Our August issue marks the 292nd and final print edition of Lively Times. She’s been a fun, challenging and implacable companion since 1993. We’ll miss her and hope you will too. But don’t worry – you can still find a whole lotta lively online.
Our first paper was 16 pages, built in a little office above Sue’s garage. Our kids helped us assemble and install our desk. We made some calls, kept notes on legal pads and scraps of paper, and tried to sell ads in a publication that only existed in our heads and hearts.
We hoped to create an arts and entertainment monthly that would knit our vast state together – a friendly little paper that would help lively readers find artful events that sparked their interest. In the first edition, I boldly proclaimed, “We aim to banish boredom!”
I remember how thrilled we were when Missoula artist Monte Dolack – a household name, even in Charlo – said “yes” to an interview in our first edition. From that little office under the eaves, phone pressed to ear, I talked to illustrious folksinger Judy Collins, taciturn Doc Watson (who abruptly ended our interview when his wife summoned him for lunch), and chatterbox Merle Haggard (twice!). I interviewed Eric “Fingers” Ray in Great Falls and potter Francis Senska at her studio in Bozeman, and wrote about the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena.
Along the way, we were unearthing who did what in Montana, compiling a list of performing arts presenters, museums, galleries, theaters and concert promoters. We made friends with Arni Fishbaugh, also a newby in her job as executive director of the Montana Arts Council, and Arnie Malina, head of Helena’s Myrna Loy. He doubted our chances at success, but bought an ad anyway.
We weren’t just about the arts. I remember interviewing the manager of the Great Falls Pioneer baseball team, and talking to young sled-dog racer Jessie Royer.
During those years, we also saw parts of the state unknown to me – a Montana native – or to Sue, a native Michigander – while trying to sell the ads that paid the bills.
And we weren’t the only ones pounding pavement: our first two employees, Mariss McTucker and Carolyn Beecher, scoured the countryside for advertising. Mariss (who has worked for us longer than anyone) has saved me from countless embarrassments. Who knew Leonard Skinner was actually a band, Lynyrd Skynyrd?
We always included Spokane and North Idaho highlights because they were a short drive from western Montana. But eventually we added Billings to the mix, and could honestly claim statewide distribution and readership.
Our favorite things
Great Staff. You can see the roster below (if I forgot anyone, please forgive me). These are the people who transformed the dream of two good friends into an ink-stained, info-laden reality. Smart, tenacious, creative and loyal, each and every one. Thank you.
Advertisers: From national concert promoters to nonprofit arts organizations to hometown businesses and local musicians: We wouldn’t have made 292 issues without ‘em.
The Brain Trust: Web developers Brian Kopper and Jeff Norris, who have kindly, patiently coaxed us into the 21st century.
The Lively Fam: That’s husbands, Don Kokubinski and Steve Connell, who paid the bills when we earned no paychecks and took care of the kids while we drove off to peddle our big idea. It’s kids, Matthew and Julia Kocubinski and Oren and Robin Connell, who proofread, filed, delivered papers, fixed computers and created front pages.
It’s sister Billie Lee, who helped us write a business plan; sister-in-law Chris Niemeyer, who sold ads; Connie/Mom, who accompanied her daughter on all-day delivery runs in the Flathead; cousin Barb, who delivers our papers in Butte; and Aunt Theo, who kindly and concisely enters data.
And it’s dogs, beginning with Josie, and including generations of yellow labs, a few Weimaraners, and a mutt of uncertain disposition and lineage.
The Truth of the Matter
We’re folding the print portion of our tent because, like many print publications, we’re facing declining ad revenues and increasing costs — it’s a lethal combination for a small, independent publication like ours.
I suppose it’s some consolation that we’re part of a national trend: newspaper advertising revenue is two-thirds of what it was just 10 years ago.
But the cost of gathering and dispersing info hasn’t declined, and in a way, that’s my real concern here. Niche publications like ours come and go. But the serious work that journalists do is foundational to our democracy. I come from the reporting side of the track, and one or two rotten eggs aside, reporters take their jobs very seriously. You may not like what they report, but it’s most certainly not “fake.”
The Good News
We’re still here. Our paper is disappearing from newsstands (our deepest apologies to that loyal reader in Lewistown who couldn’t find our July issue anywhere, and doesn’t know how to use a computer). But every drop of information in it appears online.
We’re able to continue thanks to online readers and advertisers; our longtime friends at the Montana Arts Council, who hire us to produce their quarterly, State of the Arts, and subscribe to our arts calendar; and the Montana Office of Tourism, which also uses our events feed for its arts and cultural calendar.
When he heard the news, Brad Robinson, whose daughter Meaghan has delivered our papers in Helena for the past year, wrote: I am deeply sorry to hear that (as they claimed in ‘Ghostbusters’ so long ago) ‘print is dead.’ I have long loved the Lively Times and will, indeed, continue to follow it online. You have done the arts and small businesses in Montana (and more) a great service and you will be missed.”
Thankfully, our Lively friend isn’t dead. She’s just moved on … everything that appears on these pages, and more, appears online.
So if you need to find us come September, head to livelytimes.com. And if you need a little navigational help, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re still doing our best to banish boredom!
– Kristi Niemeyer