OMG, are you OK?
We've received chocolates from a former Lee employee (thank you kindly), been treated to two cases of KettleHouse beer by a former contributor and longtime supporter (bless you, friend), gotten awkward hugs from near-strangers on the street (uh, thanks?) and had our sign defaced to read "dependent" (it's funny cos it's true, right?).
It's like somebody died.
Listen: Nobody died.
But something certainly changed on the morning of Thursday, April 13, when word spread that Lee Enterprises—corporate owner of the daily Missoulian and a longtime favorite punching bag of (certain) local journalists and (some) readers—had purchased the Independent. Judging by the reaction on Facebook, the sky had fallen.
What are you going to do?
Staff speaking here: We get why you're asking. Boy, do we get it.
We consider ourselves independent journalists, and we have allowed ourselves no small amount of pride in that designation. Editor Brad Tyer, who recently rejoined the staff after editing the Indy from 2002 to 2007, has only ever worked at alt-weeklies and nonprofit magazines. Erika Fredrickson, who's been helming the Indy's arts pages since 2008, came to the paper directly from the heart of the scene she covers. Reporter Kate Whittle, who announced her upcoming resignation weeks before the sale, has spent 5-plus years mastering just about every editorial job we've got. Reporter Alex Sakariassen, aiming for some sort of newsroom record, has been writing for the Indy since 2009.
And then there's reporter Derek Brouwer, who in 2015 took a pay cut to leave Lee's Billings Gazette to come work for the Indy. Because it's the Indy.
Add Mother of Calendars Charley Macorn and that's a collective 30-plus years of Indy experience in our editorial department alone. We mention that not to brag, or to bemoan, but to explain that we have an investment in this endeavor that's too big to just drop.
Changes are coming. We won't know what all of them are until they get here. We won't like some of them.
A lot of you are worried about Lee ruining the Indy. We hear you, and we don't intend to just wait around to be "done to." We're going to keep doing what we've always tried to do: put out the best paper that dedication and a sense of purpose can muster. Lee has an opportunity to help us do that, and Lee has an opportunity to hurt us. We're going to do our best to help them help us.