By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Thank God it's Friday, Missoula.

That muscle between your shoulder blades aches from sitting at the keyboard all week. So does the lower back. If your eyes are like mine, they probably crossed around Wednesday. And maybe your mind is dizzy with unfinished tasks.

We've had a busy six weeks here at the Missoula Current, and you've likely noticed some changes. We're nearly finished with an update to our homepage – a big deal that marks our first anniversary in business.

This time last year, our site was relatively small, though to me it still marked an achievement – the beginning of something new. Back then, we had room for only three stories and little more. We had no archives, no photo library and no history.

What a difference a year makes.

What a difference a supportive, entrepreneurial community makes.

Thanks to the tech folks at Cedar Mountain Software – a local company – we've redesigned our website and expanded our content, along with our partnerships. We now offer game coverage on the University of Montana's athletic teams, and we're pushing to expand our local content on the arts – an area that makes Missoula special.

We've also joined the Montana Newspaper Association, and through a partnership with the School of Journalism at UM, we now offer daily legislative coverage. Our video feed is up and running, and you'll begin to see more digital content there as well.

While I could go on about the improvements to our digital platform, there are other changes coming that I wanted to mention. Starting next week, subscribers to our daily morning newsletter will notice a redesign here as well – and a new banner.

In a unique partnership between Missoula Current and Last Best News in Billings, the newsletter will be distributed under the name Montana Today. Don't be alarmed – we're not going away and neither is our news-leading content. We're simply expanding our reach beyond Missoula – a move that will benefit our sponsors, widen our readership and include more content.

Over the past year, we've broken several big local stories, and as we move into our second year, we'll continue to expand our focus on local news while staying true to our primary areas of coverage. In that process, our readers will notice a new byline in Sherry Devlin.

While Devlin's name will be new to the Missoula Current, it won't be new to Missoula or the world of journalism. She's been in the business since 1979 and has produced award-winning stories on a number of issues. She also taught the trade and led the Missoulian as editor for a decade.

Boil it down and Devlin's contributions will make the Missoula Current even stronger. She joins our community outreach coordinator Lisa Vachio, and our advertising manager Holly Ondrasek, in what I consider to be a strong Missoula Current team.

Having the right people in place makes all the difference.

When I think back to this time last year, the Current was small and little more than an upstart business searching for direction. While the Current remains short on resources, we're big in heart and ambition, and we believe the news should be free to all readers.

Unlike our primary competitor, our site has no paywall, no surveys and no takeover ads. We want to keep it free and open, believing it will result in a community that's more informed and more engaged. At the same time, we realize that passing on the revenue that comes through subscriptions places us at a great disadvantage, given that it takes money to produce professional news and maintain the platform needed to distribute it.

To that end, we've launched a Patreon site that makes it easy for those who are willing and able to sign up for a small monthly contribution. We're talking $4 or $5 a month. Patreon makes it easy to do, and with your support and small monthly contribution, we can begin to plan to employ more writers, offer more unique digital content, and prove that the news can be locally supported without a distant corporation calling the shots.

Thanks for a great first year, Missoula, and Stay Current.

Martin Kidston is the founding editor of the Missoula Current. A Marine Corps veteran and University of Montana graduate, he formerly worked at the Helena Independent Record, the Billings Gazette and the Missoulian.