These days, when it seems like most of Missoula is fighting over who is more pro-business than whom, it seems worth mentioning that the two bureaus who are supposed to be boosterish are, in fact, battling each other. It came to our attention last month, when we received a letter from the chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce, Kim Latrielle, outlining “a situation that has occurred between the Missoula Chamber of Commerce and the Missoula Downtown Association.”
What could possibly come between two such sunny groups? Well, just a few weeks ago, the Downtown Association issued its new, slick, four-color pamphlets promoting businesses in the city center, complete with a street map, pithy slogans, and six cards plugging specific shops and activities. But four of the six cards, it turns out, featured businesses that are not Chamber members—or as the Chamber put it, they “list competing businesses to our existing Chamber membership.”
What happened next has sparked something that can only be described as a Battle of the Boosters. When the Downtowners sent 9,000 of their promo cards to the Chamber visitor center to be put on display, Chamber officials promptly returned 6,000 of them, stating that they do not promote non-Chamber enterprises. Only the cards dealing with Missoula history and public art remain on Chamber racks. According to MDA director Linda McCarthy, the move did not go over well downtown. “Our board didn’t feel very good about it,” she reports.
For her part, Kim Latrielle is demure about any perceived conflict between the two groups. The Chamber will continue to back downtown businesses, she says, as long as it’s not at the expense of her dues-paying supporters. “We’ll still promote all of the events and the attractions,” she says of Missoula’s center district. “But we gotta stick to our members, and that’s what we do.”
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Finally, the mainstream press has gotten something right. On Sept. 7, the nation’s standard-bearer of indifferent accuracy, The Christian Science Monitor, became the latest member of the old-guard media to profile a trend that to them seems new and forehead-slappingly fascinating: the growing success of America’s alternative newspapers. And chief among the Monitor’s subjects were your obedient servants here at the Missoula Independent.
In a lead article, regrettably titled “Free and Quirky,” Monitor staff writer Kim Campbell outlined the worldview of the nation’s alternative newsweeklies (one she described as “brimming with attitude”), and focused her attention on some of the nation’s most exemplary alternatives, including The Village Voice, Seattle’s The Stranger and, of course, us. “In Missoula,” Campbell wrote, “a college town with culture influenced by the Pacific Northwest, the alternative paper is going head-to-head with the daily.” From there, esteemed publisher and local gadabout Matt Gibson was quoted as saying that the paper you now hold in your hands is “the best read alternative weekly in America.”
If you have a hard time believing that the nation’s most staid newspaper really thinks we’re cool, you can read the article for yourself at www.csmonitor.com in the online archive. But don’t tell anyone about this, OK? We’ve got a reputation to protect.