the ceiling, even easier to see than behind the stage.
This is from Mark Berryman’s exact seat. As you can see, one can see quite well. These were the comments – virtually all of them – left on the Sidney Herald’s Facebook page where Berryman posted the article; those sitting directly behind Mark could see and hear fine, he had a camera and used it, and nobody “stood guard over him.” They did, however, offer him cookies and water during the event.
Berryman, deleted all comments from attendees pointing out he was lying in the article (see below). It’s important to note that I do not personally know but one individual calling Berryman a liar. The rest were community members I’ve yet the pleasure to ever meet. This is isn’t me stirring things up; Berryman is responsible for his own untruths.
I did, however, make fun of it on my personal Facebook page and point out he had scuttled all comments, censoring his own consumer base.
I contacted Berryman after the event to ask where his article was. I received no response. Had he said he planned on not doing one because he was deaf, I would have sent him the video, which includes closed captioning. He chose not to respond or ask what was happening, not to be accommodated, and not to write a story.
People were quite upset he decided to delete all the comments of those in attendance (only one positive comment was left on the article, from a woman who lives in Colorado and suffers mental illness). Some tried to reach out to Berryman to ask why their comments were being deleted. He responded to them the following ways, before blocking them (his customers).
There were no personal attacks on the page, unless pointing out lies is a personal attack. All comments were screenshot by the Montana Daily Gazette before he could delete them (that behavior is typical and predictable). Pointing out a story’s inacurracy is not a “personal attack.”
Afterward, Quiroz thanked the church for the venue and then informed me he was turning on his phone to read something. He read his words, previously written, “There is a willingness to harass, ridicule, demean, intimidate, coerce your subordinates out of fear. Does anybody out here feel that? What do we do about that?”
I then asked the question, “Out of curiosity, and keep in mind the press is not taking pictures of you, how many of you feel harassed or intimidated, raise your hand.”
Almost everyone raised their hands (except spouses, there for support).
I introduced Maria Wyrock with Montanans for Health and Family Rights, who gave a talk that has been asked (to me personally) to keep personal among the attendees. She immediately gave credit to Representative Carlson who helped to pass HB702, and explained that the two of them had “a flow” of working together to inform Montanans of their rights. She also seemed aghast at how many hands were raised (she could see the crowd) of those who felt SHC had become a hostile work environment.
Before ending her talk, Maria told the crowd they would be available to SHC employees in the future.
Rep. Carlson then gave the “ins and outs” of HB702 and spoke of possible upcoming legislation, as well as past legislation. She spoke highly of Rep. Ler and Sen. Hinebauch in the crowd. Carlson said, “If we’ve lost bodily autonomy, we’ve lost everything.”
She went on, “There are five vaccine mandates. There’s the one from the Department of Defense…the contractor mandate for businesses, the OSHA mandate, the CMS mandate we’re talking about today and the Federal Employee mandate.”
She then explained the status of where each mandate stood.
Senator Manzella’s words were brief, pointing out that any such federal mandates are unconstitutional, and vaccine mandates are not a power enumerated to the federal government. Manzella said, “I do believe we will prepare, and we have to prepare for a fight. Stand strong. Stand strong for your children. Stand strong for your beliefs.”
Next came Attorney General Austin Knudsen. Without offering legal advice, Knudsen explained where the law currently stood and how his office was fighting the mandates, with three separate lawsuits currently.
Knudsen said, “This is bar-none the biggest issue people are worried about, and rightly so. If the federal mandate has this kind of power to mandate a healthcare decicision, then what can’t we do? That’s my big concern.”
Knudsen said, “I have to make very clear I cannot give any personal legal advice…it’s my job to defend your rights. Because of the way 702 was crafted, it created a civil cause of action, so [the DOJ] can’t [defend your rights on 702]. It’s a private civil action, like any kind of discrimination, just as if you were discriminated upon by your race, color, or religion and it’s what the Montana Human Rights Bureau is for.”
Knudsen then explained his inability to treat 702 violations like a criminal matter. However, he was not short of opinions on federal overreach. Such is a summary of his talk.
Also coming to mic to speak included Richland County Commissioner, Duane Mitchell, Steve Hinebauch, and Sidney mayor, Rick Norby who pointed out that despite being non-partisan, stood with vaccine freedom. Representative Ler made his comments from his seat. All spoke in defense of the SHC workers present.
Mitchell said, “My overall concern is you all…this whole thing isn’t about healthcare, but our freedoms. You guys are being supported. But you’re also being pushed on to keep going.”
Hinebauch’s comments were also short, but made a notable comment, “This is a freedom issue. It was good to see the people on the screen tonight…this is about freedom. I don’t like to get political about things…but this is a political deal. We had to fight tooth and nail to get 702 passed.” He then ended with an appeal to throw Jon Tester out of office.
There was a moment of humor when one crowd-member asked who the local attorney was who was suing Atttorney Gneral Knudsen over HB702. I (Hall) argued with Rep. Ler for a moment about which one would answer (I’ve written about him many times in the past). Hall conceded to Ler who answered, “The feller I ran against and beat, Joel Krautter, filed that suit.” The crowd applauded wildly.
The Q&A went on for approximately twenty minutes, mostly about related exemptions.
Knudsen answered a final question about the appeal process, before bowing out of the Q&A, and then non-SHC workers were excused while the group talked about legal strategies. They were invited to go to the Fellowship Hall downstairs for refreshments and await SHC workers to come out of the rest of their meeting to thank them for coming, should they choose to.
The End, news consumers.
This is how the meeting ought to have been reported by the Sidney Herald. Instead, Mark Berryman chose to sit in the front row of the balcony – the best possible seat – with a gargantuan camera (which he used) in his lap, and complain that he couldn’t produce an article with the information given because he couldn’t hear it without a cellular device, despite being told he could use his cellular device. To reiterate, the RoundUp had no problem reporting on the event. And now, you know that neither did the Montana Daily Gazette.
The fact is, Berryman didn’t want to write an article. He wanted to complain about not being invited, was invited, and then wrote an article about why he couldn’t write an article.
The Sidney Herald is owned by an out-of-state publication, Wick Communications. It is a dying paper. Wick Communications owns papers in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington. It is time for the Sidney Herald to close. They are down to one reporter; Mark Berryman, who seems woefully incapable of doing his job. Out of the deepest respect for journalism, considering I just had to spend several hours doing his job for him, I would like to offer Wick Publications an interim editor from Gideon Knox Group to replace Berryman until a suitable replacement can be found. Perhaps Wick Communications can partner with Montana’s #1 News Outlet, Montana Daily Gazette, to produce a newspaper the people can rely upon. In the meantime – and I mean this in the nicest possible way – you are embarrassing yourselves.
Or, perhaps, a complete retraction and apology is in order to the fine workers at the Sidney Health Center, and the ‘cloak and dagger’ venue, Fellowship Baptist Church.
[Publisher’s Note: Contributed by JD Halll]