Montana Newspapers are ‘Lying and Dying’ But New Media Will Take Their Place

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Jim White, quoting an opinion-piece while hosting Episode 61 of Excellence in Voting (EIV) Radio on March 2, made the claim that the “lying and dying Montana press” was collapsing under the weight of its unfactual reporting. Of chief interest to White in the broadcast was the Billings Gazette’s atrociously inaccurate reporting on the Public Service Commission’s Spygate Controversy.

As covered in the Montana Daily Gazette, the Billings Gazette engaged in a misinformation campaign against Commissioner Randy Pinocci, reporting that his lawfully-obtained copies of fellow commissioner Roger Koopman’s emails was tantamount to “spying.” The Billings Gazette also claimed that “according to research” these emails were given to Northwest Liberty News (who reported them) by Commissioner Pinocci. Meanwhile, Jim White, who is responsible for their release, claims matter-of-factly that he did not receive the emails from Pinocci and that the Billings Gazette’s supposed “research” did not include inquiring of the media outlet that released the emails.

As demonstrated by White throughout the course of the webcast (provided below), the Billings Gazette seems to be collapsing in subscription readership and personnel. Additionally, White claimed that the Great Falls Tribune was suffering a similar ailment.

White seems correct in his assertions. The Billings Gazette is certainly hemorrhaging. According to the publication, it had to cut two of its major news management positions. Losing Editor Darrell Ehrlick and Editorial Page Editor Pat Bellinghausen, the newspaper also scuttled much of its opinion pieces, scaling back to just several days a week.

The Billings Gazette claimed that its owner, Lee Enterprises, “has struggled to weather the transition of readership from print to digital” and saw “a 12.5 percent decrease in total revenue from its properties compared to the previous year, even as digital revenue rose slightly.” Lee Enterprises owns five newspapers in Montana including the Billings Gazette, The Missoulian, The Montana Standard, the Helena Independent-Record, and the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton.

White drew a parallel throughout the broadcast between the oft-dishonest reporting of “mainstream media” newspapers and their decline in readership. For White, it’s simply a matter of competition. For many avid news readers, the term “fake news” applies to establishment media far more than the independent press. If anything, American newspapers’ decline demonstrates that a brick-and-mortar building doesn’t make a publication trustworthy.

As the Montana Gazette has risen in readership since it was launched less than three weeks ago, it has already surpassed The Great Falls Tribune, The Missoulian, The Helena Independent Record, Missoula Current, and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in online readership according to the Alexa web-ranking service. And already the Montana Gazette towers above progressive junk-blogs like The Montana Post.

The reason seems to be clear; news consumers want what new-media has to offer. Chiefly, that is up-to-the-minute news in an information-heavy and just-the-facts format without liberal spin or bias provided by locally-owned publications rather than out-of-state investors like Lee Enterprises.

If and when the old-media newspaper industry breathes its last breath, there are plenty of quality publications that will replace them (and in fact, already have).




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