Freedom Rings 

Tracing the slow but steady growth of western Montana’s free press

America’s first newspaper, Publick Occurrences, is published by Benjamin Harris. The Governor and Council of the Massachusetts Bay Colony shut it down almost immediately, citing “creative differences.”

Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer found The Village Voice, America’s first alternative newsweekly, in Greenwich Village in New York City. Can Montana be far behind?

February 1991
The office of the Missoula Independent opens in the Montana Building at Higgins and Broadway, featuring a computer and a phone down the hall.

March 1991
The Independent prints its first edition, with a cover story on local opposition to the Gulf War: “(un)Covering the Peace Movement.”

May 1991
The Independent goes from bi-weekly to weekly publication.

September 1991
Rockin Rudy’s places its first ad on the back page. They’ve been there ever since.

May 1992
Under financial pressure, the Independent temporarily suspends publication.

August 1992
Publication resumes, unveiling a new design for the paper. Independent offices move to their current location on South Fourth West, formerly the H.O. Bell Ford shop.

Winter 1993
Debut of the “Calendar Boy,” grandfather of today’s Calendar Kid.

August 1994
The Independent goes from paid circulation (at 50 cents per copy) to free distribution. The new back-to-school “Fresh Facts” supplement also makes its debut.

April 1995
The Independent prints its first full-color cover, illustrating a feature for Earth Day.

March 1997
“The March Massacre”: Editor Eric Johnson resigns, Publisher Erik Cushmen is fired, and several other staff members quit in protest. Dan Oko and Andrea Barnett become co-editors.

June 1997
The Independent’s summer travel and recreation supplement, Explorer, makes its premiere.

December 1997
Current owner Matt Gibson purchases the Independent.

November 1998
Blake de Pastino becomes the Independent’s new editor.

April 1999
Ken Picard joins the full-time staff as reporter and columnist.

October 1999
Andy Smetanka comes on board full-time as calendar editor and staff writer. Carlotta Grandstaff, former reporter for the Bitterroot Star and Ravalli Republic becomes an Independent staff reporter a year later.

May 2000
The Independent wins the General Excellence award from the Society of Professional Journalists, which dubs it the finest non-daily publication throughout Montana, Idaho, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington.

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