The negotiations between the Missoula News Guild and representatives from Lee Enterprises were finalized at the end of September. While we hoped to get a better severance package for union members than the one Lee initially offered, one of the biggest items of concern for us was the fate of missoulanews.com and the decades of Indy stories that were on the site. On September 11, when Lee closed the paper, they also redirected the Indy’s URL to the Missoulian, leaving no way for readers to search for Indy content online.
We’re sorry to say that Lee did not choose to reinstate the Indy’s website. We suggested that it live on as a subdomain of the Missoulian, so that the many local artists who’d been covered could access reviews and features about their work, and so researchers and other reporters could refer to the Indy’s news coverage. That will no longer be an option. Physical papers are available in the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana, and there are some pages archived in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. While the loss of the Indy site is an inconvenience for the former staffers and contributors who cannot share links to their work when seeking jobs or assignments, it is an incalculable loss for Missoula.
Lee Enterprises has decided to put PDFs of the print archive on Newspapers.com (any online-only content, including blog posts are lost for good). The site is paywalled, which means anyone trying to access what was once a free paper can only do so now at $8 per month and freelancers and artists can no longer link to their work. During negotiations, the union suggested Lee Enterprises allow the Wayback Machine, an organization that archives online content for free, to archive all of the Indy and make it free to the public, like a library. Lee representatives declined, saying that the Indy archive is their property and Newspapers.com allows them to make revenue off of it. It should be noted that they could have also made money by leaving the site up and selling ads against the Indy’s content.
We’ll be wrapping things up on the union’s website and social media in the coming weeks. If you’d like to keep up with former Indy staffers in their future endeavors, you can follow the Friends of the Former Indy Staff on Facebook. Contributor Sarah Aswell has been editing the Missoula Tempo, getting arts coverage out. And tonight, there’s an event at Radius Gallery from 5 pm-7pm to talk about independent media in Missoula. And you can sign up for our mailing list here.
Thanks for everything. See you soon.