Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Bruce Moats: An introduction

by Bruce Moats
| April 24, 2024 12:00 AM

“The boy is finally home.”

That is what my nephew wrote in a text when my wife, son and I moved back to my childhood home, Superior, a few months ago.

I graduated from Superior High School in 1974. My family operated a small ranch just east of town. My father, Lee Moats, died that year of a heart attack at the young age of 51. One of my eight brothers (I have one sister) continued to operate the ranch for a while, but now there are just a couple of horses in the fields. “Town” has steadily grown out to our doorstep.

I retired my law practice at the end of last year after 27 years of representing mainly “ordinary folks” against either government or moneyed interests. I also represented reporters working to bring information about their government to the people.

Before going to law school at the University of Wyoming, I was a journalist for 15 years. After graduating from the University of Montana, I moved to Lovell, Wyoming, serving as reporter/editor of the weekly newspaper. I then moved to Sheridan, where I eventually became editor of the daily, The Sheridan Press.

The decline in reporters, especially those covering local government and issues, should concern everyone. The costs of government go up, according to one study, when a community loses a newspaper and the reporters who perform the grinding journalism of sitting through countless meetings, and often reporting facts that those in power don’t want you to know. We must fear the day when we have to depend on government websites, or those with an agenda, for information. 

I am glad the Mineral Independent and its reporters are still serving the Mineral County community, and only hope to complement their work. The newspaper management has graciously allowed me to write this column as a way to give a little back to the Mineral County community that gave me such a great start.  

The plan for the column is taking you all along as I rediscover my birthplace.  

While this is a column, it will not be filled with opinions.  Everyone has plenty of their own. Citizens in a democracy need facts. 

A democracy cannot survive without an informed public. James Madison understood this when he wrote:

A Popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it is but a Prologue to a Farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and the people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

Knowledge is power. Those who wish to restrict the information you know want to control how you think and, more importantly, how you act. Think of the times when you have changed your mind upon learning a new fact.

The classic “good guy v. bad guys” movie demonstrates the role knowledge plays in our decisions. What you know about the characters determine for whom you root. If the script has law enforcement chasing evil men, we root for the cops.  If the movie has corrupt cops, we root for the hero who has been made to look like a bad guy.

Facts matter.

Bruce Moats is a retired attorney and former editor of The Sheridan Press in Wyoming. He lives in Superior.