Back in the Stone Age (12-14 years ago?) I was a member of the Great Falls Tribune Readers Panel, which met on a monthly basis to discuss local issues, newspaper content, and ideas for making our local newspaper more relevant and interesting.
I recall going into the relatively new Tribune HQ down on River Drive South for my first Readers Panel meeting.
Wow. It was kind of like going into the Daily Planet; there was Jimmy Olsen pecking away at his typewriter, and over there was Lois Lane getting ready to go out on the street for a big interview. Where’s Clark Kent?
Or maybe like the newspaper office from Hollywood’s ‘All The Presidents Men’, a bustling, busy place full of chatter and lots of activity. Dustin Hoffman and whats-his-name from ‘A River Runs Through It’ getting ready to break the Big Story.
Well, not quite. But it was a busy place with lots of employees and desks on different floors and in various departments.
And they even had a special room where employees could get a massage. They had a massage room, I kid you not.
I’m not sure if the masseuse was on staff or they brought someone in, but yep, those busy journalistic poobahs could get a little back and shoulder rub without having to run down to Tokyo Massage.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. From massages in the newsroom and a 2000 Pulitzer Prize to an empty building with less than a skeleton crew to service what was at one time the biggest city in Montana.
News came last week that the final vestige of the old Great Falls Tribune will soon be gone. All of the Tribune’s print operation will be relocated to Helena starting July 1, 2020. That means 21 local jobs will be lost.
Oh, we’ll still have something called “the Great Falls Tribune” here, but in reality it will continue to just be another small town propaganda appendage for USA Today and their political/social agenda.
In fact if the infotainment economic model continues to hold true, it probably won’t be long until the goings-on in Great Falls becomes a sidebar note along with the other little communities in a larger regional or statewide newspaper produced in Helena or Bozeman etc.
Either that or the GF Tribune will be a bi-weekly or weekly publication. Wednesdays and Sundays featuring grocery coupons.
Let’s face it, the Great Falls Tribune hasn’t really been a local newspaper for quite awhile now. And the 2000 Pulitzer on alcoholism notwithstanding, they’ve never really done any local investigative journalism.
Like all of the other local mainstream media in Great Falls, the Trib specializes in frothy fluff pieces, little police blotter nose-pickers, high school sports, and cheer-leading for the local status quo establishment, many of whom also happen to be advertisers.
There are several reasons that print media all over the country is going through a crisis and our hometown paper isn’t immune to the trend. I get it. It’s been sad to watch the decline and fall of the Great Falls Tribune empire, truly.
But let me leave you with one question to ponder and hopefully answer: Why has Great Falls’ hometown newspaper gone all but under while other Montana daily papers have not?