Jamie Kelly, a Missoulian reporter for 15 years, is leaving the paper at the end of the month. As of Monday, he was the only employee who had accepted a voluntary buyout, which the Missoulian recently offered to senior staff in an effort to cut costs.
Kelly declined to comment on his departure. Missoulian Publisher Jim McGowan says the paper's owner, Lee Enterprises, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late January, made the buyout option available to the Missoulian a couple of years ago. McGowan decided it was time to use it.
"Obviously it's been a slow year," he says. "We're not in any kind of dire situation. But I'd heard rumblings of a few folks who were contemplating leaving, so we wanted to test the water to see if that was the case."
McGowan says the paper intends to hire new people to replace Kelly and any other staffers who take the buyout. But new hires may work in different departments, reflecting demands in new areas. "Our whole plan isn't necessarily to [reduce] overall bodies," he says, "you'll just see some shifting around of resources."
The Independent is also making changes to cope with an evolving newspaper publishing industry and challenging economy. The paper has recently taken steps to reduce its distribution in the Flathead Valley. And earlier this month it laid off two employees, one in the display advertising department and one in the classified advertising department.
"We're in a challenging advertising environment," says Independent Publishing President Matt Gibson. "Historically, we've run with a fairly large sales staff in an effort to stimulate growth. But it's just not available in this current economic climate. So we had to right-size, as they say."
In 2011, according to Newspaper Association of America statistics, online advertising jumped $207 million industry-wide compared to 2010, while print advertising dropped by $2.1 billion—which means print losses outpaced online gains 10 to 1.