If you're reading this, you've probably already heard the news: Lee Enterprises, owner of the Missoulian,
has purchased the Missoula Independent
, effective today.
This is not a delayed April Fools joke, and it is not a cut-and-paste error from News of the Weird. The Independent
, at least in terms of ownership, is no longer independent.
The paper's staff learned of the sale this morning at a 9 a.m. meeting at the Independent
office with Independent
publisher Matt Gibson, Missoulian
Publisher Mike Gulledge and HR reps from Lee Enterprises.
We were not expecting the news. And frankly we have not come anywhere near fully processing it yet.
Here's what was presented to us: Gibson will stay on as publisher of the Independent
. We will stay in our current offices at 317 S. Orange Street. All staff are being retained at their current salaries. Our benefits just got a bit better.
We are led to understand that the Independent
will retain full editorial independence.
Are we skeptical? Damn right we're skeptical. Skepticism is kind of what we do.
We'll be reporting this story in the days and weeks to come, online and most prominently in next week's paper, the scheduled stories of which we've just scrapped in order to start over with blanket coverage of the sale: how we got to here, what it means for advertisers and for journalism in Montana, reactions from readers and prominent figures in Indy
history, and what you can expect from us going forward.
The short answer to that last question is this: more of the same. We're taking Lee's assurance of editorial independence at face value until we hear otherwise. If we hear otherwise, you'll hear that from us. Right before we hand over the reins to whomever wants that job.
We don't have all the answers yet, but we're working hard to track them down, and we'll let you know what we know when we know it. We appreciate you sticking with us while we find our way forward.