Gazette acknowledges bureau closure, more or less

Lee EnterprisesIn David Crisp’s column this morning, he said he was unable to find any references in any of Montana’s Lee newspapers to the Great Falls Tribune story about the closing of Lee’s Capitol bureau.

In David’s defense, he did say he couldn’t find any such reference “as of this writing,” which was Tuesday night. In fact, as I have just belatedly discovered, there are references to the bureau shutdown in the Billings Gazette today.

Oddly enough, however, all of them are on the opinion page—guest editorials from Jim Elliott and James Nelson and a letter to the editor from Don and Mary Ann Dunwell. As far as I know, the Lee papers have yet to run a news story on the decision to close the bureau and send their two excellent reporters, Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison, packing.

The only nod to the shutdown from Lee is contained in a short editor’s note under the Dunwell letter, which reads: “The five Lee newspapers in Montana will continue to have two state reporters to report statewide issues. Both Johnson and Dennison were given the option of staying or taking a buyout.”

Well, yes, they were given an option, which was taking a huge pay cut or accepting a buyout. Rather like being given the option of lethal injection or hanging. I suppose it’s admirable that the Gazette was willing to print anything at all on this sore subject, but I’m sure it was only because the powers-that-be still have enough awareness to realize how terrible it would have looked to reject two guest edits and a letter on the same subject.

The shutdown was bad enough. The way the Lee papers have handled it just makes the news all the more discouraging.

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