Lost history

bank-phrom-352283-unsplashIf you visited this site in recent weeks, you may have noticed some broken links. My apologies. They should now be fixed.

But the story behind those broken links is worth noting.

On September 11, 2018, Lee Enterprises announced the closing of the Missoula Independent. The venerable alternative weekly newspaper published for more than 27 years — including 12-plus years with yours truly involved as either arts editor or editor-in-chief, and another two as an occasional contributor — until staff arrived for work on deadline day to locked doors.

The closing did not come as a surprise. Alt weeklies have become an endangered species across the country, and recent corporate ownership at the Indy followed by a staff unionization put Missoula’s weekly on notice. But a petty parting shot by Lee twisted the knife.

On the same day Lee locked the Indy‘s doors, the company eliminated the paper’s website and, with it, more than 27 years of reporting. After some pushback from readers and negotiating with the Indy’s union, Lee decided to ignore numerous free options that would preserve this “journal of people, politics and culture” and instead post PDFs of old issues … behind a paywall at newspapers.com.

That’s a disappointing outcome, to put it mildly. Putting PDFs behind a paywall hurts more than just former staff and contributors who need to link to their past work, or  artists who gratefully point toward much-deserved coverage, or decision-makers who want to reference long-form analysis—it essentially erases a huge chunk of Montana history. What was once available with a simple online search is now only found by signing up for a paid service, digging through physical copies at the University of Montana’s Mansfield Library, or sifting through The Wayback Machine. That stinks, especially when other reasonable options existed.

Personally, I’ve kept copies of most of my work—the most noteworthy of which you can find here. But literally thousands of other bylined pieces of mine are gone or stuck behind a paywall, along with countless other stories by hundreds of more talented writers, including the likes of James Crumley, Steven Rinella, Melissa Stephenson, Susanna SonnenbergRick Bass, Stephanie Land, Dan Baum, and … It’s a long list, and it doesn’t even begin to take into account the award-winning images, illustrations and local comic strips. Again, what an avoidable bummer.

As former Indy arts editor and current filmmaker Andy Smetanka put it: “Nuts to you, Lee!”

1 Comment

  1. […] would like nothing more than to link to the full Indy article, but alas I can’t. I tried to find it among the crumbled links of the Wayback Machine, but it’s not there. I […]


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