MISSOULA – The presses came to a halt Tuesday morning at Missoula’s weekly independent newspaper.
Derek Brouwer a staff reporter at the Missoula Independent confirmed to MTN News that he received a letter from the Missoulian at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, with a follow-up phone call 20 minutes later to not report to work.
The letter to Brouwer stated that the Missoula Independent was closed as of Sept. 11, 2018 and that staffers should not report to work. Brouwer told MTN News they are still employees of the paper until Oct. 10, saying they are trying to understand what “we can say about the situation.”
Lee Newspapers bought the Missoula Independent 17 months ago, with Independent staffers unionizing five months ago. An online effort “Save the Indy” was launched a few weeks ago to garner public support for keeping the weekly operating.
Union members employed by the Independent told KPAX two weeks ago that Iowa-based media company offered them an ultimatum to lay off three quarters of their nine-person staff or that they would shut down the paper entirely.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Indy’s website is now redirected to the Missoulian’s website. Access to archived Indy articles cannot be found and are redirected to the Missoulian.
Executive Secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO, Al Ekblad, released a statement on the Independent’s closure Tuesday:
“The decision by Lee Enterprises to shutter the Missoula Independent is beyond reprehensible. Lee Enterprises clearly has a limited sense of loyalty to the fine people who deliver Montana’s news day in and day out for the people. Furthermore, Lee’s decision to close the Missoula Independent after its staff recently voted to organize is a blatant and transparent attack on workers’ rights and an attempt to intimidate their other employees throughout the state.
Due to extreme corporate greed and mismanagement, Montana is losing an institution and the state is worse off for it. Shame on Lee Enterprises.”
MTN News reached out to Missoulian General Manager Matt Gibson for comment about the shutdown, but he has not yet responded.