Piles of Pieces from a Now-defunct Site

Welcome to this broad sampling of news stories from my days at a small regional news website based in Missoula, Montana, called NewWest.Net, which I left in late 2008. The weekly Missoula Independent recently ran a short and thoughtful item about the nature of news on the web, and how everything gets lost when the host server goes dark.

That’s what was happening at NewWest.Net. The site had suffered hard in the summer and fall of 2008, and apparently it ran out of money recently.

The web addresses where these old stories have existed will soon lead to dead-ends. I admit that it’s tempting to believe that online news, then, is somehow fundamentally different from print news, but I don’t know if I believe that. Each magazine, each sheet of newsprint will someday mold and decompose, no matter what we do.

The online stuff just seems more temporary because it can vanish when the lights go out, I guess. But I’m one of those people who believes that all things are temporary. Some are just more so.

Several weeks ago, a friend emailed me a link to the Missoula Independent story, and so I went back to NewWest.Net. I saved a selection of the things I posted. My goal was to save the ones with legs, the few that might be capable of keeping up with the passage of months and years.

The columns were the obvious first choices. Those include the one about backpacking with my son in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I like that one, because it brings back to my mind a host of outdoor adventures with my son, including a great hunting trip we made with my good friend Rob Chaney, who still writes in Missoula where he lives with his lovely wife and two kids.

Other columns explore the shifting political landscape of the West, especially the growing political and voting power of Natives.

Another pile of news stories explores some of the happenings in the West at the time. Often my goal was to explore the links between local phenomena and the larger events of the day. For instance, when Lehman Brothers fell apart in the financial collapse of the summer and fall in 2008, I found places in Montana and around the West where the principals at Lehman Brothers had invested money. I do regret, though, that I never truly painted the broad picture with Lehman’s final CEO Richard Fuld and the Big Banks, at least not like I did with billionaire Bill Foley. Maybe it’s time to do that….

And then there are the political news pieces, like the one that tracks down the ridiculous comments of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, made at a fundraiser in Pennsylvania. The comments had sparked a mini-maelstrom in conservative circles on the Internet, but so few of the bloggers and commenters out there of any stripe are willing to actually track something down. I did. And I’m quite proud of the result.

And lastly, I included a sampling of other stories, mostly about crime and tragedy. I’m not necessarily interested in misfortune as much as what I think it means.

I do hope this blog provides me with a way to write in a compelling way, broadly, about the things I find worth exploring. And I hope these pieces provide something of a prologue.

Note: I’m not particularly interested in leaving the pieces as they first ran. I’ve found simple grammatical errors in some places. Also, I have to admit that sometimes I wrapped up the pieces with trite wordplay, simply because I was in a hurry to get onto the next item or because I wasn’t quite there yet as a writer. I intend to follow-through with my earliest intentions when possible.

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