Media magazine takes a look at bureau closure

CJRThe Columbia Journalism Review, the premier publication covering American media, posted a story today about what lies ahead, now that Lee Enterprises has closed its Capitol bureau.

I spoke twice with the reporter, Corey Hutchins, who told me, as he says in the article: “In discussions about statewide alternatives, the name I heard most often was another former Lee reporter: Ed Kemmick. After a quarter century as a reporter and editor for the Billings Gazette, Kemmick started a website, Last Best News, in early 2014.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. As I used to like telling people when I worked at the Gazette: “I’m the Sunday columnist for the biggest paper in the fourth-largest state in the most powerful country in the world.”

It sounded impressive until you unpacked it, as does my current claim to fame, that I run virtually the only successful, ad-supported, online-only news site in Montana. It is successful, but it is still basically a one-man operation and my readership hovers somewhere in the range of 1,200 to 1,500 visitors a day.

Even so, I did tell Hutchins, as he says in the article, that as soon as I heard about the state bureau closure, I couldn’t help but start to think of trying something larger, something like a statewide online newspaper. How could I not? When the Lee Newspapers go out of their way, seemingly, to create gaps that cry out to be filled, one reacts accordingly.

I didn’t mind sharing this information with Hutchins and I don’t mind sharing it here. I want to be an open book, just like President Obama said he wanted his administration to be transparent. The only difference is that I mean it.

Not that anything is going to happen soon. It’s hard enough to run this modest operation. To think of expanding, to take on partners and go statewide—that’s more than a little daunting. Some things are meant to be, though, and the time has never seemed riper in Montana. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

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