The paper originally cost 50 cents per issue. A one-year subscription set you back $50—but included a copy of President Bill, a graphic novel by cartoonist William L. Brown.
The original Indy office was located in the Montana Building on the corner of Higgins and Broadway. It had one computer and a phone down the hallway at another business.
Rockin Rudy’s placed its first ad on the back page in September 1991. They’ve been there ever since.
The Iron Horse Beer Drinker’s Profile also started running as a weekly paid advertisement in 1991. It still appears in the paper every other week.
In 1991, the paper ran a Violent Femmes poetry contest. The winner was M.L. Fiedler with “Why do the Birds Song? (or the Proportional Canon of Chaos Self-Replicate)”
Rob Breszny’s “Free Will Astrology” horoscope column started running during the paper’s first year. It still appears every week.
The First Annual Outdoor Photo Contest was held in February 1992. There was not a second one.
Headline from January 9, 1992: “Stop the slaughter of Yellowstone bison”
The paper printed a quarterly literary supplement in the early ‘90s known as the Montana Express. It included author interviews, book reviews, and submitted poetry and fiction.
Headline from May 8, 1992: “Right-wing ideologies attack PBS”
The editor and publisher announced a one-month break in publication on May 22, 1992, to “reorganize and capitalize.” The paper returned August 21 and still cost 50 cents per issue.
The paper moves in August 1992 to new offices at South Fourth Street, site of the former H.O. Bell Ford Shop.
In 1992, 1993 and 1994 the Indy ran high school writing contests. Kathryn Davidson, of Big Sky, won the 1994 poetry division with “She swallowed the Maalox to drug the worms.”
Headline from August 20, 1993: “Wolves at the Door: With the help of some humans, grey wolves are on the brink of a second coming. But will it be good wishes—or guns—that will greet them?”
Headline from September 3, 1993: “Incoming Stimson’s a timber survivor, but in shaky times, will jobs survive, too?”
The Indy used to run a weekly automotive column titled “Motorhead,” written by Steve Crew aka Steve Bierwag.
Beavis and Butthead “answered” a “Street Talk” question about media censorship in the October 22, 1993 issue. Their answer included “heh” 18 times.
Weekly comics that have appeared in the Indy over the years: “Red Meat” by Max Cannon, “Life in Hell” by Matt Groening, “President Bill” by William L. Brown, “Tom the Dancing Bug” by Ruben Bolling and “Land of Confusion” by Chuck Bordell. “This Modern World” by Tom Tomorrow first appeared in the paper in 1992 and continues to run every week.
In 1994, the paper began printing full softball schedules, standings and game reports. This ended a year later.
The Indy became a free weekly newspaper in summer 1994. It officially joined the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies in July of the same year.
An April 1994 interview with Missoulian photographer Michael Gallacher called him “as close as we come in Missoula to paparazzi” and included a 1987 anecdote of Gallacher matter-of-factly directing The Beastie Boys backstage for a photo. They obliged, but did so while raising their middle fingers when he snapped the shot.
Readers vote in June 1994 to “adopt” the Seattle Mariners as Missoula’s baseball team.
An October 1994 interview with new KPAX news anchor Jill Valley revealed her preference for Coors Light and disco music, as well as her plan to stay in Missoula “for the next couple years…I don’t know.”
The November 17, 1994 issue consisted of 69 movie reviews—with all titles available on VHS—and not much else.
Headline from November 24, 1994: “The end of the two-party system…and a New Party’s hopeful beginning”
In 1994, the masthead included a telemarketing supervisor and four-person telemarketing staff.
In the first Best of Missoula readers’ poll, published in February 1995, the runner-up for Best Comedy Club was the Missoula City Council chambers.
The paper used to run a weekly sports column titled “GrizBiz.”
Headline from March 9, 1995: “The University Community Discusses the Meaning of Rape”
The paper’s first full-color cover appeared April 1995, and featured a story about Earth Day.
Editor Eric Johnson and Publisher Erik Cushman announced in the August 22, 1996 issue that Jeff and Becky Smith purchased the Independent.
The first “etc.” column, By the Numbers, and news briefs appear on pages six and seven of the August 29, 1996 issue. A similar presentation continues in the paper now.
Headline from October 17, 1996: “Baucus leads Rehberg in long trek to D.C.”
Woody Kipp, who had written for the paper since 1991,“decided to quit writing his weekly column” prior to the November 21, 1996, issue. The announcement comes in a retraction of “what may be serious factual errors” in one of Kipp’s recent columns.
Jeff M. Smith, Jr. is listed in the masthead as publisher in the March 13, 1997 issue, with Dan Oko and Andrea Barnett listed as editors. An editors’ note says founding publisher Erik Cushman was fired, a move that prompted four other staff members to walk out. Founding editor Eric Johnson also left, according to the note, for a job in California. It’s known as the “March Massacre.”
Local artist Rob “Rez” Rusignola started contributing regular illustrations to the paper in 1995. Rez continues to illustrate, on deadline, an original comic nearly every week on page seven and the occasional cover.
Headline from June 5, 1997: “Social Insecurity: Missoula agencies struggle to help the poorest of the poor.”
The Independent’s original URL was “everyweek.com.” That web address continues to redirect to missoulanews.com.
The Indy’s summer travel and recreation guide, Explorer, premiered in June 1997.
Headline from October 16, 1997: “Simple compassion requires tolerance of medicinal marijuana.”
A publisher’s note in the December 25, 1997 issue announced Matt Gibson as the new owner of the paper. The note is headlined, “New year, new owner, same Independent.”
The January 8, 1998 year-in-review issue covered “the best of times, the worst of times” and this exchange: “Q: Why give thanks for our jobs at the Independent despite everything? A: Lee Enterprises still doesn’t own us”
Headline from March 5, 1998: “Journalism on the World Wide Web threatens the way it was”
The paper begins publishing Molly Ivins’ political column in 1998. Her column would continue bi-weekly until she stopped writing in late 2006. She died of breast cancer in January 2007.
Blake de Pastino takes over for Dan Oko as editor in November 1998.
In April 1999 the paper started running house ads that announced: “We’re offering cash…for select back issues of the Missoula Independent from 1995, 1996, and 1997.”
Headline from June 17, 1999: “Schweitzer’s War: Whitefish farmer steps up Senate campaign”
George Ochenski made his debut with an “Independent Voices” column in the May 18, 2000 issue. He went on to write a political column for the paper for the next 12 years.
Headline from May 25, 2000: “The Start of Something Cool: Missoula’s music scene welcomes Amy Martin with open arms”
Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament answered “Street Talk” questions in the November 16, 2000 issue, revealing that his desert island album is Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. The musical artist banned from Ament’s desert island? “The singer from Third Eye Blind,” he said. “He’s the most talentless, egotistical performer ever, maybe.”
Calendar editor names over the years have included Calendar Kid, Calendrella, Captain Calendar, Calendar Boy, Calendar Girl, Comrade Calendar and Corporal Calendar.
The “etc.” column from April 12, 2001 is titled, “The truth about who hates the Independent, and why.” On this list: U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (doesn’t return calls), U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns (ditto), Taco Bell (refuses distribution racks due to “corporate policy”), Wal-Mart (ditto), and Lone Pine Conoco (didn’t like a photo of “a naked hippie”).
Chad Harder captured the removal of the original Peace Sign—painted on Qwest’s defunct microwave tower located on the North Hills—in four photos titled “Down with Peace,” in the May 10, 2001 issue.
Headline from August 9, 2001: “Digging for Home: Is the Missoula Osprey’s hometown ballpark finally becoming a reality?”
The weekly outdoor column used to be called “Outdoor Scout” before becoming “Mountain High” in late 2002.
In the issue following 9/11, George Ochenski wrote a column titled “Walls tumbling down” that generated significant reader reaction. “We thought that we could spread a deadly rain of bullets, bombs, and chemicals down on others, but that the oceans would somehow protect us,” Ochenski wrote. “We were wrong.”
Among the reactions to the 9/11 column was a Publisher’s Note the following week that rebutted Ochenski’s column.
A supplement titled “Neighbor to Neighbor, Soul to Soul” was included in the December 20, 2001 issue. Billed as a space for “local, private, non-profit social service agencies to promote themselves,” all advertising revenue was donated to the Missoula Food Bank and Oxfam International.
The paper’s food column started as “a la carte,” by Reilly Neill, and then became “The Wide-Eyed Gourmet,” by Marina Wolf, before “Flash in the Pan,” by Ari LeVaux, aka Chef Boy Ari, debuted on April 4, 2002. “Flash” still runs in the paper every week.
Brad Tyer is officially named editor on December 16, 2002, taking over for interim editor David Madison.
Headline from January 30, 2003: “Wedding bills: The Lege debates the same-sex marriage question.”
In the February 27, 2003 Best of Missoula issue, Andy Smetanka is photographed with a firecracker coming out of his ass. The caption reads: “Try this at home: Missoula’s Best Journalist Andy Smetanka fires off another zinger.”
The August 14, 2003 cover story, “Jerky A-Go-Go,” is a staff-organized taste test of various Montana jerky products.
The March 6, 2003 issue featured dozens of letters from readers sharing their thoughts and feelings about the U.S. military buildup in Iraq. The issue began with a publisher’s note advocating the invasion.
Headline from March 13, 2003: “Betting the farm: Monsanto’s knocking, will Montana open the door?”
Headline from September 4, 2003: “Brennan’s waves: A Missoula kayaker’s vision approaches reality, with a little help from his friends”
The 2004 “Worst of Missoula” issue featured a picture of dog poop on the cover.
Staff reporter Robin Troy interviewed Jesus in the April 25, 2005 issue—or at least the actor, Keith White, who is playing Jesus for the fifth consecutive year in Christian Life Center’s annual Easter Alive Passion Play.
The paper organized the first Golden Growlers in August 2005, volunteering to taste test 21 different local beers and rate them. It was, in retrospect, “conducted … thoroughly half-assedly,” according to the staff. The following year, Golden Growlers 2.0 included 35 beers, assistance from the local zymurgist club and a new scoring system.
The June 22, 2006 cover story featured J.C. Nouveaux, a local woman who believed “all sex is prostitution” and was currently “pimping her pay-to-lay theology.” The issue was pulled from numerous distribution racks throughout Missoula and sparked a church-led letter writing campaign against the paper.
The paper moved offices in January 2007 to its current location, a log building at 317 S. Orange Street.
Then-presidential hopeful Mitt Romney appeared on the June 28, 2007 cover under the headline: “Who’ll stop the pain? Republicans look for a leader in Helena.”
The January 3, 2008 cover story celebrate the previous year’s dubious accomplishments, dubbed “Cluck-ups.” The honor is named after City Council’s year-long debate over the legalities of urban chickens. The Cluck-ups lasted two more years before laying their last egg.
Skylar Browning is named the new editor of the Independent on June 26, 2008, replacing interim editor—and former 1990s-era news editor—Amy Linn.
A January 8, 2009 feature story profiles a pet psychic who claims she has communicated with “dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, raccoons, deer, squirrels, mice, birds, goats, llamas, bears and, once, an elephant.”
Famous musician and Bitterroot resident Huey Lewis calls the Indy from his hospital bed to tell his side of the story on the controversial Mitchell Slough that’s part of his property. The phone call marks the beginning of “Deep cut,” a June 18, 2009 feature story detailing the rocker’s long battle over blocking access to the site.
The 15th anniversary issue of Best of Missoula, printed July 9, 2009, marks the largest issue in the paper’s history at 100 pages. Every Best of Missoula issue thereafter has broken the previous year’s record.
An advertisement in the 2009 Fresh Facts special section incorrectly listed the address of Sportsman’s Bar—”where you’ll find the biggest collection of boozers, cynics, hillbillies, malcontents, miscreants, mountain men, perverts, rednecks, shodders, trailer trash, transients, some great cleavage, horrid manginas and everyone’s favorite bum”—as a personal address near Alberton. The paper really regrets the error.
Lynne Foland, who joined the paper as general manager in September 2006, is named publisher in January 2010. Matt Gibson moves to the role of President.
The entire April 29, 2010 issue was dedicated to beer. The feature traced the history of beer in Missoula, and news stories covered everything from legislative battles to the opening of new breweries. The A&E section profiled artists responsible for local beer labels, a ceramicist who makes artisan growlers, drinking songs and “beer-soaked cinema.”
Robert Meyerowitz is named the new editor of the Independent on April 26, 2011.
The September 29, 2011 cover featurue a streaker who interrupted an early season football game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. The young man appears in action, holding a strategically placed megaphone.
The Indy receives approximately 6,000 emails after The Center for Reproductive Rights targets the paper for not running a controversial week of “Doonesbury” comic strips. In fact, the Indy never ran “Doonesbury” and had been posting links to the strip all week in response to the Missoulian’s decision not to run it.
A publisher’s note posted online June 15, 2012, announces the end of George Ochenski’s weekly political column after 12 years at the paper.
Staff reporter Jessica Mayrer acquires exclusive video showing that injuries allegedly sustained by a young man after a hate crime were actually sustained by a failed backflip off a Higgins Avenue curb. The story makes national headlines and becomes the most viewed online story in the paper’s history.