I received a response from Robert Meyerowitz, the editor of The Missoula Independent, in regard to the cancellation of George Ochenski’s opinion column with the paper. Here’s what he had to say:
MEYEROWITZ: “Wading into his columns, changing headlines”? What do you think an editor does?
Wading in? Changing headlines? We edit all the copy we publish, through several layers, and write headlines. We also maintain journalistic standards, for such things as fairness and accuracy, that apply to everything we publish; George Ochenski was no exception. I guess he didn’t like that.
He hasn’t been silenced. He can publish anywhere he’s able, as far as I can see. And he hasn’t been censored. We choose what we publish.
Thursday, June 7th, 2012
Where’s George Ochenski? That’s the question being posed by many following Montana politics in the Twittersphere. The answer? He’s off to the cabin. But, unless plans change, don’t expect to read Ochenski’s opinion column in The Missoula Independent anytime soon.
Ochenski is a popular columnist with the liberal Missoula Independent. Although he is very clearly a liberal columnist, he has no qualms with going after the Democratic Party establishment in Montana either. In fact, his latest two columns took Montana Attorney General, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Steve Bullock to task.
I spoke with Ochenski Thursday afternoon. He said he was “100 percent forced out by the new editor,” Robert Meyerowitz. “I haven’t missed a week for 12 years. I did it all as a freelancer,” Ochenski said, as he got ready to head off to his cabin in the mountains for the weekend. Ochenski said Meyerowitz started wading into his columns, changing headlines, and told him that he couldn’t write about national or international topics.
I did contact The Missoula Independent. Phones at the paper went to voicemail, and an e-mail to the editor has yet to be returned.
Ochenski says it all came to a head last week. While Ochenski was fishing with friends in the Missouri Breaks, Meyerowitz moved up the deadline for his weekly column and began e-mailing Ochenski for the latest column so he could give it a look. Eventually, Ochenski says Meyerowitz told him the Independent didn’t need his column anymore.
So, just what was Ochenski planning to write this week? “Wishing Happy Birthday to The Missoula Independent and the free press.” Sounds like somebody decided to blow out the candles before the song had even been sung.
Former Indy report John Adams has this on his MTLowdown blog:
I find it somewhat odd that Indy deemed it newsworthy to point out on its cover the 55 years of collective newsroom experience that exited the Missoulian but didn’t bother to mention to loyal readers why it’s longtime political columnist is now absent from its own pages.
The Indy is celebrating it’s 21st anniversary this year and Ochenski has been there for more than half those writing incisive and provocative columns that took on Republicans and Democrats alike. Whether you like his opinions or hate them, they’re his opinions and there isn’t a single columnist in the state who has been writing them as long or as well as Ochenski.
I first heard of Ochenski’s disappearance from The Indy’s pages by the blogger “jhwygirl” who had this to say at 4&20 Blackbirds, a liberal Montana blog:
To come to find this week’s Indy barren of Ochenski’s column was..well….just plain wrong. The fact that the Indy didn’t have the decency to offer its (maybe now not so) loyal readers an explanation is perplexing.
Susan Good Geise
Thursday, June 07, 2012 7:22 PM
I’ve known George for about a million years now. We disagree about darn near everything, but he is the most straightforward and decent fellow. He has his own point of view, can defend it, and is a good thinker.
George, you’re a champ. We are the poorer for your absence.
Your Republican friend, Susan
Friday, June 08, 2012 8:44 AM
George Ochenski is an asset to the Montana political scene and has made his controversial opinions known to a vast number of Missoula Independent newspaper readers.
I do not necessarily agree with him about the Federal influence on energy companies using right of way to ship or transmit over or under our Big Sky Country state. For instance the Keystone XL pipeline will be a vital link to assist the US in becoming energy secure.
Bakken crude oil will be shipped by rail and even the St. John refinery in New Brunswick, Canada just received its first shipment of Bakken crude oil last weekend. I liken it to hauling coal to Newcastle. We need the Canadian oil sands crude oil to be imported by pipeline into the US not our oil going the other way around.
Good luck George. I am sure you will find another “independent” newspaper to print your weekly columns. We need both sides to be represented in any future important political discussions.
Friday, June 08, 2012 11:08 AM
The response posted here from Meyerowitz is pathetic. Refusing to run an article on the importance of a free press is clearly a form of censorship expressing his editorial bias.
I have posted the following at other sites and I suggest you read the collection of past opinions on Meyerowitz and his own writing. My amazement is why does the Indy want a mainstream hack with no significant career accomplishments to head the most important alternative weekly in Montana which is read in many other places.
One indication of his mindset is revealed in his old article, Circus, Circus, where he attacks those who would exercise free speech on the issue of our war of aggression against Iraq. And it is due to the complete failure and complicity of mainstream editors and journalists that there was no investigative reporting reporting done to determine in the WMD spin was valid. Goebbels would have been impressed by the corrupt complicity of American corporate media.
Last week I posted the following comment along with Ochenski’s final column. I thought it would be worth adding to this conversation:
“Once again out of state powers change life in Montana. We have always been at the mercy of the Federal government and corporations seeking to exploit Montana. Whether it be the Copper Kings or ENRON working behind the scenes to create the disaster called utility deregulation, or wars that our young have to fight and our financed by our taxes, what happens nationally and even internationally becomes part of our lives here.
Having been a Montanan for over forty years and politically active for much of that time Ochenski has a unique perspective on events. I can’t always agree with him, but I find no one else in Montana or the region approaching critical issues as he does in his column. On national and international events the Montana mainstream media apes national corporate media, and they rarely dig beneath the surface on Montana politics.
But recently, I have seen Ochenski’s column narrow down with less and less commentary on what might be classified as national or international events. This seems to coincide with the arrival of the new editor Robert Meyerowitz.
Last week on the 4&20 Blackbirds blog, someone commented on the questionable editorial from the Indy covering the Missoula rape controversy. A comment followed that posted a source of the past performances of Mr. Meyerowitz. This archive of information raises some serious questions about where the Indy might be headed in the future.
This following url for 4&20 Blackbirds may not post properly here, but just go to 4&20 Blackbirds for May 22.
Check the following archive about Mr. Meyerowitz and come to your own conclusions:
After reading the above material, I took the liberty to make the following post. Having lived in the state nearly as long as Ochenski, I must admit it takes time to understand all that is Montana. And when it comes to a progressive discussion, the Indy is something of an institution while our mainstream media has become increasingly corporate.
Personally, I was amazed (and offended) by the jaded right-wing views presented in Meryrowitz’s editorial, Circus, Circus, where he cynically condemns anti-war protest on Iraq as if he has no regard for freedom of speech or for the suffering of our soldiers or the suffering of the Iraqi people. It must be read to be believed. Now that he is in Montana I wonder if he realizes this is the state that produced Jeanette Rankin ?
It looks like “free thinking” at the Indy has become little more than an empty slogan.
The past writing of the new Indy editor, Robert Meyerowitz, posted by AltWeekly, is a cause for concern for those who appreciate the Indy covering issues in a manner that differs from mainstream corporate media. A true progressive he is NOT.
The Circus, Circus article is especially cynical and shows little concern for the suffering of the Iraqi people or the views of those who speak out about what is essentially an illegal war of aggression.
Personally, I have been following Ochenski’s writing since he began at the Indy as he pulls no punches when it comes to the “truth” of Montana politics seasoned with decades of his own direct involvement with critical issues. And he slams both parties equally.
He also presents views of national and international issues that affect us in Montana and are of concern to Montanans. I know of no other columnist in the region saying what he says. We can expect censored views from the big corporate rags, but we come to the Indy looking for improved information.
Since Meyerowitz arrived at the Indy I have seen much less writing from Ochenski on national and international issues. A friend has told me that Meyerowitz has literally censored Ochenski when it comes to larger national and international issues. And apparently he has been stepping on the toes of other Indy writers.
But what madness, as what happens outside of Montana does affect those living here. $5 Trillion in tax money (or rather debt) blown in Iraq and Afghanistan is a problem for everyone and very few writers anywhere address the corporate imperial war issues. I have also not seen other Montana columnists pointing out that Social Security funds have been looted (borrowed) by Congress. Etc.
One can only wonder what the motives are behind this type of editing. Does Meyerowitz have a personal political agenda or has he been brought in to move the Indy to the right to please a less critical audience ? I must admit that I am NOT very excited to see a New Yorker deciding what Montanans will be able to read in what is supposed to be an alternative publication.
Is the Indy headed downhill like so many other forms of American media ? Time will tell.”
Posted by JConrad on 05/31/2012 at 1:08 PM
Now I might have this information wrong (although Ochenski would likely correct me) but one of Meyerowtiz’s draconian forms of editing/censorship was to not allow Ochenski to write on broader topics, national and international, that are not about to Montana, although that seems vague.
Well, this week Meyerowitz runs an article by a lightweight writer from Oregon presenting very old news about the Sioux claim to the Black Hills. Not a Montana subject.
So I would like to post my comments to the article, Return The Stolen Land, by Paul VanDevelder.
“After following Ochenski’s column for a very long time, I am wondering why he is not in the Indy this week ? Instead we get a mediocre out of state Oregon author writing about the Black Hills.
However, the Native claim to the Black is a very worthy issue that remains alive and viable. But, it has been covered in the past by much more competent writers. The classic work on this topic is “Black Hills, White Justice” by Edward Lazarus. Another work which covers even more ground is “In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse” by Peter Matthiesen. Perhaps the new editor, Meyerowitz is too young to know that the first AIM protest at Mt. Rushmore about the Black Hills was in 1970.
This issue has been around for a long time, but Montana tribes have a variety of equally important issues with the United States and the state of Montana.
I recall that George Ochenski, who has been in Montana for over forty years has worked with some Montana tribes on political issues related to state government. He has a comprehensive cross-cultural understanding of many Montana issues. Why is the Indy not running such articles written by a Montanan like Ochenski ? We also have knowledgeable and eloquent Montana Native writers who are rarely given a voice in our media.
I suppose this is just the beginning of what we can expect from a clueless New York editor running a Montana publication.”
My opinion is that Meyerowitz is in over his head with little knowledge of Montana and has decided to personally go after Ochenski or perhaps, as I mentioned previously, this could be a decision by the publisher to change the Indy by eliminating of an award winning independent progressive columnist.
I would suggest that this censorship issue should be opened and circulated up and if Meyerowitz is not put on a shorter leash, it is time to consider rejecting the Indy as well as Indy advertisers.