As we note elsewhere in this issue, our friends and rivals at the Missoulian seem to be going through some dramatic changes these days. And while some of those changes may be curious (where’s the in-house editorial?) we think others are definitely a step in the right direction (the new website’s an improvement).

But the change that encourages us most is the addition of former Great Falls Tribune capital reporter Gwen Florio to the Missoulian news desk. Tuesday marked both Florio’s first day as assistant city editor and her last byline at the Trib (which she used to introduce Montanans to Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s “blue collar” 4,000-square-foot mansion on Georgetown Lake).

We’ll miss her sharp-edged dispatches from Helena, where she gave Lee’s three-headed capital bureau team a run for their money covering politics and state government, but we’re glad Gwen landed in Missoula.

“Given the economics of newspapers these days, and despite some assurances at the Trib, I wasn’t convinced there would be a capital reporter position for much longer,” Florio told us before starting day two of her orientation at the Missoulian. “I was ready to move into editing.”

Florio says there’s new energy at the Missoulian with recent changes in the paper’s editorial staffing, not the least of which are three former Trib writers: Florio; former Indy ink-slinger and one-time Trib education reporter Keila Szpaller; and Chelsi Moy, who covered the capital with Florio before joining the Missoulian earlier this year.

Florio’s got reporting chops we’re happy to see at the state’s second-largest daily. She’s pounded the pavement (and sand) for 30 years as a reporter, editor and copy editor for the Associated Press, the now-defunct Philadelphia Bulletin, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News before joining the Trib in 2005. She’s covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials, the murders of JonBenet Ramsey and Matthew Shepard and the school shootings at Columbine. After 9/11 her editors at the Post sent her to New York to cover the aftermath, and then she traveled to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to cover the first salvos of the so-called war on terror.

We’ll miss Florio’s byline, but if her writing is any indication of the kind of editor she’ll be, we’re betting even her underlings are looking forward to the change.
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