Well, that’s not quite accurate.
At the Missoulian, things had been going to shit for years.
But April 11 was something special.
That, you might remember, was the day Matt Bunk got shit-canned right on out of there.
Oh, you can say that he submitted his resignation and that it was accepted, but I think we all know a good shit-canning when we see one.
Hell, same thing happened to ol’ Charlie Wood at the IR back in ’99.
You just can't bring guns to work, fellas.
But back to April 11.
A deep and dark pall must have lifted off of the news room, at least for a bit.
Remember, employees had been talking of being:
“overworked and underpaid and under-motivated because there is no reason to get motivated because there is no leadership. We’ve had four newsroom employees (leave) since the new editor arrived. The turnover is high. They’ve got great reporters and its unfortunate that they are not getting what they need to do the job they want to do.”
What a travesty, and what a sad state of affairs as well.
Thankfully, a white knight will soon ride into town and everything will soon be coming up roses.
Meet Kathy Best!
Kathy Best started in Illinois as a Quad-City Times reporter in 1980 and by 1984 she’d moved 250 miles downriver to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Best did well there, working in the suburbs, working her way up to an Illinois statehouse reporter by ’86, then to D.C. in ’92. In between she also managed to get her master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.
Nonetheless, the cesspit of national politics must have taken its toll. By ’96 Best was ready to swap one Washington for another.
She headed to the Seattle-Post Intelligencer and stayed in the Emerald City until 2001, when she headed back to the Missouri and the comfy atmosphere of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
She served as the paper’s editor until 2005 when she went to The Baltimore Sun for two years and then to the Seattle Times.
It was her 4-year stint in Seattle from 2007 to 2011 that had Best learning the ropes of the emerging digital news side of the business.
That knowledge, coupled with her earlier gig in St. Louis, got her the managing editor position of the Times, a post she held for more than two years before becoming the editor and vice president of news for the paper.
Oh, and it was also during that second stint at the Times that her work on the 2014 Washington State landslide earned her a Pulitzer Prize.
Now it’s off to Missoula.
Seems a bit odd, doesn’t it?
I can’t help but think this is the final stopping point for Best. After all, she started on the beat back in 1980, a full year before I was even born.
She’s been doing this shit for 35 years already.
You’ll remember from my profile of the troubles at the Missoulian last May that the finances for Lee Enterprises are very, very shaky.
Despite this, top executives – which Best may have become during her time in Seattle – continue to profit, even though huge swaths of the newsroom staff are being let go left and right.
It’s terrible, just terrible what our news industry has turned into, and how it’s swallowing itself up.
No longer are beat reporters like Best when she first started important. Now it’s pop-up video ads in your article, full-size ads when you first get to the site, and hardly any reporting in there at all.
Our current elections in Missoula are a fine example. There was nary a word on any of our school district candidates last month or this, and nothing on our legislative candidates either.
You can bet we’ll have front-page stories for a week or more on all the graduation events surrounding our high schools, however.
People like that, they like the sweetness and light that the Missoulian gives them.
Or do they?
I have a feeling that subscriptions are being canceled like crazy as good reporting just becomes a thing of the past here in Missoula.
Our paper is failing us, our TV stations don’t go in-depth and while the Indy tries to keep up, there’s only so much it can do.
Besides that…what is there?
Me and Skink over at RD and perhaps some hungry college students at the Kaimin for a few months each year?
Shit, we’ve got problems.
But now Kathy Best is in town, and by golly, things should turn around.
The Missoulian had an article introducing Best up on their site around 3 PM today telling us that Best won't start for 32 more days.
The piece was written by a Seattle Times reporter.
I noticed on Twitter that several of the Missoula-area reporters were excited to have Best on board.
We know full-well that Mark Heintzleman is a real terror to work for, though probably not as bad as gun-totin’ Matt Bunk.
Martin Kidston is a fine example.
He's a former Missoulian reporter that grew so sick of the toxic work environment that the Missoulian editor and publisher and the Lee management were shoving down his throat that he quit. He had a helluva story on the troubles swirling around the paper’s management.
The Indy had a lot of good stuff on that as well.
But back to Best. Despite having some Montana connections, I'm leery. Mainly, I just don't think the paper can be turned around.
Look at all those papers she worked for – two of them are owned and controlled by Lee Enterprises.
Well, Lee doesn’t have all of them at least.
The Seattle PI is owned by Hearst and the Baltimore Sun is owned by Tribune Publishing and the Seattle Times is owned by the Seattle Times Company, or more accurately, the Blethen Family.
Kathy Best put 20 years in with Lee Enterprises with the Quad-City Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
I wonder if some deal was worked out where she’ll get retirement from Lee if she puts in a certain amount of time in Montana.
I dunno…I’m just trying to figure out why she’d come here, to this dying newspaper.
Maybe she thinks she’ll turn it around.
I wish her luck with that.
You’ll remember that we profiled Montana, United States and Global newspaper readership back in 2014.
We also took a short look in 2015 at the decrease in the number of Montana newspapers of the decades.
We’ve been talking about this issue for some time, this problem with our dying media, the corporate control of what’s left of it.
I personally feel that Kathy Best is just another in a long line of that.
No, Missoula, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any kind of hard-hitting, eye-opening journalism in the Garden City anytime soon.