Archive for the ‘Missoula Independent’ Category

By JC

One would think that publisher of the Indy might have gotten a clue to not be so condescending to George Ochenski, or to its (declining) readership. In a Publisher’s Note the Indy released last week, they couldn’t help but take one more punch at both.

“Last week, our preparations led to the end of our long, productive relationship with political columnist George Ochenski. George was a favorite of disaffected Montanans because he derided all those in power with equal contempt.”

Well, some of those people who read Ochenski may have been disaffected. But a lot of people read him for his insight into the intersection of politics and policy. Not all of the people — by a long shot —  who read him are disaffected. And to intimate it to be so is an attempt to marginalize Ochenski and his readership, and the widely-acknowledged importance  (from all political spectrums) of his voice to the debate.

I actually believe that Ochenski’s move to the Missoulian in the long run will be a good thing as his writings will get greater distribution to a far wider audience that needs to hear what he has to say, and I daresay that most of conservative and independent Montanans are anything but disaffected.

And to pan Ochenski’s writings as derisive and contemptuous is such a laughable generalization, that again, the Indy seems to be doing nothing more than sugar-coating their decision to rid themselves of what they seem to view as nothing more than a gadfly.

And to top it all off, the whole kerfuffle has boiled over to Counterpunch in the article “the Decline of Independent Weeklies” (an excerpt out of Corporate Crime Reporter) that lizard so helpfully pointed out yesterday.

“Alternative weekly newspapers used to be crusading vehicles against corporate power and crime. The remaining ones now have morphed into consumer guides for the young corporate class answering such pressing questions as – Who Has the Best Strawberry Daiquiri in Town? How did this happen? Well, let’s take a case in point – the Missoula Independent.”

Yes, the Indy is slowly being reduced to nothing more than “consumer guides for the young corporate class.” And that was born out oh, so well by the absence of two “Up Front” columns, with two full pages of ads in their places.

Much more in the Counterpunch excerpt from the CCR’s interview with Ochenski. And the print version has much more, or so the article says. If anyone has access to the print version, please let us in on any other tidbits that may be revealed.

Note: sorry about the scattered updates of this post. I accidentally hit “post” instead of save draft, and all my edits were live… oops.

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by jhwygirl

I’m done trying to convince the Indy to take a high road. Hell, at this point, even a rocky muddy road would be something. On the other hand, lots of us need closure. So I’m closing it.

Here is the goodbye George column that the Indy should have written.

Dear Readers –

By now many of you have noticed – given the number of phone calls and emails that we’ve received – that 12 year award-winning political opinion columnist George Ochenski is no longer gracing the pages of the Missoula Independent. Montanans have benefited from reading his words on our pages for more than a decade – and from what we can discern, he’s gained a few fans along the way.  We’ve heard that George has moved on – grabbing a weekly gig with the Missoulian. We truly wish him well.

Sometimes in life you find yourself wishing for a do-over. Especially in hindsight. This situation is certainly one that finds us in that position, if only to have handled George’s departure in a different way. Alas, there are no do-overs here. But there is moving forward.

The Missoula Independent values both our staff and our readers immensely – and we recognize it is those relationships which we need to mend. Our choice to not address this situation reflects on the impressions our readers have on the very thing thing the Indy does – writing a weekly independent newspaper. It takes a village to do a lot of things, and the Independent is no different – from our sales and advertising staff, to our copy staff, editorial staff, contributors, and writers – all are integral to the very proud and award-winning work that our readers have come to enjoy over the last 21 years.

Ultimately things most often work out for the better. We certainly hope that is true for both George and us. And while we can’t change the past what we can say, moving forward, is that the Missoula Independent will continue striving to bring Missoula and Montanans and its readers elsewhere writing that is important and truthful and relevant.

Signed,
President Matt Gibson
Editor Robert Meyerowitz

Like I said – the column that never was.

Peace out, Indy.

by jhwygirl

Former Indy – now Missoulian – political columnist George Ochenski was guest today on Aaron Flint’s Voices of America statewide talk show this morning. Work unfortunately got in the way for life for me, but Northern Broadcasting does podcast Flint’s show. It’s in two segments, here and here.

That shift to the Missoulian took all of 5 days.

Flint gets to the Ochenski’s sudden and still unaddressed departure from the Indy immediately, and George tells it from his own words. It’s quite clear that editorial interference in Ochenski’s political writings were the heart of the matter. Flint asks “What really happened with the Missoula Independent?” George Ochenski responds:

“From my perspective, what happened is they hired a new editor that came in from out of state and literally started wading in on my columns. Restricting what I could write about – I couldn’t write about national or international issues anymore – just about Montana politics……

“He started cranking down on the scope of my writing, and then he started doing some, what I thought, were some really irresponsible edits. Changing my words. Putting titles on columns that I would never have put on there.”

Ochenski then cites a change in the title of a column from “Collaborators collision to “Hang the Collaborators,” explaining that he’d never advocate violence against those with whom he disagrees and another where a medical marijuana column Damned if you do had “Med pot court case could sway election” attached as a a subtitle. Ochencski explained that using the term “pot” for medical marijuana belittled the necessity of its use for those that need it.

Once that was out, Flint had a great long conversation with Ochenski, talking about the conservative reaction to Ochenski’s departure, his adventures up in the capitol, his non partisan (but liberal leaning) approach to political commentary – and even…well….testicles. So go listen to it.

A big thanks to Aaron Flint for bringing us a good interview. Hopefully he has Ochenski on again.

By JC

STOP THE PRESSES! There’s been a coup in Zoo-Town!

Time to squeeze another opinion writer in on the Missoulian’s Editorial Page. The Lowdown’s superreporter John Adams has the, uh, lowdown:

“Where’s Ochenski?

Loyal readers of longtime Missoula Independent opinion columnist George Ochenski won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

It didn’t take long for the Indy’s chief rival in Missoula, Lee Newspaper’s Missoulian, to offer Ochenski a weekly space on their opinion pages.

According to an email I just received from Ochenski, Missoulian editor Sherry Devlin has offered to print his column each Monday. At about 750 words, Ochenski’s new space will be slightly smaller than the 1,000 words he regularly submitted to the Indy. But as Mark Twain was keenly aware when he said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead,” longer does not necessarily mean better.”

Much more at The Lowdown, and thanks for unravelling the mystery for us, John!

by jhwygirl

Another working day for the Missoula Independent came and went, and still silence from the Indy blog.

I find it disheartening that the newspaper which has been the instrument for so many of my favorite feature writers over the years – John S. Adams, Patrick Duganz, Jesse Froehling, Skylar Browning, Jessie McQuillan, and Matthew Frank, just to name a few – is continuing its silence to the departure of longtime and award-winning political columnist George Ochenski.

Especially when it has been reported that Ochenski had been shut down on free press column by editor Robert Meyerowitz.

It’s disheartening because the silencing of a political columnist has ramifications to the impressions readers (translate “market”) have of the product a newspaper puts out. Not only is it not good for the readers, it’s can’t be good for the newsroom. As I stated on Friday: “Failure to address Ochenski’s departure will hang over the Indy. It will cloud their respectability as a “Free Thinking” newspaper – and it unfairly disrespects a departure that would be better left with the Indy taking a high road and giving its deserving loyal readers (and a columnist who helped in a very big way make the Indy what it is today) the truthful explanation and closure all parties deserve.”

I still believe that.

Editor Robert Meyerowitz has the forum – and he’s no stranger to writing, either. You’d think that if he felt a need type off a response to a news report that Ochenski had been censored, he’d feel a need to explain Ochenski’s elimination from the pages of the Indy on the pages of the Indy.

Barring that, the truth behind Ochenski’s departure is going to be told. Multiple news sources have inquired just of me (this little old anonymous blogger) on this matter…and undoubtedly there’s been more.

ON Wednesday, Montanans will get a chance to hear it from George Ochenski himself. GO will be the guest of Northern Broadcasting’s statewide talkshow host Aaron Flint (@aaronflint) on his show Voices of Montana.

Flint’s show is on 9-10 a.m. daily. Here in Missoula it’s on AM 930 KMPT (corrected) (I do sincerely listen to 1290 – check my car radio and I was confusing Aaron’s show with the one on 1290), though it can be heard statewide. Check this map to find your local station. You can also stream it from this link.

AND, for you facebook fans out there, there’s a Where’s Ochenski facebook page. I even broke my own protocol and posted a pic over there. Go check it out. And share that page with your friends.

By JC

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.




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