Help wanted, denied 

The problem with having a near monopoly—instead of a complete one—is that you can’t control as many things as you’d like to. A newspaper can decide, for instance, to not run classified ads submitted by other local publications. But when the other newspaper in town finds out, there’s only one thing to do: hang up on them. That’s what Missoulian Publisher John VanStrydonck did Monday when this reporter called to ask why he recently turned down at least two publications’ help-wanted ads.

Brian Eder, publisher of the Missoula-based biweekly Clark Fork Journal, says he tried to place two help-wanted ads in November—for an ad sales rep and a writer— but “the sales gal said they had to pull them because the publisher said they were unacceptable.” When Eder asked why, he was told to take it up with VanStrydonck, so he left two voicemails but never received a response. The Clark Fork Journal’s November bill from the Missoulian reflects that two ads were “pulled by management.”

Eder says he was confused about the refusal, as his small publication isn’t exactly big-time competition: “Who am I?” he asks. “I’m a little startup.”

New West, a new online magazine that plans to add a print edition next year, received the same runaround. After placing a help-wanted ad in mid-February for a sales and marketing associate, Publisher Jonathan Weber was told that the daily paper wouldn’t print it. He, too, sought an explanation from VanStrydonck, but several emails drew no response.

“It’s a puzzle,” Weber says. “I thought it was in poor form to not offer any explanation.”

Inquiries to other small local publications found that none had tried to run ads in the Missoulian recently, although one editor said he’d decided to steer clear of the Missoulian after hearing through the publishing grapevine that others’ ads had been turned down.

For the Indy’s part, Publisher Matt Gibson says the Missoulian has never rejected his ads. And for the record, the Independent publishes ads placed by competing publications. However, Gibson said, the Missoulian’s efforts to create barriers for potential rivals suggests a strongly anti-competitive stance.

“The Missoulian is far and away the dominant media,” Gibson says. “Their net profit exceeds the gross revenues of virtually every media company in the county. So for them to engage in these kinds of petty stratagems is really pathetic.”

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