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Montana News Guild Details Latest Round Of Reporter Layoffs In Montana

Billings Gazette mast head
Nicky Ouellet
Yellowstone Public Radio

Another round of newsroom reductions has hit newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises. At least seven staff members have recently had their employment end with the publishing company that owns newspapers in major cities across Montana.

According to the Montana News Guild, a long time reporter with the Missoulian left his position after taking a buyout in September. The Guild says Lee last month also laid off a Missoulian copy - design desk employee and a part-time photographer.

Helena Independent Record sports reporter Ryan Kuhn resigned rather than accepting a transfer to the Montana Standard saying on twitter “I never felt valued or appreciated by my company.” The Guild says an online editor and a sports columnist at the Helena Independent Record and one part-time design desk employee from the Montana Standard in Butte were also laid off last month.

Lee Enterprises owns the Billings Gazette, the Missoulian, the Helena Independent Record, the Montana Standard and the Ravalli Republic.

Victor Flores with the Montana News Guild says contract negotiations between the guild, which represents reporters at the Billings Gazette, and Lee have stalled.

"We’ve proposed furloughs in place of lay offs so that people wouldn’t be losing their jobs during winter in Montana during a pandemic, a rough economic time. They’re just not even entertaining the option. They’re not even providing a counter," Flores says.

Lee Enterprises declined to comment for this story.

In February, the Billings Gazette eliminated the positions of editor and editorial page editor. The largest newspaper in the state is now under the supervision of a regional editor based in Butte.

In November last year Lee laid off three staff members at the Billings Gazette and one staffer at the Missoulian.

The layoffs follow two-week furloughs for all Lee employees in Montana during the spring.

Adams Publishing, which owns the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Hagadone Corporation, owner of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, and Gannett, owner of the Great Falls Tribune, have also implemented furloughs in response to the coronavirus pandemic.