It must be list-making season once again. Last month, Outside magazine put Missoula on its list of the best American college campuses. This month, High Times magazine has named UM one of the nation’s “Top Ten Counterculture Colleges.” Unlike the Outside list, which ranked outdoor adventure opportunities, High Times’ list ranks campuses where students can get a quality education while pushing progressive politics (read: the campaign to legalize weed).

“What it says about Missoula and Montana and the cause is that in the entire nation, there are these little pockets of progressive communities, and Missoula is now on that list,” says John Masterson, director of the Montana chapter of NORML. “Frankly, Missoula has been progressive for quite some time, but now I think the High Times piece highlights that fact, and confirms that the national eyes know about Missoula.”

Dropping in at #5, our dope-loving campus radicals beat out those liberal stalwarts at the University of California-Berkeley (#6) and University of Colorado-Boulder (#9). Masterson hopes that the kids at Grizzly NORML parlay the recognition by raising NORML’s profile on campus during the first few weeks of school.

“I think it will be good fun for the young men and women starting at UM to find out that they are on a list of top 10 counterculture colleges,” says Masterson.

•••

It was a bit unnerving meeting with Max Media President Linda Gray a few weeks back, because we were charged with bearing some tough news: The station’s “Big Sky News” was going to be mentioned in the Independent’s annual “Worst of Missoula” issue. Max Media owns several TV and radio stations throughout the country, including the local ABC affiliate in Missoula. Over a friendly chat, Gray worked up a considerable guilt trip on the reporter.

“So you’re the underdog paper in town, and now you’re going to be picking on the underdog station?” Gray asked.

Well, gee, when you put it that way, it would seem we at the Indy are horrible monsters who would gladly cheer Old Yeller’s death.

Wait a second—who’s she calling “underdog?”

While it’s true that ABC’s “Big Sky News” is the lowest rated of the three network affiliate broadcasts in Missoula, it’s still owned by Max Media, which, at approximately the same time Gray was pronouncing her company the underdog, was inking a “shared services agreement” with Equity Broadcasting, owners of Missoula’s Fox affiliate, which agreement resulted in the lay-off of five of the Fox station’s six employees. Upon this news, our guilt subsided, and we recognized the “underdog” station as closer to Cujo than Old Yeller.

•••

Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs told those gathered at the recent Montana Wood Products Association meeting in Whitefish that the president’s Healthy Forest Initiative was really the brainchild of Gov. Judy Martz. “I think the president just kind of jumped on board,” said Ohs. That got some laughs, as it should, because most folks know Bush is too busy napping in Crawford to conceive something so ingenious. The true credit likely goes to former timber industry lobbyist and Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who addressed the MWPA crowd, telling them that Sen. Max Baucus stands between loggers and increased profits—err—healthier forests. Baucus has yet to back the healthy forest initiative, and the GOP plan needs some Dems to cross over in order to avoid a threatened filibuster.

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