Remembering The Day Missoula’s Weekly Publication Died

by Travis Mateer

While Susan Reneau commemorated the terrorist attack on 9/11 yesterday, it was a different Susan that caught my eye on Twitter, reminding me of another event that happened on this infamous date:

I went to my archives to see how I took the news that day four years ago. Here’s an excerpt:

Today was just made all the more depressing by breaking news that Missoula’s alt-weekly, the Missoula Independent, is shut down as of 8am this morning. The doors are locked, the corporate overlords are smiling and Matt Gibson is victorious over the unionizing staff he threw to the corporate wolves.

This move will have implications that reach far beyond Missoula. Shutting down the Indy is not some isolated, objective financial decision, it’s a corporate message of intimidation to any other Lee Enterprises staff thinking of unionizing.

The years have not been kind to our local information market. But wait! Maybe Lee Enterprises has realized that slash and burning newsrooms makes for a shitty product that can’t sell ads because NO ONE READS IT!

Is that what we’re supposed to make of this headline? Lee adds 12-person Public Service investigative team. From the link:

Lee Enterprises, parent company of the Missoulian, is shining an investigative reporting spotlight across its 77 daily news markets throughout the country.

Lee recently announced its new 12-member Public Service Journalism team, comprised of veteran reporters who will operate in three teams across the company’s East, Midwest and West news regions.

The investigative reporting roles are newly created positions intended to drive public accountability journalism throughout Lee’s local news markets, including the Missoulian.

Wow, that sounds fantastic, especially the part about “public accountability journalism”. I think we should get the whole team for the Western region out to Missoula for an examination on what happens when an information landscape is decimated by corporate shareholders, leading to arrogant heads of public institutions–like Sheriff Offices and Police Departments–getting even MORE arrogant about what they think should be withheld from the public.

Instead of a weekly publication of paid professionals, Missoula has the unconventional effort of someone like me, still hung up on that SWAT incident at the Red Lion on August 31st that I was assured was NOT a training by a PIO that surely would be in the know if it were.

If the Western Team deploys to Missoula, where little old me is taking pictures of the building where I think someone was shot by someone in authority, then this is the kind of amazing resources they could bring to our information desert:

The regional Public Service Journalism teams will assist reporters in local markets with access to public records, track taxpayer money and government spending, examine data related to health, crime and safety issues, and serve as watchdogs for communities across the country. In their previous reporting roles both inside Lee newsrooms and in other news markets, these team members’ work has helped free the innocent, put the guilty behind bars and change laws.

Yes, this sounds pretty impressive. Really makes an unpaid journalist like myself wonder what could be done in this town with that kind of support.

Maybe they could help me shake this feeling I have that the Red Lion in Missoula is more than just a semi-skeevy hotel, one that changed owners back in 2013 to a company by the name of RASM Properties. Here’s what Sam Hossain had to say back then about the hotel purchase:

“This property is in a great location and Red Lion has a good name in Missoula,” said Sam Hossain of RASM Properties, LLC, new owners of the hotel. “We look forward to keeping Red Lion guests happy.”

Do guests like to hear flash bangs? And SWAT actions? Maybe some guests DO like that kind of stuff, that’s not my business. What I would like to ask Sam Hossain, or Syed Hossain, is whether or not master keys were given to a member of law enforcement BEFORE this “unfounded” incident that needed such a BIG law enforcement response.

I haven’t found a direct phone line or email to either individuals, because the Cadastral just provides information like this:

I’ll keep poking around and handing out my card, like this one I found outside my studio the other day.

Well, my deepest apologies. Seeing as how I didn’t get the money, I don’t think, I sort of know how you feel.

Thanks for reading!

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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1 Response to Remembering The Day Missoula’s Weekly Publication Died

  1. webdoodle says:

    None of the PSI people Lee is touting are even in Montana. The closest is McDermott in Spokane, and his ‘specialty’ is “environment, growth, extremism and crime”. He and Martinez sound like more culture war propagandist too me, but I haven’t actually read any of there work. I’ll try to keep an open mind.

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