Reporter suggests that Post Office coverage should include point that Congress doesn’t fund U.S. Postal Service

I was glad to receive an email this morning from Matt Hildner, The San Luis Valley Correspondent for the the Pueblo Chieftain. He commented on my recent post arguing that reporters should question Rep. Scott Tipton about how his request that the U.S. Postal Service take a thoughtful approach to cutting rural post offices squares with his heavy-handed demand that the federal discretionary budget be cut by 10 percent, across the board.

Here’s our exchange.

Hi Jason,

My name is Matt Hildner. I cover the San Luis Valley for the Chieftain and I wanted to contact you about your post on the post offices.

While I don’t disagree that politicians should always be questioned on why certain budget decisions are justified when they normally pound on the need for cuts, I think the post office issue doesn’t apply, since the postal service hasn’t been funded by congress since 1982. I’ve linked to the semi-annual report of the agency’s inspector general below if you want to verify that.

Obviously, it’s on me as a reporter for not including that information in the story and it’s a worse story because of it.

If you feel like sharing this, feel free to quote from any section of this e-mail or attribute to me by name.

Inspector General report (see the introduction, page 3, seventh page overall including table of contents, etc.)

My response:

Hi Matt –Thanks very much for getting in touch.

I agree that this is different than your typical story about a politician who, say, voted to eliminate federal funding for military bases but then fights to keep all the bases open in his district.

That’s why I asked Fred Brown about it. It was an inconsistency in Tipton’s approach, not a flip flop, that was the problem, so it wasn’t necessarily an obvious point for a journalist to bring up.

Previously, Tipton advocated a 10 percent across-the-board cut for the federal budget, which is a heavy-handed approach to budget cutting. He didn’t suggest targeted cuts that would be less disruptive or possibly even more efficient.

Then, when it comes to the Post Office, he’s suggesting a highly detailed analysis, with special concern for rural economies, transportation issues, safety, etc.

Why is he being so much more careful about budget cutting in this case, whereas before he was acting like the clichéd elephant in a china shop?

Maybe Tipton’s “cut-the-federal-budget-across-the-board-by-10-percent” line made a good campaign slogan, but actual budget cutting hurts people and should be done with more care, like he’s advocating now with respect to the Post Office?

So the fact that the Post Office isn’t funded by Congress doesn’t matter.

Do you see what I mean?



Hildner’s response to my response:

Jason, Thanks for the reply. I understand where you’re coming from. If someone repeatedly uses a meat cleaver but then questions why someone else isn’t using a scalpel, it merits a question from reporters.  At the same time, I believe reporting needs to make clear that Congress doesn’t hold the purse strings here, which, again, is something I failed to do in the story linked in your post. I think both the question and the funding fact have a place in the story.

At any rate, I appreciate the exchange and am always glad to read your posts. 


My response:

Thanks.I wish I’d called you prior to posting. I will do so next time.

I’d like to post our exchange if you are willing?


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