Lee State Bureau, RIP

Surprising news was delivered Thursday by the Great Falls Tribune. The Lee Newspapers company is shutting down its State Bureau, meaning that Mike Dennison and Chuck Johnson, the state’s two veteran political reporters, are departing, leaving the company.  Sources with knowledge of the the decision say Lee employees were told that Chuck and Mike were notified that the state bureau budget was being cut and they were going to have to decide whether they wanted to accept it. In other words, cuts in pay.

Lee is actively seeking graphic artists in Billings. So clearly it’s trying to undo its failed off-shoring of Montana jobs to the Philippines. It’s untangling one terrible decision that angered some business customers, while making another terrible decision that will anger readers. Lee Newspapers will apparently now rely on AP stories and (most likely) Cowgirl blog posts.

It’s shocking news. Johnson thus concludes 43 years of covering state politics and Dennison 13 years.  These veteran reporters will be badly missed. Coverage of Montana politics and policy will certainly take a big hit. I almost feel like there has been a sudden death in the family, for it is hard to even imagine the state capitol, and indeed state politics and government, without them.  I will be reporting more on this story as it unfolds but this is the third veteran political reporter (John Adams last year) to depart in recent times. If Lee Newspapers thinks it can get by without a political reporter, that’s a depressing sign of the times for the newspaper business. Lee Newspapers is a troubled company that continues to consolidate its papers, with a decided lack of will to put resources into creating in-depth political coverage.

There will be more on this breaking story in the coming days. If nothing else, Mike and Chuck are always welcome to contribute here. That goes for others as well. If Lee Newspapers doesn’t understand the value of a good political reporter, I certainly do. This blog is always open to publishing the work of anyone who can put a few words together and has something of value to say or to report. And that may even include a few conservative viewpoints as well, assuming someone exists who can express them in proper grammar.



20 Comments on "Lee State Bureau, RIP"

  1. PATHETIC!! Lee is nothing more than ‘Fish Wrap’ and damning indictment!! Where’s Lee’s values? Not for We the People in Montana! Johnson and Dennison more vital than all the ‘teabaggers’ in the legislature!

  2. While newspapers in Europe thrive, the US seems intent, as does Montana in allowing Print to die.

    Sad times we live in.

  3. Cut expenses, improve net profit, strip away Chuck and Mike, help the stock price and maybe prepare to sell off Lee Syndicate Newspaper operations in Montana.

    Sell not what readers want, sell what Publishers want!

    Opportunity knocks! Like others have affirmed, people in Missoula would benefit from owning the water supply operation, and benefit even more from local ownership of the daily newspaper.

  4. Richard Miller | May 22, 2015 7:47 AM at 7:47 AM |

    Lee Enterprises has finally decided to show their real colors. Between their extortion means of subscription rates for the newspaper that has more advertising than news to local writing that can’t pass the latest basic grammar test, it has turned into one gigantic piece of toilet paper. I have been a subscriber for over forty years and because of the latest crap they have pulled, I’ll be one less subscriber.
    This is what you now get from the Billings Gazoo for 58.80 for two months: Access to all of their online content plus a daily newspaper that is delivered to your door(sometimes you have to crawl under the car to retrieve where the carrier has decided to toss it on this day). Mine usually comes with a inked fingerprint from the guy handling the printing right in the middle of an article that I was going to read or so badly wrinkled that you have to get out the iron and spray starch just to read the comics. Guess I will continue my subscription to the Billings Outpost-at least David Crisp knows how to please his customers and readers.

  5. STATE bureau. Sorry, compulsive proofreader here.

  6. Lee Enterprises’ board of Directors is full of Tea-Baggers (fact). Lee’s Wisconsin State Journal was instrumental in ending collective bargaining and crushing the Unions in Wisconsin while backing Walker 110%. It only makes sense that they do not want Montanans to know what is really happening in our Capitol building. True Journalist are not part of their grand scheme….

  7. Is that you, Tokarski, writing under another pseudonym? I could be wrong but it sure follows your broken record, myopic, uninformed view on life, the universe and everything. You are the best at derailing civil discourse. The troll re-emerges from under the bridge.

    • Yes Mark Tokarski, has been banned here Mr. Talbot, The said conversation will be unapproved until the writer submits more information about his identity. The IP address is indeed out of state.

      • Thanks, Mt. Temperence, for the info, but call me Pete …

        • Good Lord, Pete, don’t discourage people from addressing others as Sir, Madam, Miss, Mrs., or Mister. There’s too little of that kind of respectfulness in our world.

          Moreover, Tokarski was not granted a Mister by Mr. Temperance, who has his priorities straight.

          • You’re right, James, but I’ve always considered Mr. Talbot to be my dad – although at my age, I suppose Mr. Talbot is an appropriate title for me. I still bristle at ‘Sir’, though. Now, back to the thread …

  8. Drunks for Denny | May 22, 2015 11:02 AM at 11:02 AM |

    Lee Newspapers are the worst. Watching the Helena IR decline since I first subscribed in 1989 until I stopped in 2012 was very sad. I still go out and buy it on Sundays, but I am about ready to quit doing that. The only content worth reading in it anymore are the obituaries, which are written by someone other than the teenage Lee cub reporters.

  9. Their sin was seniority.

  10. Canceling my subscription. Sad day when the only print media political reporters left standing are employed by the Bozeman Daily Comical.

  11. Does AP have any local political reporters in Montana? Or Helena to be more exact. Their news seems to be outdated and seems to rely on whatever some political windbag told them. I sure do hope the Cowgirl Blog becomes the go to source for information. Otherwise we will all be left guessing what is happening in the State Legislature when we lose two experienced journalists.
    Small consolation, I realize, but corporations can only downsize staff and compensation to a certain point. When performance falters and customers fade away it flows to the bottom line and unhappy shareholders. Then MANAGEMENT has its head on the chopping block. So the company gets sold to a hedge fund or it declares bankruptcy. What a way to run a country!

  12. Drunks for Denny | May 23, 2015 12:37 AM at 12:37 AM |

    The reporting was better in the old days, when the Anaconda Copper Mining company owned them. Any chance we can talk BP into buying Lee Newspapers?

  13. My dad and stepmom informed me last night that they’re dropping their IR subscription. I think the decision was made awhile ago, and because of price. I guess it was about $42 for 13 weeks (my mom pays $14 a month for it), but they were complaining how it was going up to $53 for 13 weeks. Wow, more than $200 a year for this paper?

    They complained how it’s getting smaller and how the ads are more and more. The financial section has been downgraded to about once a month.

    Why on earth would people continue paying for this paper now, when the quality will go down a lot more starting next Friday? What are these execs thinking? Who ultimately made this decision? What’s to stop this decision from being made at other papers?

    Everyone says their all upset about this, well act like it! Don’t mope about, call people up and give them an earful, write letters, shame on social media, and whatever else you can do.

    Chances are it won’t be good enough, however, and you know that. What power does your voice have, and your pocketbook even? If you stopped reading, would it matter? Most won’t. What power do you have?

    Don’t expect the media to be writing like this or asking these questions. It’s probably what they’d need to do to boost sales, but they’re too afraid of offending people, most of all their corporate overlords.

    The previous commenter was right – what’s the real difference between our newspapers today and before 1959? I’d say nothing. That’s about what we’ll do about it too – nothing.

  14. This really saddens me-I’m one of those Nate Blumberg students who was taught that a healthy local press was the backbone of a free nation. It was bad enough watching it develop a severe scoliotic curve to the Right, it now seems to be losing structure entirely. This would be a great time for some wealthy “Liberal” to step in and start a Montana Daily with separate editions, Eastern, Northwest and Southwest Editions would work well I think…Montana has a mountain of good writing talent and given a modicum of effort I might even renew my habit of subscribing to a local paper, a habit I gave up when they became cheerleaders for the dismantling of Montana Power. If it wasn’t for the Cowgirl I’d have no idea what the wingnuts in Helena were up to. Anybody have Al Gore’s number? Wait, after the way he handled Current deal maybe he isn’t the best candidate. I still can’t believe Al Jazeera sent Stephanie Miller off to Free Speech TV in favor of looping the same 4 hours of video all day. I admit they have some excellent reporting but I suspect had they kept Stephanie they would have kept some of her millions of viewers/listeners the rest of the day rather than the paltry 37,000 viewers they now have.

  15. No love lost for Dennison, Adams or Johnson, but half a story was better than nothing at all. This is dangerous in the long run…

  16. Lee Newspapers’ loyalty is to advertisers and shareholders. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld got it right when he quipped “it’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.”

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