A roundup of recent coverage of Jon Krakauer’s “Missoula”

krakauerbookcover.image1. Missoulian reporter Kathryn Haake talks with Kelsey Belnap about a letter the Missoula County Attorney sent trying to stop publication of the book. Belnap said County Attorney Kirsten Pabst‘s letter shows she continues to blame victims. “I’m just angry,” Belnap said. “I no longer get sad about this. I get mad. People can be really awful.

2. My story about Pabst’s decision to attend a disciplinary hearing at the University of Montana. Retired Dean of Students Charles Couture said Pabst’s presence was “totally inappropriate.” A longtime member of the Montana State Bar ethics committee said the prosecutor’s participation gave her “great pause” and raised “red flags.”

3. In the Indy, Erika Fredrickson‘s review of “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.” Said Fredrickson about the book: “If you’re not going to read it because your feelings are hurt, you are definitely part of the problem.”

4. Columnist Dan Brooks in the Indy on why we can hate a book we haven’t read. “You can’t write an accurate book about rape and call it Missoula, because rape is bad and Missoula is good. That was the prevailing opinion of Krakauer’s book before anyone read it.”

5. Montana Public Radio’s interview with Gwen Florio, who covered the events in the book and describes Krakauer’s reporting as accurate. In an interview with news director Eric Whitney, Florio said the book is a “faithful representation” of the cases in Missoula: “It is so scrupulously sourced.” Florio won an award for her coverage and is now teaching journalism at the University of Montana. Pabst claimed the book has inaccuracies. “Do tell,” said @jhwygirl on Twitter.

I made a mistake when I wrote about the announcement of the book’s release. I asked Pabst if she had been interviewed by the author, and I didn’t ask enough questions. She said she had not been interviewed, and she also said the author did not contact former County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg.

I should have followed up to find out if Krakauer had asked Pabst for an interview. In fact, he had done so a few days before I asked her whether she had been interviewed. So Pabst had not been interviewed, but only because she declined to answer questions.

In my story this weekend, Kerry Barrett talks about the way the prosecutor characterized her role in the UM disciplinary hearing. Pabst had said she wasn’t there on any one party’s behalf but as an educational witness who would provide a “civics lesson” to UM. In the book, the author quotes Pabst speaking in support of the accused man.

Said Barrett, a witness at the hearing for the woman who reported the rape: “For years, I’ve been trying to draw attention to this, and (Pabst) kept saying, ‘I wasn’t there on his behalf.’ Now, the truth is in the book. It’s told from transcripts, so she can’t lie anymore.”

Dean Couture*, who presented the case at the 2011 hearing, described Krakauer’s representations in the book as factual and accurate. He’d read the first half of it, which includes information about this hearing. Couture still doesn’t understand the reason Pabst felt compelled to be a witness: “She has not, as far as I’m concerned, made her true intentions for being there clear.”

At the hearing, Barrett observed Pabst and the parents of the accused student acting warmly with each other, as though they were “old friends.” The parents and Pabst both denied they knew each other or had spoken before the hearing. Pabst said if she was friendly, it’s because she’s a friendly person and was warm to everyone she encountered at Main Hall.

That could be. I hope we are asking enough of the right questions to get the whole truth; I’m certain we will sooner or later.

– Keila Szpaller

*Couture said he is still bound by privacy but can discuss material from the case that is now in the public domain.