Au revoir 

Thanks for a unique take on this crazy world

I should have done this for Blake de Pastino, the former managing editor of the Independent, but I didn’t… and I regret it now. So this time around, proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks, we’ll get it right and say a big THANK YOU right out of the chute to Ken Picard, the Indy’s primo managing editor who is heading for the Green Mountains of Vermont to get back to his writing.

For those of you who don’t think about what the managing editor does, Ken is the guy who’s been responsible for getting out the Indy each and every week of the year. So, instead of ragging on George Bush’s insane war policies or Gov. Martz’s “clearcuts for forest health” policies, I thought a good, positive way to say “goodbye” to Ken might be to let him know how important the Indy has been and continues to be to so many Montanans.

The Indy gets picked up, read, re-read, given to friends, copied, and accessed online by tens of thousands of Montanans every week. People from all over the globe are dropping in to Missoula’s “alternative” news electronically, and in turn, they are posting web links to Indy articles.

It may seem strange, but this “little” paper now has the fourth largest distribution in the state—and everywhere you can get it, people look forward to reading what the Indy has to say, and digging the great photos and snazzy covers. The Indy is fun. And it’s free.

Here in Helena, you can only get it if you go to the newsstand, where you have to pay the 25 cents in postage it costs to get it here. People smuggle them over the Divide and pass ’em out in the coffee shops and hip restaurants where they are devoured by east-slope residents starved for some “alternative” news.

They read it all. The lead stories, the photo-exposes, Molly Ivins, the film reviews… all of it right down to Chef Boy Ari’s “Flash in the Pan,” which invariably leaves you covered in extra-virgin olive oil (the good stuff) and trailing the delicate aroma of freshly chopped garlic.

Everybody has their favorite parts. My friends in Anaconda say the Missoula Independent is their “connection to the real world,” and they ain’t kidding. Friends in the Yaak, the Bitterroot, the Flathead and up in Libby say the same thing. The Indy gives them what they can’t get anywhere else.

In an era of Gov. Martz and George Bush, tens of thousands of Montanans are looking for a little different take on reality. They’re not really convinced that cutting forests down is the only way to save them from burning or that making global war is the only path to a peaceful future. They want some new views and some fresh opinions, and they get it from the Indy every week.

When the mainstream media seems like they’re all headed in the same direction, it’s the Indy that runs the stories that look at the other side of the coin. As the cover promises, “Western Montana’s Weekly Journal of People, Politics, and Culture” delivers the goods on each and every topic, every week of the year. And it’s Ken Picard who gets it done.

Hate to confess it, but I knew he was outta’ here sometime back. We were sitting in the Windbag in Helena last summer, pounding a couple pints of the great local grog, when Picard spilled the beans. “I miss the writing,” he said. “I really miss the writing.” Clutched fast to her bosom by the temptress of the keyboard, his eyes glazed over.

I didn’t miss the writing—it was on the wall, so to speak, and the writing said Picard was gone sooner or later.

Turns out sooner or later is now.

From street riots to peace signs, from burned forests to torched homes, the Indy brought us a different and necessary way of looking at our world during Picard’s time at the helm. It made us laugh, made us wonder, made us think twice and look twice at the incredible place in which we live.

The paper still does, and will continue to do, what only the Indy does for us all. But Picard will be gone. Vermont will be a little richer and Montana a little poorer for the loss of this talented, dedicated, capable young man. But if ya “miss the writing,” ya gotta go write. And that’s what he’s doing… so go man, go.

Good bye, Ken, and thanks for your work. Taking the liberty to speak for myself and hundreds of my fellow Montanans: “We really appreciate you, mon. Travel safely, have a great life, and thanks for all you did for Montana.”

When he’s not making his editor all weepy-eyed, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.

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