Montana Voices: Missoula Indy questions Lee’s commitment to staff, product

Three weeks ago, Lee Enterprise’s corporate representatives were in Missoula. We asked them if organizing efforts, like the successful union vote at the Casper Star-Tribune, were a threat to the company’s wellbeing. They said simply that it happens from time to time, and when it does, they comply with the law.

Of course, that was before we announced our intention to form a union. Now, Missoulian general manager Matt Gibson wants you (and us) to think that our action imperils the newspaper.

He’s wrong.

Gibson deserves every bit of hard-won respect for his work as the Indy’s previous owner. However, the Indy’s future is no longer in his hands. It is in the hands of his employer, Lee, and its shareholders.

Lee is a large company that has survived tough times in a tougher industry, and it hasn’t done so by buying worthless properties. The Independent is said to be struggling financially, but make no mistake: The company is not keeping the doors open as a charity project. Lee Enterprises knows the value of our brand, our staff and our access to you — our audience and advertisers. But every time we ask for basic details about how managers plan to make the Indy profitable, we’re told there isn’t a plan.

We don’t think profitable, publicly traded companies whose corporate executives get six-figure bonuses for hitting earning targets buy unprofitable properties without a plan.

Keeping the Indy around will require sacrifices. Gibson has made some, and so have we. We’re willing to make more. All we ask is to exercise our right to organize.

We really appreciate your support, and have gotten incredibly generous offers of assistance from community leaders we hold in high esteem. If you would like to show your support publicly, the one thing we will ask you to do is send us an email of support to

Tell us who you are, and we’ll add you to our mailing list, and collect your notes to show how much this community values the Indy.

The Missoula News Guild organizing committee