Never miss a post. Subscribe today.

Montana Politics The Media

Our Dailies in Death Throes

The news just keeps getting worse and it’s breaking my heart.

The final blow was this.  It’s an all-important story about the Kardashians, America’s most hyped family and their recent trip to Montana.  No need for that boring, in-depth reporting on state government or Montana politics.  Give the people what they want.

Here’s a short chronology on how my heart got broken this past week:

Last Thursday, it was revealed that Lee Enterprises was closing its office in the Capitol and canning its state bureau staff (what else would you call it when the two reporters are told to reapply for their jobs at lower wages?).

Then there’s the Independent Record‘s trolling of Intelligent Discontent’s very own Don Pogreba.

Then this Missoulian story about Lee Enterprises suing former publisher Jim McGowan and a few ex-sales people (but no news stories yet on the state bureau layoffs).  Back in my marketing and advertising days, two of the saleswomen listed in the suit were my sales reps.  They were sharp, committed, industrious folks.

Then there is the where’s Sherry rumor, as in Missoulian editor Sherry Devlin.  Ms. Devlin is one of the Missoulian‘s biggest cheerleaders, always doing management’s bidding under trying circumstances and working her butt off for the paper.  Her departure would be shocking.

Finally, there’s the above Kardashian story.  According to Billings Gazette Editor Darrell Ehrlich, instead of focusing on state government and politicians, the new state bureau reporters should look at news on an “issue and regional level.”  Let’s hope the Kardashian piece isn’t a sample of what’s to come.

All this is bad news for anyone wanting information on politics and government instead of breaking stories on celebrity breast implants.  For me, personally, it’s crushing, and although I’ve always thought injecting family history into posts is tacky, the following might give the reader some context into my heartbreak.  My grandfather, Don Anderson, negotiated the deal that brought the Anaconda Company’s papers (a major part of the “Copper Collar”) into the Lee Enterprises fold.  My father, John Talbot, was publisher of the Missoulian in the 1970s and early 80s.  To the best of my recollection, he took an early retirement when Lee Enterprises asked him to move to Davenport, Iowa, for a management position at the company’s headquarters (good choice, Dad).  He’s loath to talk about it but I imagine his heart is breaking, too, at what’s become of Montana’s newspapers.  I was going to follow in the family footsteps but part way through journalism school I realized that I took notes poorly, hated doing research, and wrote slowly and not that well (so I blog!).

Which is really scary, because, you don’t want to get your news from me.  I’ve broken a couple of stories but usually I’m offering up jaded analysis and opinion.

I think Missoula Independent’s opinion writer, Dan Brooks, summed it up best:

There is a difference between what I do and reportage. The difference is the good people of Montana can produce their own opinions without people like me, but without people like (state bureau reporters) Johnson and Dennison, they cannot produce their own facts.

It’s a downward spiral, and the internet and blogs have become news’ worst enemy.  Former state bureau reporter Mike Dennison had this to say:

The Internet is a blessing and a curse. It’s great to have the information, but the Internet has undercut newspapers’ entire revenue plan, and that’s what’s leading to these types of decisions.

So, as a blogger, I guess I’m partly responsible for the demise of the daily.  Funny thing is, I’m as addicted to the dead tree edition that is delivered every morning as I am to my first cup of coffee.  I much prefer reading the news, opinions, box scores, comics, etc. in that format.  But I’m not sure for how much longer.




If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


Click here to post a comment

Please enter an e-mail address

  • I would hope that Johnson and Dennison bring their skills, expertise and experience to the blog arena. Hell, they live here too! I would think that they would now enjoy the fact that they could write whatever they want without being edited. It’s what bloggers have been doing for a long time now. And I for one am greatly thankful for that, for I gave up on the dailies a long time ago. There’s nothing left in them of value except local sports scores. The Spitoon is pathetic. Every day now nuthin’ but cop news, military news, and religeeous bullsh*t. Sad way to try to run a newspaper for a profit!

      • Great idea, James. Do it. Thank you in advance. BTW, you’re a helluva journalist yourself! You’re right up there with Ed Kemmick, Don Pogreba, and David Crisp! (My heroes) I have always said, and I maintain this still, that Montanans ALWAYS rise to the occasion! I’ve seen it happen too many times now. Just when we think we’re whipped, Montanans step up! I hope Mike and Chuck, and yes, even jon adams, now step up and do what they need to do! I don’t know what this happens, and I can’t explain it, but it gives me tremendous confidence to know that our great state and its landscape inspires such folks to great heights!

  • Small circulation newspapers, which serve Montana’s rural communities, stopped doing journalism years ago. I let my subscription to the Livingston Enterprise (Yellowstone Newspapers) lapse when the February 26, 2013 edition was dated the wrong year.

  • Find it all rather odd the decision to replace Devlin by advertising for a new editor one week before Krakauer’s book smashed the reputation of a small town. Equally puzzling was the overt slant in their coverage. Keila Szpaller clearly hero worshipped Krakauer, a relationship he no doubt curried. Consuder how cash strapped Lee Z Publishing in, if someone walked in the door with $1 million “investment” with strings, I choose editor and zi have final say over content. Since when in hell does this blatant bias pass for news? Arse licking yes, news no.

Support Our Work!


Who Are You Supporting in the Democratic Primary for the Senate

Subscribe Via E-mail

Follow us on Twitter

Send this to a friend