Mad Missoulian Sues Defectors and Other Stories

by William Skink

If this sounds like a set-up for a Mad Men episode, don’t blame the Missoulian. The paper exists solely for passing cash up to the bosses, and it’s not in the interest of the Lee overlords to report on how it’s toxic work environment has bred defectors jumping ship with alleged proprietary material.

David Crisp covers how the story of Lee Newspapers closing its Capitol bureau wasn’t covered by Lee Newspapers. News spread instead via social media. Ed Kemmick slightly amends Crisp by acknowledging the Billings Gazette did at least run two guest editorials and a letter to the editor.

And now we have the juicy account of a demoted publisher leading a coordinated defection from the Missoulian. Reported by David Erickson, writing for…the Missoulian. Go get ’em, Tiger!

In a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in Missoula County District Court, Lee Enterprises Inc. seeks a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against Jim McGowan, Tia Metzger, Brooke Redpath, Tara Halls and Megan Richter.

Their conduct is allegedly “continuing to cause immediate and irreparable injury to Lee Enterprises,” the lawsuit contends. It also accuses the former employees of deliberate and malicious conduct and of violating several Montana laws, including the Trade Secret Act.

Thems fighting words. And frankly, the whole scenario just heightens the absurdity of what our local media has become.

But weight, it gets even more ridiculous.

I clicked over to ID and read Pogreba’s reaction to the Independent Record trolling him so hard it’s like he’s been sucked down the rabbit hole:

Today the daily paper of record in Helena—part of the same chain that can’t afford to pay its top political reporters salaries commensurate with their experience—put on its web page a slideshow called Ranking the best facial hair in Montana political history.

Among the featured politicians were eminent politicians like Wm. Clark, Marcus Daly, Jon Tester and more.

The only catch about the slideshow (aside from the fact that the paper has the resources to “cover” this but not the statehouse) is that last Friday, I posted my own slideshow called “the best facial hair in MONTANA POLITICAL HISTORY” in an effort to satirize the direction the Lee papers seemed to be embracing. Nine minutes of work later, I felt like I had captured the direction of a news chain more interested in Facebook shares than real reporting.

It’s hard to understand what motivated the IR to post their homage to my work today. Did someone at the Independent Record read my story and actually think to himself that it was a good idea for a story? Worse yet, did someone independently come up with the idea? Is the IR giving up its waning credibility to troll me?

Trolling bloggers, litigation against defectors…is this what our local media has become?

This morning there are sketchy reports that Sheri Devlin, the Missoulian editor, is part of the Lee Newspaper purge. I guess the hits just keep coming. Stay tuned…


  1. Sherry Devlin’s job has been advertised for about a month now.

    We should all, including the advertisers, be boycotting Lee.

    • JC

      I hate to say it, but ever since Sherry took over the enviro beat in the early 90s when the Missoulian canned Dick Manning for doing his job (writing hard-hitting environmental pieces), I’ve been hoping she gets her due. Talk about puff pieces, her environmental writing was tepid at best.

      Maybe this is her retirement, I don’t know. But good riddance…

      • My only question for you, JC: Why do you hate to say it? I sure enjoyed reading it. Writing it must have conveyed at least a little pleasure?

        There is in journalism and academia an invasion of body snatchers process whereby people who are good at their jobs (Manning) are taken away and replaced with people who are not good at their jobs (Devlin). The whole process is obfuscated by praise heaped on those not very good at their jobs by others of the same caliber. It’s group-think, nothing more. We do not have good journalism.

        There is a correlation between the awards people bestow on one another and the value of the work – the more awards, the less value. It’s compensatory behavior. They know what’s up. That’s why journalists are clannish, cliquish, haughty and dismissive of critics, and line their paneled basements with statues and plaques. They know what’s up.

        I did not hate to say that.

        • JC

          I guess sometimes I indulge myself in colloquilisms. I really don’t think that at the time Sherry Devlin was responsible for the firing of Manning — she was a nobody who was going to go soft on the logging industry. But ever since she moved in, the Missoulian has gone from a vibrant newspaper in print, to a hollow shell. She’s emblematic of the demise of the Missoulian and Lee Enterprise.

          Maybe I just didn’t need to make a personal statement about her in public as she’s most likely on her way out too. It’s kind of like kicking the dog as she’s getting hustled out the door for barfing up some rotten fish on the floor.

          Then again, “hate to say it” might just mean that I’m really going to enjoy this… ;-)

        • I was teasing JC – I should have used an emoticon. You obviously have more concern for feelings than me, at least less cyber-disinhibition. I would never make such a comment to her face.

  2. hardtruth

    Anyone have info on the scuttle that Redpath of the McGowan group used a little prevarication artistry in negotiating the account with The International Choral Group and/or The Missoula Symphony? I’m guessing that Keila Szpaller who covers the government beat downtown will be the new editor and they will rename the newspaper: Awesome Americana

  3. hardtruth

    Isn’t being a righteous, progressive defector from The Missoulian a lot like being a young republican….oxymoronic at its frivolous best?




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