There are certainly signs that the Independent Record isn’t doing as well financially as its parent company, Lee Enterprises, would like: they’ve downsized staff,
fired laid off their editor(*), and implemented a paywall blocking online content. Today’s paper seems to brazenly demonstrate a new way to increase revenue, offering a news story and opinion piece that are little more than long advertisements for single companies.
First up, we have an outsourced piece from the Montana Standard extolling the virtues of Sylvan Learning Centers. I can’t even imagine what someone felt was newsworthy about the story. Sylvan is an established business in both Helena and Butte, with nothing new to justify a full story.
Even worse, though, was an IR editorial about Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana. No, it doesn’t discuss the possible dangers of a near-monopoly if BCBS completes its proposed merger with New West. It doesn’t discuss the impact of skyrocketing insurance rates for Montanans. It doesn’t even discuss compensation for the BCBS executives, which grow every year while wages for average Montanans are stagnant.
Instead, it talks about what a great job the company is doing and how hard it is to be the largest insurer in the state.
I’m not naïve enough to think this is the first time that pecuniary interests have motivated coverage in the newspaper; it’s just that it’s rarely been this obvious.
Both stories are a far cry from the paper that was willing to take on St. Peter’s Hospital. I admire the tenacity of the Independent Record when it comes to selling their newspaper. It’s another thing entirely to sell its news.