Members of the Missoula Independent staff union are calling upon the paper’s loyal readers and advertisers to help us tell Lee Enterprises that Missoula still supports its alt weekly by participating in the #KeepMissoulaIndy campaign.
Lee Enterprises recently told the Missoula News Guild that the company may shut down the 27-year-old publication it purchased in April 2017 unless the union agrees to cuts that would get rid of almost all the paper’s staff. Such a paper might have the name of the Independent, but it would no longer actually be an independent news organization. Lee Enterprises is based in Iowa and owns about 50 daily papers, including the Missoulian. It had never managed an alternative weekly publication before purchasing the Independent last year.
Members of the Indy’s editorial, sales, production and events departments unanimously formed a union in April to have a voice in decisions about our future and the paper’s future. The staff seeks to ensure the paper remains the fiercely independent publication its readers and advertisers trust.
After just two bargaining sessions, Lee Enterprises said it is not convinced Missoula can support the Indy any longer. The paper is losing money, but it’s far from hopeless. However, none of Lee’s proposals so far have demonstrated a serious effort to make the paper viable.
“We’ve seen the finances under a non-disclosure agreement,” bargaining committee member and reporter Derek Brouwer said. “Especially after the deep cuts already made to staff in recent months, we believe the paper is close to turning a profit. Getting there will take mutual commitment and compromise. We need to show Lee’s out-of-state decision makers that giving up simply because staff unionized would be a mistake.”
The union urges the paper’s supporters to stand up and show it by posting on social media with the #KeepMissoulaIndy tag, writing letters to the editor to the Indy and Missoulian, buying local coupons through iDeals, buying or extending advertising contracts with the paper, and coming to a solidarity event at the Union Club on Sept. 7 from 7-9:30 p.m. More information is available atmissoulanewsguild.com.
“The support we have received since unionizing has been outstanding, and we’re incredibly thankful,” said Ariel LaVenture, bargaining committee member and Indy marketing and events coordinator. “Now, we ask our supporters to help us take action and show Lee Enterprises the importance of our ‘Free Thinking’ newspaper, and its countless contributions to keeping Missoula a vibrant and independent community.”