The axe falls again 

One week after the Missoulian announced the elimination of seven staff positions, the Hamilton-based Ravalli Republic reported a newsroom restructuring that cuts three full-time and three part-time editorial personnel while adding one senior reporter. Both newspapers are owned by Lee Enterprises, which projected significantly lower profits in its last quarterly report.

“I don’t see any lapse in local coverage as a result of the layoffs,” says Republic publisher Kristen Bounds. “We’re hoping to continue to bring our readers timely and accurate information that reflects things they want to hear about in the community…We feel really positive about the direction that we’re taking.”

One name connects to both rounds of cuts: John Cramer covered the Missoulian’s environmental beat before he was let go along with his wife, business reporter Pamela J. Podger, on Aug. 27. Cramer started work as the Republic’s new senior writer Sept. 4, one day after layoffs were announced to the paper’s employees. Bounds declined to comment on the specifics of Cramer’s hire and how it related to the Missoulian layoffs except to say, “They were two separate events. We’re very lucky to have John join our newsroom.”

Bounds attributes the layoffs to the same challenges affecting newspapers across the country: higher transportation and production costs mixed with a generally poor economy. Under the restructuring, she says the paper plans to hire one more copy editor/writer and existing staff will absorb the rest of the workload.

Specifically, Bounds says photographer Will Moss and sports editor Stacey Lishok will write more feature stories, in addition to their current responsibilities.

“It gives everyone in our department an opportunity to do a variety of things,” says Bounds. “Everybody will be wearing a lot of different hats.”

Jenny Harris, voted Bitterroot’s Best Reporter by the paper’s readers in July, was among those let go by the Republic. The restructuring leaves 16 current employees in Hamilton, and Bounds says the paper will share support staff with the Missoulian. In addition, the two papers will also continue to share content. For instance, Monday’s Republic featured a story by Missoulian city reporter Keila Szpaller and the Missoulian has recently run stories by Perry Backus, the Republic’s current editor and a former Missoulian staff writer.

“The Missoulian occasionally runs Ravalli Republic stories and has for a long time, even before I took over as publisher,” says Bounds. “It may not be as often as it has been, but that’s a long-standing relationship I expect will continue.”
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