Molly Ivins died Jan. 31, 2007, at 62. Her political opinion column ran in the Indy for almost a decade, until November, when the syndication service stopped providing the weekly feed and word came that Molly was going a third round with the breast cancer that finally felled her.
For a week, with the news stuck between issues, we’ve been reading obituaries and homages and tributes to Molly lauding her honesty, her folksiness, her progressiveness, her role in teaching women to speak their minds, her steadfastness in holding powerful feet to the fire, her ability to find humor in the bleakest basements of politics, her ceaseless support of the alternative press (including her endless dedication to the tiny Texas Observer, a shining model of the form), her able—and notably female—continuation of the tradition of Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken and I.F. Stone. All true. She was a tireless hero to right-minded Texans and beleaguered liberals nationwide, for whom she provided a giggling antidote to scolding nags like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and a regular-gal alternative to eggheads like Al Franken. In questions of us versus them, she was always one of us, the way we like to think of ourselves: plainspoken, genuine, generous about human nature and dedicated to the idea that hypocrisy, greed and corruption oughtn’t be allowed to progress unchallenged.
That earned her a loyal readership, and when the columns stopped coming in November our phones started ringing, as they must have in the 350 or so newsrooms across the country that carried her. A lot of people will miss her. There was nobody else quite like her.
Which makes the problem of replacing her, in the paper anyway, a formidable one. Since November we’ve been running Writers on the Range essays, reprinted from Colorado’s High Country News, in her place. We think they offer distinctive perspectives on the culture and politics of the West, but we’re open to new ideas as well, and they don’t have to be either/or. Molly was a proponent of the appealingly democratic idea that it doesn’t take an expert to have the best idea, and in that spirit we’d like to invite you to tell us if there’s a column, or something else, you’d like to see in the paper where Molly, alas, can no longer be. Send your ideas—on paper, please—to our new log office at 317 S. Orange St., Missoula, 59801, or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please, have mercy, don’t flood us with calls. We haven’t really figured out the phones yet.