The Missoula Independent Not So Independent Anymore

by William Skink

The Missoula Independent has been bought out by the corporate media beast, Lee Enterprises. After turning Montana dailies into shit by firing, consolidating and regionalizing content, Lee has turned its corporate crosshairs on Missoula’s weekly alternative rag.

Will the Indy now bring us important, cutting edge stories like this one about how the Air Force is struggling to remove a Humvee stuck on a muddy road in Montana? We can only hope.

Selling the Indy to the corporate raiders at Lee is just one more sad sign of what Missoula is becoming. But don’t worry, Indy journalists, your new corporate bosses will let you keep your jobs, for now.

I guess when it comes to reporting on things like bonuses for the Lee executives responsible for degrading our media landscape we’ll have to rely on online startups like Missoula Current.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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9 Responses to The Missoula Independent Not So Independent Anymore

  1. JC says:

    The interview with Matt Gibson on MTPR really sucked. When he says that he isn’t concerned about what the Missoulian might do in the future, or taking editorial control, I knew it was going to be a big problem. Gibson just cashed in his retirement fund, and I’d give the Indy maybe a year till the Missoulian kills it by either bringing it in house and turning it into a weekly insert for the Missoulian, or just outright killing it. Of course, the turf is ripe for another group of folks to come in and start up some good competition!

  2. Bob Williams says:

    Anybody notice how Missoulian went from four carefully chosen lifts from newspapers like LA Times/week, to two lifts per month. Everything else lifted from AP. Operation dull edge!

  3. djinn&tonic says:


  4. JC says:

    Ed Kemmick at Last Best News has a great read about the Indy emasculation today and lots of links and quotes from others:

    …if the history of Lee Enterprises over the past 20 years is any guide, last week’s announcement was the first note of the Indy’s death knell. Whether it survives six more months, a year, or even longer, I am convinced its days as an independent newspaper are numbered…

    [Lee’s] mission has been to cut costs, consolidate operations, reduce the payroll and shrink its newspapers, while always making sure that its top executives were extravagantly rewarded for the supposed business savvy it took to slowly dismantle the company.

    It is impossible to believe that the Indy was purchased for anything but one of two reasons: either so it could be shut down, eliminating an important competitor, or so it could be milked to maintain the flow of dough back to Iowa.

    Milking the papers is what Lee does… The Indy might be allowed to maintain some form of editorial independence for a while; it will never be allowed to maintain financial independence.

  5. JC says:

    Kidston’s article at the Missoula Current about the Indy purchase raised an interesting point:

    I spoke with Matt Gibson on Thursday and asked him why he sold. His was strictly a business decision based on his publication’s advertising challenges. You can’t blame a guy for making a decision he believes is in the best interest of his product, no matter how unpopular that decision may be.

    “Advertising challenges.” Uh-huh! Indy’s advertising challenges are something I know about. My partner’s business has had a yearly advertising contract with the Indy until this year. Over the 4 years we did business with the Indy, it had many challenges. Those challenges included advertising reps that continually made huge mistakes like printing the wrong ads, forgetting to print an ad, not doing callbacks when messages were left, charging the wrong amounts.

    Basically, the advertising crew at the Indy were inept, or poorly managed. I’m sure that will change when Lee takes over. The whole advertising business will move in house at the Missoulian to “improve efficiency.” Otherwise, the milking of the Indy for ad dollars will fail. Or maybe the plan is to let the advertising routine at the Indy fail so bad that the paper is nuked.

    But the final straw came this winter. When it came time to renew the contract, we had heard that the Indy’s rep that we had worked with had left the company. So we waited for the new rep to take over the portfolio and get ahold of us. But no call ever came. And our ads quit running the week after the contract expired. And we had had enough of the incompetence at the Indy and decided to spend our advertising dollars elsewhere. We were a small contract — weekly ads in the small-mid range size, not high dollar placement. But that smallness to the the Indy was not small to us. It was an essential position for us that we reluctantly gave up.

    And it was several thousand dollars a year that the Indy left laying on the table. Sheer incompetence. No wonder Matt Gibson was in a hurry to cash in his retirement fund.

  6. Matthew Koehler says:

    Look on the bright side. George Ochenski’s columns may appear in the Indy again. Of course, that would be ironic considering that very short term editor Robert Meyerowitz “forced out” Ochenski back in 2012, and a few days later Ochenski was picked up by the Missoulian.

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