A “Celebration” to Forget — Forecast for the Indy’s Coming of Age: Cloudy and Murky


On Saturday, the Indy is “celebrating” its coming of age. 21 years is almost as long as I have resided in the Missoula area, always respecting their devotion to their duty as an alt-weekly for the left. Yet how can the Indy celebrate — particularly just after canning its premier writer, George Ochenski? Or maybe the Indy is celebrating the purging of its most prolific free-thinking writer over those years. Go figure.

In any case, I’d urge folks to boycott the Indy’s celebration tomorrow. Better yet, pray for rain and cold winds to dampen its coming of age party. Because that is what the Indy has just done to free thinking in Missoula with its shift to the right and a new editorial policy: a dampening of free thought.

And expect Sunday’s hangover at the Indy to be filled with regrets over its actions, particularly once they start figuring out that the community is pissed with its new direction.

Expect much more from me and 4&20 in the future on the Indy’s sell-out to a less controversial — and less informative — style. There is no replacement for the work George has done over the years. His body of work at the Indy is irreplaceable, and unreplicable by any writer they might dig up to fill his shoes.

But for now know that some of us are exploring new avenues for journalistic expression in Missoula and across the state, now that we cannot rely on the Indy to do the deep digging necessary to keep those of us on the left informed. With the Indy’s unexplained actions, it has become more imperative that alt news sources spring forth to fill the gaps that the Indy’s purge will inevitably leave behind.

Update: Folks might want to remember that the Missoula Independent’s inception was inspired by the Missoulian’s firing of Dick Manning after he became too effective of an investigative journalist with his expose on clear cut logging in the region. Similarly, the canning of George Ochenski will inspire a new generation of journalists to move beyond the stodgy, ingrained attitudes of entrenched journalism like the Indy seems to exhibit under Meyerowitz.

  1. when you build a dam and provide no outlet, water always finds another way around. so also, the dissemination of information. if the indie turns its back on those who seek non-corporate pre-packaged news and commentary, we will seek another way to find it.

  2. Feel free to log on here and celebrate the work Ochenski has done over the years.


    Tell us why you value his column. Give us some examples of writing that helped progressive lean on the rudder. If the Indy is going to “celebrate” this weekend after dumping their most valuable contributor, why should we not celebrate the extensive volume of informed, hard-hitting analysis Ochenski has given the state?

  3. Steve W

    The name is 21 years old.

    The editorial philosophy has changed over the years, for the worse, IMHO.

  4. Matthew Frank

    Evidently JC and others think that the only thing that makes the Missoula Independent independent is George Ochenski. I love George, and I wish he was still writing for us, but it’s pretty disappointing that folks would disregard the Indy’s 20-plus person staff and stable of award-winning writers who contribute to the paper every week. You wrote that Ochenksi’s departure “will inspire a new generation of journalists to move beyond the stodgy, ingrained attitudes of entrenched journalism like the Indy seems to exhibit under” our relatively new editor. You also said “we cannot rely on the Indy to do the deep digging.” Are you serious? Do you read the paper? George was a columnist, not an investigative reporter. (By the way, a few weeks ago we won an award for the best investigative reporting in the Northwest.) I won’t defend George’s dismissal, but some of the responses to it, including this one, are uniformed and insulting.

    • JC

      Don’t build a strawman where none exists, Matthew. Nothing in what I wrote was meant to insult the Indy’s writers. This is all about editorial policy.

      You may think I or others are uninformed, but Missoula is a small town, and word gets around, and editorial decisions and writings (like Meyerowitz’s take down of the Jezebel piece — that is if he wrote that .etc piece) are on public display on the Indy’s pages. Meyerowitz has a track record of coming into publications and moving them to the right. His writings elsewhere are indicative of where he believes print journalism is headed, and what he sees as some of the solutions.

      I’d like to be proven wrong. But when your Up Front story this week is about the Missoulian’s losing 55 years of experience, all the while the Indy’s editor is in the process of canning a writer with 12 years of experience, something is fishy.

      Can we expect the same treatment of the Indy’s loss of Ochenski as we did your treatment of the Missoulian’s loss of writers? And how about my assertion that the Indy’s presence is due in part to the Missoulian’s canning of their premier investigative reporter, Dick Manning? Do you have the freedom to follow the stories that you want? Or do you have to ask permission?

      Can we get a story about what the future of print journalism is for the Missoulian and the Indy–particularly when the Indy’s editor believes that the future of print is bleak, and that most print pubs are moving online in the near future? That the future of journalism rests with who can best compete for online advertising? What is Meyerowitz’s strategy for keeping the Indy afloat, beings as he doesn’t believe that print will exist much longer?

      I know that some of the investigative journalism that the Indy puts out is great. But can we get a piece about the good-ole boy network that is covering up the rape culture at the U of M and in Missoula (instead of asking others to do it)? Or is that taboo at the Indy? Must protect ad revenue? Sometimes its not what you do write about, its what goes left unsaid in the community that is indicative of the state of journalism.

      • Matthew Frank

        Nothing meant to insult Indy writers? I suggest you reread your post.

        As for the Jezebel piece, Meyerowitz didn’t write it. And I’m perplexed by why you think it reflects poor editorial decision making. It certainly resonated with our readers, judging by the 400 Facebook “likes.”

        Whether the Indy addresses George’s departure isn’t up to me.

        I can assure you that all Indy writers have absolute freedom to follow the stories we want. (My feature coming out next Thursday should be evidence of that.)

        Meyerowitz, who took a job as the editor of a print publication, thinks the future of print journalism is bleak? I have no idea where you’re getting your information or what you’re talking about.

        And as for your insinuation that our coverage is influenced by ad revenue, well, if that was the case, I wouldn’t work for the Indy. One of the reasons I’m proud to write for the paper is its church-and-state separation between editorial and ad sales. Having written for the paper for three-plus years, and knowing the integrity of my colleagues and the reporters who came before me, I know that ad revenue hasn’t influenced a single word we’ve published. There are certainly a few former advertisers who can attest to that.

        JC, you’re way off base. At least we can agree that George will be missed.

        • JC

          Well, Matthew, my goal here wasn’t to get in a pissin match with you. But if you must.

          First off, if Facebook had a dislike button, we could gauge reader response, but it doesn’t, so we can’t. As to 400 likes, that may mean that there are 400 people in Missoula who like dumping on people trying to add some context and material to a story. There’s a lot of neanderthal thinking about rape in Missoula, and that’s part of the problem. Maybe a goodly portion of those 400 people who liked the etc. piece on Jezebel have regressive attitudes about rape. What’s the Indy got to gain by trying to discredit an out-of-state media source?

          As to freedom to write the stories they want, I’ve had other Indy writers tell me a story different than what you are saying. I’m not going to engage in triangulation here, so it’s your word against theirs.

          You want to know about what Meyerowitz thinks about the future of print? Just go and read his facebook page for a while. Lots of good info there. Takes a bit to sift through, but amongst all the regular facebook stuff, there’s some illuminating thought about print, online journalism and about his previous jobs. His thoughts also have been collected with past editorial decisions: http://ilind.net/weeklyconcerns.html

          As to a firewall between ad and editorial, I’ll take your word for it. But I have a lot of influence over clientele’s ad dollars, and have directed $10’s of thousands at the Indy over the decades, so I pay attention, and if I get suspect, I’ll throw out some bait to see what comes back–which is what’s happening here. If the Indy ceases to be “independent,” then other avenues for clients to invest their ad monies will be investigated and encouraged.

        • Steve W

          Matthew Frank, I have a question maybe you can answer.

          How legit are the “Best of Missoula” awards? I know some winners who tell me that they think it’s at least partially fake. They say it’s manipulated by the sales staff to help them sell more advertizing.

          What’s the deal?


  5. JConrad

    Boycott the Indy and their advertisers.

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