Celebrating III: Missoula Current continues growth in readership, support in 2018

All things considered, 2018 was a good year for the Missoula Current and local news.

We continued to follow the court rulings coming from the Mountain Water case, and we were there when the historic spring floods spilled over the banks of the Clark Fork River.

We dispatched our entire staff when President Donald Trump arrived in Missoula to boost Matt Rosendale’s campaign for the U.S. Senate, and our Election Day coverage was timely and spot on, and it came with video.

We were the only local media outlet to stay until midnight during the City Council’s long December agenda, and we had a reporter in the audience when former Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the University of Montana.

That story by Missoula Current reporter Laura Lundquist included a quote by the potential presidential candidate that was picked up by an array of national media, including ABC News, NBC News, Fox News, CNN, Forbes, CNBC and Brietbart News, among others.

“ ‘I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president. The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that I’ve worked on my whole life,’ Biden told a crowd in Montana Monday, according to the Missoula Current,” Fox News reported the next morning.

This isn’t intended as braggadocios but rather to highlight the good work we’ve done over the past year as the Missoula Current celebrates its third anniversary. Our staff remains small but works hard, and it’s growing thanks to you, our readers and contributors.

When 2018 began, the Missoula Current had just two reporters, me and Sherry Devlin. But as our contributions have grown with our readership, we’ve added two new reporters, including Mari Hall, who served as our summer intern from the University of Montana and did a fine job, and Laura Lundquist, an Air Force veteran as well as a veteran Montana journalist.

Our growth and local partnerships are a direct result of your support, and that support shows in our ability to provide Missoula with timely local news. While we’re not always perfect and at times I get punchy, we strive each day to maintain our reputation for unbiased reporting, and to give Missoula another option in news.

What began in December 2015 has grown beyond my expectations, though those too have changed over the past three years. Our growth has brought new pressures and larger expectations, but it’s something we welcome, and our success has been delightful to watch.

We remain humble and thankful for your support.

When I look back on 2018, it’s not easy to track our achievements. Some are small, like working with Cedar Mountain Software to improve the speed of our website. Others are big, like adding the environment as a category of focus – something our readers had asked for.

The Missoula Current launched on a shoestring budget three years ago and we’ve bootstrapped the operation since Day One. We own no debt, and we’re not beholden to shareholders or corporate interests.

Our growth is a reflection of community support and the funding that makes it possible. We remain free to read – a philosophy that goes back to 2015 and the belief that local news and information should be accessible to all, regardless of income.

But while we’re free, a growing number of readers have come to recognize the value of local news, and they’ve stepped in with a voluntary contribution of $5 a month. Added together, it goes far in growing the hours of our reporting team and the news we cover each day.

Our early mission statement also included a pledge to stay local, and we held true to that belief. Our entire team lives in Missoula. The revenue stays here. Our partners are our neighbors and friends. They’re the people you see at the bar, out on the town or in the local art galleries.

As a business, it’s a poor strategy to share one’s plans for growth. But I offered a pledge early on to be transparent and open with our readers – something the media should do more of.

So in 2019, we plan to sharpen our focus on a number of fronts, including business and the environment. We plan to expand our multimedia offerings and produce more online videos. We’ll focus on challenging local issues, such as homelessness and housing.

We’ll place our resources into several team projects with the goal of producing one special report each month. We’ll introduce a guide for commercial real estate, and we’ll personally thank our contributors for their generous support.

As 2019 unfolds, we’ll remain humble and committed to providing Missoula with the best local news we can. Our growing city deserves nothing less, and the world beyond this valley will come to know the Garden City well by accessing our free site, regardless of where one lives.

Missoula is a special place, though its challenges aren’t unique. We’re proud to do what we do, and we thank you for making it possible. Happy New Year from your team at the Missoula Current.

Martin Kidston is a Marine Corps veteran, University of Montana graduate, long-time Montana journalist and founding editor of the Missoula Current.