Tag Archives: Journalism

Three Words Behind the Gawker Union: What About Us?

“What about us?” was what Gawker reporter Hamilton Nolan asked as he wrote about talk of Vice workers forming a union. Nolan’s beat is work and jobs, but the subject resonated with him at his job.

What followed came fast. Nolan spoke with Justin Molito of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), who talked him through the nuts-and-bolts of organizing a union.

Nolan and others at Gawker didn’t wait for the full old-school process, though. The next thing Molito knew, Nolan and others had posted a meeting invitation on Facebook. Forty people came. The next morning a bunch of Gawker writers were posting about their desire for a union.

“This is something we waged publicly, because that’s how Gaw

From left to right at the table: Freddy Kunkle of the Washington Post talked about organizing among skeptical media workers while NewsGuild-CWA organizing director Tim Schick and Hamilton Nolan of Gawker look listen.

From left to right at the table: Freddy Kunkle of the Washington Post talked about organizing among skeptical media workers while NewsGuild-CWA organizing director Tim Schick and Hamilton Nolan of Gawker look listen.

ker operates,” Nolan said. Then something rare happened. Instead of resisting the idea, Gawker CEO Nick Denton agreed to a private ballot vote. On June 4, about 120 Gawker workers voted to unionize by a margin of 3-1.

This Wednesday afternoon, Nolan and Molito joined NewsGuild-CWA organizing director Tim Schick and Freddy Kunkle, co-chair of the Washington Post unit of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild for a discussion on at the AFL-CIO on organizing in digital media. The News Guild has been organizing in new media for 20 years and counts about 2,000 new media members.

Gawker workers wanted to publish at every step along the way, beginning with an early position piece on why workers there wanted to organize. That openness continued with a public discussion of how people planned to vote and why.

“It can almost be a tutorial for organizing,” Nolan said.

He’s not kidding. The discussion is frank, and even raw at times. The workers literally wrestle out issues in real time.

“If new media industry is going to grow up—and it is growing up—we need to do this,” he said.

If you’re interested in organizing at your workplace, please take this survey. Or you can simply email me. I’m a member of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild.

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For Those Who Suffer for the Trust…

Check out that look of concentration as I asked questions and scribbled down the answers into my narrow reporter's notebook. Photo, I believe, by Scott Martin, one of Montana's delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

I’m sure you’ve had this experience—you catch a lyric in a song, and it suddenly embodies your struggle. This was my line: “They don’t pay me enough to suffer for the trust, I’ve got to take what’s mine before the cause gets just.”

The song was “Suffer for the Trust,” by a Chicago band called the Ike Reilly Assassination. It was the summer and fall of 2006. Early the next year, I quit my job as a reporter at the Missoulian, a job I dearly loved.

I don’t know what the musicians meant with those lyrics, but I sure as hell know what those words meant to me. “They” was Lee Enterprises, and “the trust” and the “cause” were daily journalism. That summer, I had learned that my annual raise would be something like half a percent, all and more of which would be eaten by the rising cost of our middling health insurance, even though the Missoulian had taken more than $5 million in profits that year.

The painful truth—that Lee Enterprises bled me every day because of my love of journalism—became like a bit of grit in my heart, an irritating piece of something that never gave me peace. I had a vision that my future was slowly being taken away from me. I mean that literally, not metaphorically. Instead of getting closer, my dream that I could raise my family and someday help my kids through college was slipping away.

You need to understand just how much I loved being a reporter. It’s deep within my blood. Before I could write or spell, I drew pictures and dictated stories to my mother, who then bound the pages into books with her sewing machine. And, believe me, I could bore you all afternoon with polemics about the importance of narrative, of accurate language, of the stories of a community.

I loved reporting and writing in Missoula, a town where I had spent much of my childhood and where two of my grandparents were buried. In those days, I taught a class each fall at the University of Montana’s journalism school. At that newspaper, I was able to do my life’s work….

The Missoulian is one of five Montana newspapers owned by a publicly traded company called Lee Enterprises. The company is based in Iowa, which gives an inkling of its small market roots. In 1998, with a fresh master’s degree from UC Berkeley’s journalism school, I got my first reporting job at the Billings Gazette (which I had delivered every morning during junior high school). Back then Lee owned a couple dozen daily and weekly newspapers mostly in the Midwest and the Great Plains. Rumor had it the Gazette‘s annual profit margin was an ungodly 40 percent, or at least the high 30s.

You’ve got to remember that by the late 1990s, pundits had been declaring newspapers “dead” for years, but nobody told Lee. If you retain one truth about this company, make it this: It’s leaders know how to squeeze dollars out of its papers. A lot of dollars.

For decades in smaller markets across the country, newspapers practically printed money. Prudent stockholders saw them as wise investments, with steadily rising stock values and generous dividends in good times and bad.

Yet almost every newspaper also held a special trust—a balance against its function as a business—as a community’s public record, the Fourth Estate. And publishers often felt that trust personally, its obligation. During the 1980s, that dynamic began to change.

Interestingly enough, Lee Enterprises—this chain of smallish backwater newspapers—helped lead the trend on the national media landscape toward a profits-at-all-cost approach. For instance, Wayne Schile, the publisher of the Billings Gazette in the 1980s and much of the 1990s, dramatically cut staff, raised subscription and ad rates and produced ballooning profits. The stories I heard about him… how he sacked the newspaper’s long-serving and dedicated librarian and then sent her life’s work of file cabinets and carefully cataloged clippings to the landfill… how he’d call one group of reporters into one meeting and fire the remaining, were moves that seemed designed to trash morale and heighten reporters’ innate paranoia.

This model of the no-frills newspaper spread throughout the Lee holdings, and across the industry.

Media was diversifying fast. The Internet was becoming a part of our everyday lives. News delivery seemed to shift overnight. And yet Lee continued its incredible profits, even as other newspapers in the early 2000s went dark in markets like Seattle, Denver and San Francisco, despite a real estate bubble that buoyed overall media incomes.

In June of 2005, Lee was the minnow that swallowed the whale when it purchased the venerable and ailing Pulitzer chain of newspapers. The purchase transformed Lee from an unknown, insignificant chain into one of the nation’s largest. It now owned the St. Louis Post Dispatch, one of the nation’s premier newspapers, and dozens of others, including some which had probably not been profitable for a decade.

The purchase was amazing because it was entirely financed, all $1 billion.

What was going to repay that debt? The incredibly profitable newspapers in Missoula, Billings, Helena and other places, like Sioux City, Iowa.

The logic was, if Lee could make such major cash in these small towns, just imagine what could be done on a larger scale!

And yet the opposite was true. Lee Enterprises thrived in isolated markets against little or no competition. In a market like Missoula, the newspaper has a handful of competitors for ads. In major urban areas, a newspaper has hundreds of quality competitors.

The summer of the Pulitzer purchase, I had been working as the business reporter at the Missoulian for a year and as a journalist for six or seven. My Lee stock, which was my retirement plan, was almost $50 a share. I remember checking the website of the Securities and Exchange Commission that June or July, and seeing a filing that said the Missoulian publisher had sold something like 100,000 of his own shares. That didn’t seem to bode well…. I wondered about that….

The details of the Pulitzer repayment plan required huge balloon payments to Deutsche Bank. Each of those payments seemed really big, as I recall, like a hundred million dollars or more. To amass money for those payments, our already austere paper got even tighter. Nobody could clock overtime. Reporters drove their own vehicles, and got reimbursed at less than half the government rate even as gas prices went through the roof.

Companies can only pull this kind of crap with an insecure workforce, and we were. I knew back then that the only way we’d have a fair shot at a decent life was by joining together. Without some leverage, none of us could negotiate for jack. Yet after only a few evening conversations with my fellow reporters about the nuts-and-bolts of forming a union, I got a wave from my editor Mike McInally (a man for whom I somehow still have tremendous respect and affection) calling me into his office. After asking me to close the door, he said, “I’ve heard you’ve been talking to people about unions. If I ever hear that again, you’re fired.”

His words (a textbook example of illegal workplace coercion) stunned me, my shit-eating grin frozen on my face. To save my job, I shamelessly disavowed my intentions, while my editor insisted that he loved my news stories and positive attitude and didn’t want to get rid of me. A few minutes later, humiliated and furious at myself, my heart pounding and my hands shaking, I returned to my desk and stared at my computer screen. I promised myself that I was done trying to help anyone else. From then on, I would do for me.

So maybe it’s no wonder that “Suffer for the Trust” became my anthem, that I left my job a few short years later, that wonderful job that didn’t feel like work at all, for a high-paying gig at a hateful little boutique communications firm where I didn’t last a year.

Later, as I bounced around in search of a new way to follow my calling, Lee Enterprises hit snag after snag. Each time it punished its workers—several of them my closest friends, and many for whom I have tremendous admiration and professional respect—with layoffs and benefit cuts. Still, Lee’s stock value kept dropping until it reached its nadir, a few cents over a quarter. My retirement portfolio—and more importantly, the portfolios of my friends and former co-workers—had become basically worthless. In late 2011, the corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

So it came as no surprise early this year when rumors foretold of more job losses. The news hurt, last week, when 10 of the company’s Montana employees confronted the sudden prospect of unemployment in this bleak economy, especially as word of the latest bonus of $500,000 for Lee’s CEO Mary Junck came out at almost exactly the same time.

It’s easy and appropriate to blame Junck and her thuggish clutch of publishers, including my old editor Mike McInally who served as publisher for a pair of papers in Oregon, last I heard. That class will never do right by journalism.

And yet the reporters and copy editors, the support staff and press operators continue to do as much as possible. In fact, I think the Billings Gazette, which has a fantastic editor and incredible writers, has been producing better journalism, including thoughtful and provocative editorials, than it ever has.

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Buyouts, Layoffs and… for the CEO who caused it all… A Fat Bonus

The biggest national news story of the past four years is playing out in miniature among the Montana newspaper holdings of Lee Enterprise–the top boss gets a huge chunk of change while the people who actually do the work get the shaft.

Mary Junck, CEO of Iowa-based Lee Enterprises, dragged the company into a financial mess until the company finally sought bankruptcy protection… and this week she got a $500,000 bonus! For steering the company through these tough economic times!

And on the  same day as news of Junck’s bonus hit the Web, 10 of the chain’s workers in Butte, Helena, Billings and Missoula have been laid off or accepted cheap buyouts–one week’s pay for every year worked.

The three employees who took the buyouts face a mixed blessing. Sure, they’ll get after-tax final checks in the neighborhood of $20,000, but the buyout-receivers won’t be eligible for unemployment insurance. Plus, continued health insurance through COBRA will cost more than $600 per month, and none is near the age of eligibility for Medicare.

Award-winning reporter Donna Healy of the Gazette in Billings, who accepted a buyout, looked with fondness over her career. “I’ve had the sweetest beat in the newsroom for a very long time. I’m grateful for that,” Healy said today. She hopes to land a job with a Billings-based nonprofit.

Two were laid off in Butte. One of the five who was laid off in Helena yesterday said today that her head was reeling, especially because she was scheduled to work for two more days. (I don’t feel like including her name right now, unless you want to pass along job ideas. If that’s the case, email me.)

“I feel like I got dumped, but I’ve still got a bunch of stuff at the guy’s house,” she said.

Nobody I talked to had more than a vague idea of what would come next.

Oh, and the bonus for Mary Junck? That and the $250,000 bonus for the company’s CFO would have been more than enough to keep those workers on-the-job for more than two years.

And I should pass on a few more tidbits. Since Junck engineered the debt-leveraged purchase in 2005 of the Pulitzer chain of newspapers, Lee’s stock has performed a stunning dive from a high monthly average of $48.98 in June of 2004 to a low of $.29 in February of 2009. Lately, it’s been hovering a dime or so over a dollar.

Meanwhile, over the past five years the company has slashed its staff and benefits across all of its papers.

One Lee employee put it best, likening the raw deal to being hit by an exploding “shit balloon.”

You know journalists…. Always cracking wry jokes.

*A previous version of this post directed readers to another blog called “Lee Watch” which has gone dark. I’ll check more closely before steering you to inactive sites. Also, this version has the updated number of layoffs.

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What’s Up With ‘Brokeback?’ My Relatives Got Pissed

You can gather from my earlier posts that I have a lot of family in Montana. I can name all of my cousins, aunts and uncles, even a few second cousins, but after that it gets fuzzy.

Those relations jumped into focus when I drew comparisons in a newspaper column a few years ago between my grandfather George Meakins and a gay cowboy.

My grandfather, George Meakins. Taken at my Aunt Della’s home in Hall, Montana, by my father in the early 1970s.

One of my mom’s cousins–a woman I don’t know but who clearly lived in the Missoulian’s circulation area–mailed an outraged letter with the clipping to my grandmother.

My mom told me about what sounded like a furor among her cousins. One of her sisters joined the detractors. My uncle and another of my aunts rushed to my defense. It was actually kind of intimidating to learn that distant relatives were lining up against me, some of whom I wouldn’t even recognize on the street!

On the other hand, I do understand that family members can get worked up over representations of our shared history. Yet the letter, with its obvious homophobia, bothered me.

For some people in my family, a column about gayness obviously crossed the line… even though the column itself wasn’t about sexuality at all, but about the hard life of a ranch hand and his family. Yet to an ignorant reader, I had apparently insinuated that my grandfather was gay. Or maybe it’s just that my family’s bigotry couldn’t accept any association with “Brokeback Mountain.”

Additionally, I know some family members expressed outrage at my forthright descriptions of their poverty.

And yet it pained me to think the column might have bothered my grandmother, Lillian Meakins, who came up in a time and place so different from our own that it’s difficult to fathom. She was born in 1914. She grew up on a homestead on the Missouri River in eastern Montana–forty miles by horse or wagon south of Malta. She killed chickens with her hands. She could bake a cake on an open fire. My grandmother was a tough lady, but also soft and somehow uncertain of herself.

Some months after the column had appeared, I sat on the couch in her trailer home near Billings. For years, she and I had had a careful relationship, by which I mean that we avoided anything like a sensitive subject. We talked about regular things, like the weather. Or else I asked her about her life, questions she answered gruffly, as if the answers should have been obvious. “What dances did we do? Well, the two-step!”

It was time, I thought, to be straight-forward. I asked my grandmother if the column had bothered her. I reminded her what it said. I described the movie, “Brokeback Mountain,” including that it was a love story about two men.

She surprised me with the strength of her response. No, she said. It didn’t bother her. She thought I should write whatever the newspaper would print.

I believed her. It was one of her sweetest, most grandmotherly moments.

Here are some things I know about my grandmother. She rejected racism against black and Indian people. About a neighboring Indian family, she said they “had the cleanest laundry in town.” For my grandmother, it was not only a high compliment, because it meant they worked hard.  But it was, in her mind, a direct counterpoint to the common slur of the “dirty Indian.”  She didn’t only tell me that anecdote, or my mom, I imagine, but her coworkers at the cafe and nursing home, or the elderly neighbors for whom she drove errands.

I understand, now, that her acceptance extended to gays.

What a lady.

With my grandmother behind me, I didn’t care about the fuss.

My grandmother, Lillian Meakins, was  more irritated than amused when I used the “Photo Booth” feature on my new computer to capture her image. She was 92.

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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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Clay Felker, Master of the Magazine

Legendary magazine editor Clay Felker, who died Tuesday at 82, taught this writer more than a few enduring truths about journalism.

7-01-08

Eleven years ago, long after the journalistic style he championed in the 1960s had become mainstream, even old-school, my teacher, the legendary magazine editor Clay Felker, asked me to prepare some photocopies of an old Tom Wolfe story about William Shawn and the New Yorker. I was a second-year graduate student in journalism at UC Berkeley; my student job, a plum, was as Clay’s research assistant. That meant, aside from the occasional stint at the school’s copier, that Clay and his wife, the writer Gail Sheehy, generously and often treated me to dinner at their beautiful home in the Oakland Hills and at many a jazz bar and sushi restaurant in the Bay Area.

Back then, Clay often wore beige or yellow suits made of light cloth – what I thought of as rich-man’s New York City lunch attire – and baseball caps to shelter his head. Sometimes he seemed a bit wobbly. Now and then, he would proclaim things that seemed, to my untested ears, a bit too simplistic, or just plain bad. What I saw as his celebrity fetish seemed boring. Once, he insisted I write, as my master’s thesis, a long story on Internet gambling, which he predicted would become a huge business. To my mind, the idea lacked the human scope I yearned to write about. Plus, I doubted his business acumen. Internet gambling? How lame. Years later, it’s obvious that I was wrong.

Even then, though, I had inklings of his genius to spot trends and spark careers. All year long, his classroom hosted a steady stream of talented and accomplished magazine editors and writers. Later the visiting luminary would repair to his home. As the evening darkened, the sparkling lights of Oakland glittering below, there would be stories about ambitious writers taking on legendary themes. The stories reeked of success. This is how they all seemed to end: Properly endowed with the right cover story, the magazine issue had leapt off the rack, and the lead story – perhaps a feature by Aaron Latham or Wolfe – had gone on to sell scads of books or was made into a blockbuster film. And in the process defined an era.

His students sometimes laughed privately about those almost-formulaic stories, but Clay remained on the fresh edge of journalism. He was often unsparing in his criticism. Smart, funny, arrogant, cynical or irreverent point-of-view journalism, Clay insisted, had its roots in painstakingly thorough reporting. The end product could dismiss a sacred cow with a rude quip, but only if its foundation involved heavy-duty reporting. It’s a humbling idea for a young journalist, that the real work involves introducing yourself on some doorstep, far from any newsroom, and haltingly asking questions and writing down the answers. It’s not rocket science, but it’s far from easy. It’s labor-intensive. If you’re going to write about a place, you need to go there. It’s the fundamentals of all good journalism, almost boring in its simplicity.

By the time I became his student, Clay had already been fighting throat cancer for years. One day, a blood vessel in his throat began to bleed, and it wouldn’t stop. He was rushed to a hospital in San Francisco. Later, I helped take him home. As we rode down the elevator, he asked about the status of a story on the animated feature “A Bug’s Life,” which was then in production at the Pixar campus.

I didn’t have much, though not for lack of trying. The place was buttoned down tight, its secrets closely kept, although I had talked to a few of the animators at a coffee shop there and looked at some drawings of the circus scene involving an old umbrella. I had nothing close to a fully reported story, but I didn’t want to admit as much to Clay, so I exaggerated what I had and told him the story would be great. Later, he asked for a draft. But I had been unable to get the reporting that I had told him I had, even though I had spent another day skulking around the shrubbery outside the Pixar buildings. I admitted to him that I didn’t have the story. He was irritated, disappointed, but, to my relief, not overly so. I understand now, I think, that he had seen his share of blowhard writers, and also that he understood that the maturation process isn’t always pretty, or easy. He moved past it, and in doing so helped teach me that in journalism you take your lumps and go on.

Frankly, it’s my experience that few journalists speak honestly about, much less take ownership of, the mistakes they’ve made. Clay did. He talked about bad edits he had made. That’s not to say that he didn’t defend himself or others from what he thought were unwarranted criticisms. And I’m not alluding to any grand errors on Clay’s part. It’s just that even minor errors seem significant to the journalist who commits them, but far less monumental to those who hear about them later. And it’s important that we deal with them with candor, even when the lessons are hard to define, more emotional than professional.

One story Clay told involved the Wolfe essay I had prepared for class, “Tiny Mummies! The True Story of the Ruler of 43rd Street’s Land of the Walking Dead,” which ran in 1965 in the Sunday magazine of the New York Herald-Tribune (the predecessor to New York magazine, which Felker made famous). Clay had a pained look on his face as he told about those who still wouldn’t speak to him – who refused to shake his hand – even more than 30 years after he published that story, which skewered the New Yorker as a museum of mummified journalism and Shawn, its editor, as the museum’s dreary curator.

I’m as guilty as anyone of holding the New Yorker on a ridiculously high pedestal (even after my internship there as an undergraduate.) And, actually, the “Tiny Mummies” essay still seems trite to me today. And funny. Yet Clay’s recollections of the reactions to the essay – and the venomous writings of the magazine’s defenders – underscored the myths that journalists create about themselves, that we’re somehow untouchable in our seriousness, that some of us have reached a plane of infallibility. Bullshit. The truth is, as soon as we lose our humility, we begin to mummify ourselves.

In Clay’s class I began working on a story, which I’ve never sold, about a young Mexican man who worked as a dispatcher at a day-labor agency for janitors in San Francisco. He more or less lived in the agency’s offices, where he kept a sharp black suit and dance shoes. At nightclubs, he shed his slouching, grungy demeanor and danced salsa, beautifully, with his gorgeous and tall Chinese-American girlfriend from Berkeley. Other times, he performed as the lead singer in a raging, punk-ish metal band at tiny clubs in obscure San Francisco neighborhoods. Clay encouraged me to spend as much time as possible with both of them for a feature on youth culture. He was incredibly engaged in what young people cared about, possessing an almost impossibly youthful mind.

Sadly, Clay’s condition deteriorated during spring semester in 1998. Each time I heard his voice, made gravelly by the cancer and chemotherapy, I had a feeling it was the last time I would see him alive. He didn’t have much strength for editing or teaching. Left to my own devices, I lost the handle of that complicated story of salsa movements and incendiary rock lyrics. Later, Clay got his feet beneath him again and continued to teach for years.

Over the past decade, I exchanged a few brief emails with Clay. Then, about a year ago, as I began planning and editing a new regional magazine called The New West, I began to recall bits of his advice, and I realized he had always tried to prepare us, his students, for our shot at a magazine of our own.

Mine is an outgrowth of NewWest.Net, a 3-year-old online news site based in Missoula, Mont., founded by Courtney Lowery and Jonathan Weber. Jonathan always thought of Clay’s short-lived, California-based general interest magazine, New West, as a kind of great-uncle figure to our new incarnation, and sought him out a few years ago to ask his blessing. He gave it, along with some gruff but pertinent advice. It feels good to have that presence preceding this.

The last time I talked to Clay, it was about NewWest.Net. He was enthusiastic about the possibilities offered by online journalism. It’s been said, especially about his heyday as editor of New York and Esquire magazines, that Clay was obsessed with power, which seems to me a bit misleading. He seemed to be obsessed with what was going on, who was making it happen and what it all meant. He was fearless, although he didn’t shrink from acknowledging the attendant pain. As the news of his death in New York City at 82 sinks in, I sit at my desk in our alleyway office in Missoula. It seems almost too simple to mention: I wish I could be so fearless, so obsessed with the same thing.

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