Newspaper news

by Pete Talbot

National Notice

Montana makes the New York Times election news. There’s nothing groundbreaking but it’s a good synopsis of what’s happening here and about Barack Obama’s chances for taking the state. The reporter, Jim Robbins, writes about Montana a lot. I believe he did a number of stories on the Tester/Burns contest in 2006 for the Times. (Sometimes the Times makes you log in to access stories so I’ve also reprinted the piece below the fold.)

Robbins interviewed former Democratic Congressman Pat Williams for the progressive perspective and state Sen. Joe Balyeat (R-Bozeman) for the, eh, conservative perspective. Joe Balyeat! Might as well interview Ghengis Khan if you’re looking for a right-wing nut’s point of view. Of course, Balyeat states that, “his (Obama’s) radical view on guns … ” is the reason Obama will lose in Montana. We’ll see, Joe, we’ll see.

No Dividends

Hope you’re not holding a lot of Lee Enterprises stock and counting on those dividend checks. It’s hard times in the newspaper industry and Lee, which publishes five dailies in Montana, including the Missoulian, has suspended dividends indefinitely.

It has also cut employee benefits and bonuses for executives. All this was dictated by the banks that are restructuring Lee loans.

This is sad news for a newspaper junkie like me and doesn’t bode well for the newspaper reading public. And my heart goes out to those working stiffs at all the papers who are suffering layoffs, reduced benefits and an unsure future.

I also give kudos to the Missoulian for printing the news story about this newspaper chain’s misfortunes. It’s really bad PR and could have been covered up, but wasn’t.


Seeing a Lot of Obama

By JIM ROBBINS
HELENA, Mont. — This state, with its small cities and wide-open spaces, is not used to seeing presidential candidates. But this year, many Montanans have been pleasantly surprised.

Senator Barack Obama has run an aggressive campaign here, spending about $160,000 a week on advertising and visiting the state five times during the campaign, including spending the Fourth of July in Butte. That kind of attention is unheard of.

“He has a real shot,” Pat Williams, a former longtime Democratic Congressman from Montana, said of Mr. Obama. “Part of it is his incessant traveling in Montana and the lack of a single footprint by McCain.”

But there is one unpredictable factor that may help decide the race: Ron Paul, the libertarian Texas congressman running on the Constitutional Party line here. Mr. Paul’s supporters here asked if they could put his name on the ballot. He agreed, then changed his mind; but his request to be taken off the ballot came too late.

Now polls show him drawing 4 percent, and he is particularly popular among conservative voters in this independent-minded state, just the kind of voters Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, needs.

With polls suggesting a close race, the Republicans are mounting a last-minute push. The Republican National Committee was planning to spend $300,000 to $400,000 in these final days of the race, most of it on television advertising.

Some Republicans think Montana will be an uphill battle for Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, particularly because of the issue of gun control.

“I find it hard to believe, given his radical view on guns, that he’s doing as well as he is,” said Joe Balyeat, a Republican state senator and gun-rights supporter. “I think McCain will win. Hunting and shooting sports are a way of life here.” While Mr. Obama has said he would not take guns away from people, Mr. Balyeat thinks otherwise.

The last time a Democrat won a presidential election in Montana was Bill Clinton in 1992, and that victory was chalked up to Ross Perot’s presence in the race, and his siphoning of a substantial number of votes from the elder President George Bush. But the current President Bush carried the state by 20 percent in 2000 and 2004.

Mr. Obama has worked hard to win the state besides by just visiting. He has opened 19 campaign offices here, while Mr. McCain has none.

Those offices are a base for Mr. Obama’s drive to turn out sympathetic voters.



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  1. newspaperman below deck!

    Follow the rats, they know the way out. If the publishers haven’t closed the gate yet, we might be able to pay 100k in law school tuition to get aboard a lifeboat.

  2. jim

    Tuesday Night Celebration for Missoula County Democrats On Tuesday night, Election Night, Missoula County Democrats will be celebrating in a smoke free environment at the Elks Club 112 N. Pattee St.
    On election night after all of the “Get Out The Vote” calls have been made and all of the doors have been knocked, everyone is invited to join with other Democrats as the Missoula County Democrats celebrate the end of the election and watch the results come in.
    We will be getting together at the Elks after 8:00 pm in a smoke free environment to celebrate. The bar will be offering both drink and beer specials to help us celebrate. And celebrate we should! Hundreds of people if not thousands in Missoula County have been volunteering and working hard to bring us change at the local, state, and national levels. We should be having lots to celebrate. Bring your friends, other volunteers, your whole campaign staff and anybody else who would like to join in the excitement.
    Elks 112 N Pattee next to the Bon/Macy 8:00 pm Victory Celebration

  3. John Larsen

    The saddest thing about Lee (which has lost 95% of its stock value in 30 months) is that the management and the board who ran the company into the ground have NOT been fired. What is amazing about all of this is that newspapers are one of the most profitable industries in America; an average 23% profit year in and year out. Worst of all, (at least in Montana) Lee newspapers print less and less local news and more and more canned junk. In the average American daily newspaper (in Montana the Bozeman Chronicle is about average in this department) 70% of the paper is ads and 30% is news. In Helena’s paper, as a Lee example, the ratio is 18% news and 82% news and filler junk; often entire sections of the Helena paper are completely ad free. Of course the sections are almost relevant news free as well. Lee’s Montana papers, to the extent they are profitable, are cutting costs and sending every dollar possible to the out of state corporate office; little or nothing is invested in Montana; the news coverage, et al clearly illustrates this dearth of investment. The final “nail” is coming soon. I seriously doubt if Lee will exist in five years; if it does, it probably won’t be active in Montana. And, oh, by the way, Montana will probably be better off! John Larsen, Miles City, Montana




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