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Lee Enterprises shuts down weekly newspaper in Missoula

Posted at 10:26 AM, Sep 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-11 19:14:16-04

MISSOULA – The press was shuttered Tuesday morning at Missoula’s weekly newspaper.

Derek Brouwer, a staff reporter at the Missoula Independent, confirmed to MTN News that he received a letter from the Missoulian at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday with a follow-up phone call 20 minutes later telling him to not report to work.

The letter to Brouwer stated that the Missoula Independent was closed as of Sept. 11, 2018 and that staffers should not report to work.

Brouwer told MTN News they are still employees of the paper until Oct. 10,  saying they are trying to understand what “we can say about the situation.”

Lee Enterprises, which owns the Missoulian and the Billings Gazette daily newspapers, bought the Missoula Independent 17 months ago.

Independent staffers unionized five months ago.

An online effort “Save the Indy” was launched recently to garner public support for keeping the weekly operating.

MTN News reached out to Missoulian General Manager Matt Gibson for comment about the shutdown but he has not yet responded. Gibson previously owned the Independent before selling to Lee.

Executive Secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO, Al Ekblad, released a statement on the Independent’s closure Tuesday:

“The decision by Lee Enterprises to shutter the Missoula Independent is beyond reprehensible. Lee Enterprises clearly has a limited sense of loyalty to the fine people who deliver Montana’s news day in and day out for the people. Furthermore, Lee’s decision to close the Missoula Independent after its staff recently voted to organize is a blatant and transparent attack on workers’ rights and an attempt to intimidate their other employees throughout the state.

Due to extreme corporate greed and mismanagement, Montana is losing an institution and the state is worse off for it. Shame on Lee Enterprises.”

RELATED: Lee to Missoula Independent union members: Cut staff by 3/4 or shut down paper