Lee Enterprises

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From the Guardian, a look at the future of local news

ilustrat

Kathleen McLaughlin, whose reporting career has included a stint with the Lee Newspapers state bureau, wrote a great piece for The Guardian about the steady decline of newspapers devoted to covering local news. The story is full of good, thought-provoking stuff, but here’s the gist of it:
“The real crisis in American journalism is not technological, it’s geographic,” said Tom Rosentiel, fellow at the Brookings Institution who founded and ran for 16 years the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center. “The crisis is that local journalism is shrinking. I wouldn’t say it’s dying but it’s the most threatened.”

This is certainly true in Montana, where a recent study found that people get their news online, but still gravitate most toward the websites of their local papers and television stations. Local press isn’t dead, but it’s fragmented and weakened. Continue Reading →

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Lee goes native with Wisconsin company

Okanjo's logo

Lee Enterprises, Montana’s media behemoth, has purchased a share of Okanjo, a native commerce company in Milwaukee, Wis. Native commerce has nothing to do with business on the reservation. It’s a technique for presenting ads on web pages so they blend seamlessly with news content. Lee’s investment in Okanjo was announced in May, but the two companies had been working together for a year, according to an article in the August issue of Editor & Publisher. The size of Lee’s investment and its stake in the company were not disclosed. Continue Reading →

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Billings Gazette’s new redesign, explained

Kevin Mowbray is CEO of Lee Enterprises.

Somebody was wondering the other day why the Billings Gazette had not announced its new redesign. Good question. The redesign rolled out on July 22, when I was in Texas, so I figured I had just missed the announcement. But going back through the paper, I see no mention of the changes that day, or the next, or on the Sunday opinion pages. Google also didn’t help. Continue Reading →

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Independent looks at state’s newspaper landscape

Independent cover

What happens when a small town loses its local newspaper? Derek Brouwer, a former Billings Gazette reporter now working for the weekly Missoula Independent, attempts to answer that question in a front-page story published yesterday. He writes of the demise of the Bigfork Eagle, which went from independent ownership to becoming a property of Lee Enterprises (publisher of the Gazette, the Missoulian and a few other Montana papers) and then of Duane Hagadone, the owner of a regional media conglomerate. Along the way, Brouwer looks at the venerable Choteau Acantha, a much-respected little paper that has been publishing in Teton County for 123 years. (One of its editors was A.B. Guthrie’s father, and Guthrie worked there as a boy, in the capacity of printer’s devil, a term so old I’m not even sure what it means.)

The article covers a lot of familiar ground—Facebook is the new small-town newspaper, print is nearly obsolete, etc.—but from a purely Montana perspective. Continue Reading →

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Pistol-packing editor says gun was an antique

M.B.

Following up on a story broken by the Missoula Current, the Missoula Independent has new details on the suspension of Missoulian editor Matt Bunk, who violated company policy by bringing a gun to work. Indy reporter Derek Brouwer (formerly a reporter for the Billings Gazette) writes: “In a personal Facebook post he shared Monday with the Indy, Bunk says the incident involved an antique handgun his girlfriend recently gave him as an engagement gift. The editor says he has a concealed carry permit and often wears a gun, but forgot to remove it from his hip before entering the office one day. ‘Someone pointed it out, and I put it back in my car immediately,’ he wrote.” The Missoulian, like the Gazette, is owned by Lee Enterprises, and Brouwer points out that the “antique firearm” excuse wasn’t good enough for another editor at a Lee newspaper. Continue Reading →

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A sad look at the legions of older ex-journalists

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I don’t want to be too depressing on a Saturday morning, but maybe if you never worked in the newspaper business this story will only be interesting, rather than terribly sad. It’s about how tens of thousands of older reporters, editors and photographers have been put out to pasture in recent years as the newspaper industry has withered with accelerating speed. Most of the examples deal with people who worked at much bigger papers than we have here in Montana, but their stories sound awfully familiar. One trend mentioned in the article is that women are being targeted disproportionately when it comes to layoffs. “One woman downsized from the Post,” the writer said, “told me that she ‘always got good reviews and often got raises’ in all of her years at the paper. Continue Reading →

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Lee brass insulated from ‘change of ownership’ impacts

Junck

Finally, some good news from Lee Enterprises. In the midst of stories about layoffs, cutbacks, consolidated “design centers,” smaller papers and higher prices, we learn that there is enough money floating around Lee to upgrade the top executives’ parachutes from golden to platinum. In truth, I don’t know how big the upgrades are, and I suppose it is even within the realm of possibility that the rewards for these folks have been reduced. But that would run counter to every single action taken by the company’s board of directors in the last 15 years. Here’s what we do know: Jim Romenesko, the mostly retired media blogger, reported last week that under an SEC filing dated Dec. Continue Reading →

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Tip of the day: Lee stocks rated a ‘strong sell’

lee logo

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there is yet more bad news for Lee Enterprises, the newspaper chain that owns the Billings Gazette and papers in Missoula, Butte, Helena and Hamilton. InvestorPlace.com has a story today headlined “9 Media Stocks to Sell Now.” Each of the nine rates a “D” (“sell”) or “F” (“strong sell”). Seven of the stocks were downgraded to “D” this week from “C” last week. Lee Enterprises is one of the two downgraded from a D to an F. Here’s the paragraph on Lee: “Lee Enterprises, Incorporated’s (LEE) rating weakens this week, dropping to a F versus last week’s D. Lee Enterprises, Incorporated owns various daily newspapers and a joint interest in several others. Continue Reading →

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A fine farewell from a first-class journalist

Sherry

Sherry Devlin put in her last day at the Missoulian yesterday, ending a remarkable 36-year run there as a reporter and editor. Her farewell column, posted this morning, is as well-crafted, gracious and heartfelt as one would expect. Much of it is devoted to recounting some of the really important stories she and her colleagues worked on over the decades, reminding us how vital, how irreplaceable, newspapers are. But my favorite part of the whole column was its shortest, simplest paragraph: “The work, and all the rigors it entails, has been a joy.” What a tremendous privilege to be able to say such a thing—and in the case of Sherry to mean it absolutely—about such a long career. Continue Reading →

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Contest: Unravel the meaning of new Gazette ad

Ad

It’s contest time! Here’s how it works: We will publish, verbatim, portions of a Billings Gazette employment ad and you, our readers, will attempt to figure out what the hell it means. There will be no prizes because there is no way of determining what the “correct” answer is. We just want you to put on your thinking cap, let your imagination run wild and try to explain to the rest of us what the Gazette could possibly be looking for. The ad, which I could not find online, is on Page D1 of the print edition of the Gazette, in the upper-left corner. Continue Reading →

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