Mike McInally says he never dreamed of becoming a publisher when he joined the Missoulian in 1979 as a cops and courts intern, but the editor of Missoula’s daily newspaper will do just that when he takes over as publisher of the 12,000-circulation Corvallis Gazette-Times in Oregon next month.
Both papers are owned by Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises.
Jerry Brown, dean of UM’s journalism school, says McInally’s departure will be a loss for the community and the newsroom both.
“Mike’s got that ability to set news events in context and to make the kind of judgments about news value that seasoned editors have to make,” says Brown.
McInally, who became editor in 1997, was leading the Missoulian newsroom in 2003 when newly installed publisher John VanStrydonck announced the layoff of nine employees, including 20-year newspaper veteran and city editor Rod Murphy.
“The belt tightening is felt most keenly by editors who have integrity,” Brown says. “I think Mike has made the very best of the resources at his disposal.”
McInally says he’s most proud of his staff’s work on environmental and natural-resources issues during his tenure.
“I would never say the paper is perfect, but I think it’s pretty darn good for a 30,000-circulation daily,” McInally says.
On the flip side, McInally says the Missoulian was late in covering the Libby asbestos story.
“Journalistically, I wish that we had been a little more alert as to what was going on in Libby earlier than we were,” he admits. “I think we played pretty good catch-up and helped move the story forward, but I wish we had been more alert on that at the beginning.”
McInally is currently the president of the Montana Newspaper Association, where he sits on the board of directors of the Montana Freedom of Information Hotline. He’s even made himself available to counsel Independent reporters on occasion without leaking sensitive information to his own news staff.
McInally will assume his new role starting Dec. 5. Lee has announced an internal search for his replacement.