Has the Missoula Indy Silenced Montana’s Establishment Cage Rattler?

by jhwygirl

Any regular reader of this blog knows that I have a deep admiration for George Ochenski, opinion columnist extraordinaire for the Missoula Independent.

For twelve years, the GO has graced the pages of the (not so)Indy(anymore) with his laser analysis of Montana politics. Of national politics. And of everything else that matters.

Ochenski’s analysis and opinion is solid. It’s why we read the Indy. Check this gem out from 2005: Vampire wires: The energy corridors are coming

I mean – How friggin’ spot-on can a columnist get?

So Thursdays are a treat for me. George Ochenski Day. I admit I have on occasion been privvy to a head’s up or two. So perhaps it was that the GO didn’t want to have me get bummed out (or pissed off) any sooner than needed.

To come to find this week’s Indy barren of Ochenski’s column was..well….just plain wrong. The fact that the Indy didn’t have the decency to offer its (maybe now not so) loyal readers an explanation is perplexing.

Twelve years and that’s how its missing primary this-is-why-we-grab-the-Indy column is addressed?

You simply don’t do this to your readers.

I mean – I like the Indy, but I kinda feel like someone pissed in my Wheaties this morning.

It’s early and I have to get to work. I certainly don’t want to wake George with what I hope is a temporary departure. Or a mistake at the printers. Or one of George’s fishing trips gone too long.

And quite frankly, given my reaction, maybe I understand why George didn’t let us know. Or at least me.

The Indy, though, should have rerun a column – because the Missoula Independent isn’t independent without Montana’s sole independent political columnist George Ochenski.

  1. Any idea who’s cage got rattled sufficiently to cause such a self-destructive business decision? By most accounts this is a very well-read, well-respected feature of the Independent.

  2. Matthew Koehler

    People may be interested to know that the Indy “powers-that-be” have removed and censored comments on their website and blog related to this situation with Ochenski, including removing John S. Adams’ MT Lowdown post. Classy, eh?

    • Where were the commenting at the Indy? Link to where stuff was removed?


      • Matthew Koehler

        Here’s what happened. This morning I submitted 3 comments on the Indy site, which pointed readers to the MT Lowdown blog post. This afternoon I went to the Indy site and noticed that my comment was removed from what now appears to be Ochenski’s last piece in the Indy (“Damn if you do”). I looked at one other place I posted a comment on the Indy site and that was removed too. Nobody at the Indy contacted me regarding the removal of my comment prior to two of them being removed. At that point I contacted the Indy Editor and Publisher and was told by the Publisher that I could only make the comment pointing people to the MT Lowdown blog post in one spot on the Indy site, not in three spots. I was given the choice of which place the Indy would allow me to post my comment, so I picked here:


        The publisher of the Indy has requested that I make this clarification, and I happily oblige. Thanks.

        • Matthew Koehler

          P.S. I just realized that I had the wrong title of one of the people at the Indy. Every time I used the word “Publisher” please insert “President.” I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

  3. lizard19

    this is incredibly disappointing. it’s hard to understand just what the hell Robert Meyerowitz thinks he’s doing.

    but this isn’t suprising. there were signs.

    reading Ochenski’s weekly column was also my reason for picking up the Indy. like j-girl, it was a Thursday ritual I looked forward to. it certainly wasn’t to read a movie review by Andy Smetanka (no offense, Andy, I just have to be in the right kind of mood)

    now it’s going to take me being pretty damn bored to pick it up.

    I can’t remember what post it was, but I’m trying to find that link some commenter produced about Meyerowitz’s editorial stewardship in a similar publication in Alaska, because it was basically a sneak peek of this move, which appears to be chicken-shitting out of covering national/international stuff.

    maybe Meyerowitz really thinks it’s a good business move; that people just don’t want to be bothered with that kind of stuff, and would rather read some confession of a pot smoker instead.

    p.s. Indy: your Tamaki Law “Campus rape and sexual assault is abhorrent” ad is pretty awesome, especially after your petty chastising of Katie Baker who came here and did your fucking job for you.

    hey, since you freed up some space, maybe you can run more of that kind of crap in George’s place. etc. snark.

    sad indeed.

  4. Rob Kailey

    I’m making no defense whatsoever of the Indy, it’s business decisions, or it’s editorial leanings. It would be good to keep in mind, however, that the decision to leave appears to be Oschenski’s, regardless of the rhetoric of “forced out”. Saying ‘I can’t work under these conditions’ is not remotely the same as being fired.

    And I find it disappointing as well.

  5. JConrad

    Last week I posted the following comment along with Ochenski’s final column. I thought it would be worth adding to this conversation:

    “Once again out of state powers change life in Montana. We have always been at the mercy of the Federal government and corporations seeking to exploit Montana. Whether it be the Copper Kings or ENRON working behind the scenes to create the disaster called utility deregulation, or wars that our young have to fight and our financed by our taxes, what happens nationally and even internationally becomes part of our lives here.

    Having been a Montanan for over forty years and politically active for much of that time Ochenski has a unique perspective on events. I can’t always agree with him, but I find no one else in Montana or the region approaching critical issues as he does in his column. On national and international events the Montana mainstream media apes national corporate media, and they rarely dig beneath the surface on Montana politics.

    But recently, I have seen Ochenski’s column narrow down with less and less commentary on what might be classified as national or international events. This seems to coincide with the arrival of the new editor Robert Meyerowitz.

    Last week on the 4&20 Blackbirds blog, someone commented on the questionable editorial from the Indy covering the Missoula rape controversy. A comment followed that posted a source of the past performances of Mr. Meyerowitz. This archive of information raises some serious questions about where the Indy might be headed in the future.

    This following url for 4&20 Blackbirds may not post properly here, but just go to 4&20 Blackbirds for May 22.


    Check the following archive about Mr. Meyerowitz and come to your own conclusions:


    After reading the above material, I took the liberty to make the following post. Having lived in the state nearly as long as Ochenski, I must admit it takes time to understand all that is Montana. And when it comes to a progressive discussion, the Indy is something of an institution while our mainstream media has become increasingly corporate.

    Personally, I was amazed (and offended) by the jaded right-wing views presented in Meryrowitz’s editorial, Circus, Circus, where he cynically condemns anti-war protest on Iraq as if he has no regard for freedom of speech or for the suffering of our soldiers or the suffering of the Iraqi people. It must be read to be believed. Now that he is in Montana I wonder if he realizes this is the state that produced Jeanette Rankin ?

    It looks like “free thinking” at the Indy has become little more than an empty slogan.


    The past writing of the new Indy editor, Robert Meyerowitz, posted by AltWeekly, is a cause for concern for those who appreciate the Indy covering issues in a manner that differs from mainstream corporate media. A true progressive he is NOT.

    The Circus, Circus article is especially cynical and shows little concern for the suffering of the Iraqi people or the views of those who speak out about what is essentially an illegal war of aggression.

    Personally, I have been following Ochenski’s writing since he began at the Indy as he pulls no punches when it comes to the “truth” of Montana politics seasoned with decades of his own direct involvement with critical issues. And he slams both parties equally.

    He also presents views of national and international issues that affect us in Montana and are of concern to Montanans. I know of no other columnist in the region saying what he says. We can expect censored views from the big corporate rags, but we come to the Indy looking for improved information.

    Since Meyerowitz arrived at the Indy I have seen much less writing from Ochenski on national and international issues. A friend has told me that Meyerowitz has literally censored Ochenski when it comes to larger national and international issues. And apparently he has been stepping on the toes of other Indy writers.

    But what madness, as what happens outside of Montana does affect those living here. $5 Trillion in tax money (or rather debt) blown in Iraq and Afghanistan is a problem for everyone and very few writers anywhere address the corporate imperial war issues. I have also not seen other Montana columnists pointing out that Social Security funds have been looted (borrowed) by Congress. Etc.

    One can only wonder what the motives are behind this type of editing. Does Meyerowitz have a personal political agenda or has he been brought in to move the Indy to the right to please a less critical audience ? I must admit that I am NOT very excited to see a New Yorker deciding what Montanans will be able to read in what is supposed to be an alternative publication.

    Is the Indy headed downhill like so many other forms of American media ? Time will tell.”

    Posted by JConrad on 05/31/2012 at 1:08 PM

    Now I might have this information wrong (although Ochenski would likely correct me) but one of Meyerowtiz’s draconian forms of editing/censorship was to not allow Ochenski to write on broader topics, national and international, that are not about to Montana, although that seems vague.

    Well, this week Meyerowitz runs an article by a lightweight writer from Oregon presenting very old news about the Sioux claim to the Black Hills. Not a Montana subject.

    So I would like to post my comments to the article, Return The Stolen Land, by Paul VanDevelder.

    “After following Ochenski’s column for a very long time, I am wondering why he is not in the Indy this week ? Instead we get a mediocre out of state Oregon author writing about the Black Hills.

    However, the Native claim to the Black is a very worthy issue that remains alive and viable. But, it has been covered in the past by much more competent writers. The classic work on this topic is “Black Hills, White Justice” by Edward Lazarus. Another work which covers even more ground is “In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse” by Peter Matthiesen. Perhaps the new editor, Meyerowitz is too young to know that the first AIM protest at Mt. Rushmore about the Black Hills was in 1970.

    This issue has been around for a long time, but Montana tribes have a variety of equally important issues with the United States and the state of Montana.

    I recall that George Ochenski, who has been in Montana for over forty years has worked with some Montana tribes on political issues related to state government. He has a comprehensive cross-cultural understanding of many Montana issues. Why is the Indy not running such articles written by a Montanan like Ochenski ? We also have knowledgeable and eloquent Montana Native writers who are rarely given a voice in our media.

    I suppose this is just the beginning of what we can expect from a clueless New York editor running a Montana publication.”

    My opinion is that Meyerowitz is in over his head with little knowledge of Montana and has decided to personally go after Ochenski or perhaps, as I mentioned previously, this could be a decision by the publisher to change the Indy by eliminating of an award winning independent progressive columnist.

    I would suggest that this censorship issue should be opened and circulated up and if Meyerowitz is not put on a shorter leash, it is time to consider rejecting the Indy as well as Indy advertisers.

  6. Big Johansson

    You guys don’t see it, do ya?

    When the Tsunami ripped into SE Asia they were basically two types of people.

    One type looked at the half mile of newly exposed sea bottom and quickly graded buckets to hoard crabs and pretty seashells.

    The other headed for the hills.

    George is headed for the hills.

  7. I think it goes without saying that if George has any opinions to give he is welcome to contact any 4&20 blogger.

  8. JC

    I think it is time for the Independent to have a little competition. Maybe a new free weekly startup could gain some steam as the Indy moves to the right under Meyerowitz.

    • Time to get busy in this place…too bad the pay here sucks.

      • lizard19

        link from Naked Capitalism…nice.

        and yes, time to get busy. if the Indy wants to drop the ball, someone needs to pick it up and run with it.

    • Foolslayer

      Helena is ripe for an independent weekly. The daily Lee rag is a totally irrelevant embarrassment.

      • JC

        Maybe we need a state-wide alt-weekly? Might make for a better and successful business model.

        • Steve W

          JC, timely distribution is a problem. Advertizing is a problem because every area is different so different so pages would need to be published for different areas. Also, the news portion would be statewide instead of regional.

          • JC

            I’m aware of all that Steve, I work in the marketing/publishing industry. It’s just that several of us recently have thought about how a statewide alt-weekly might serve both local and state interests.

            And besides, nothing will put more fear in the heart of the Indy’s overlords than the specter of competition for their advertising revenue.

  9. JConrad

    At the Flint Report, Meyerowitz stated the following about his unwillingness to publish an article on free press in Montana.


    “And he hasn’t been censored. We choose what we publish.”

    This is a pathetic explanation attempting to minimize the reality of his editorial censorship.

    Wikipedia definition of censorship:

    “Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable”.

    I must assume Meyerowitz thinks an article on the importance of free press in Montana is objectionable.

    We only have to go to what Meyerowitz has written in the past so see what he thinks of freedom of speech. In his article, Circus, Circus, he attacks those who dared to protest our war of aggression against Iraq.

    Read on:


    My amazement is why the Indy wants a mainstream hack with no significant career accomplishments to head the most important alternative weekly in Montana which is read in many other places.

    And we only have to look at the tragedy of the invasion of Iraq to see how incompetent and complicit journalism can result in human suffering.

    It was due to the complete failure and conformity of mainstream editors and journalists that there was no investigative reporting reporting done to determine if the Iraq WMD spin was valid.

    All of the so-called journalists and editors marched in lockstep.

    Goebbels would have been impressed by the corrupt complicity of those who create most American media.

  10. If you stand with Ochenski and want answers to why he was axed from the Indy, post a photo and tell us why you value Ochenski’s voice here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wheres-Ochenski/449623451715212

  1. 1 Links 6/8/12 « naked capitalism

    […] fought against their interests” he could lose the governor’s race.” Detail here, here, and […]

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