Media Sexism? Lee Hire Highlights Gender Disparity Among State’s Newspapers

Lee Enterprises, the corporation that owns a significant amount of the print news in Montana, including flagship dailies such as the Missoulian, the Billings Gazette, the Montana Standard, and the Helena Independent Record, recently announced the hire of two statewide reporters to cover state politics and government issues.

The hires comes after a very public separation between Lee and longtime state reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison, who were reportedly asked to accept pay cuts of 40 percent.  Johnson has since retired and Dennison was recently hired by Montana Television News as chief political reporter.

However, one curiosity about the new hires includes the fact that both are female and are replacing male counterparts.  If the reports about Lee’s offer to Johnson and Dennison are true, it would mean that both women are being hired for 60 cents on the dollar what their male counterparts previously made.  Neither Billings Gazette Editor Darrell Ehrlick nor Lee have challenged media reports about the pay cut. In an industry that often joins the liberal chorus decrying pay disparities among men and women, the hiring of two women at a lesser rate than men in the exact same position would be a wholly hypocritical move.

The hiring of women in the same positions of men prompted Media Trackers to do an impromptu investigation into the leadership of other print newspapers in the major urban centers of the state.  Surprisingly, for an industry that prides itself on progressive reporting and coverage, Media Trackers could find no major daily newspapers with a female Editor-in-Chief.  The list of newspapers and their current male editors includes:

Montana Standard – Butte – (Lee Enterprises) – David McCumber


Billings Gazette (Lee Enterprises) – Darrell Ehrlick


Bozeman Daily Chronicle – (Pioneer News/Scripps) – Nick Ehli


Great Falls Tribune – (Gannett) – Jim Strauss


Daily Inter Lake – Kalispell – (Hagadone) – Frank Miele


Missoulian – (Lee Enterprises) – Matthew Bunk


Helena Independent Record – (Lee Enterprises) – Greg Lemon


While several of the editors have had relatively short tenures at the heads of their respective newspapers, several others have served long tenures in the Montana Press.  Until Bunk’s hiring in August, the Missoulian was headed by the state’s only female top editor, Sherry Devlin.  Devlin was hired as the Missoulian editor in 2005, and still remains at the publication as an associate editor.  Many other publications also include women in editor roles for individual sections of their respective organizations.

In addition to the lack of gender diversity in editor positions at the state’s top newspapers, there also appears to be a complete lack of ethnic or racial diversity among the state’s top editors.

To further highlight the discrepancy between positions taken by the newspapers and their practices, most of the papers have also written editorials in support of women in fields they have typically been unrepresented in.  For example:

Gazette Opinion: Girls Can Now Be Plumbers

Montana Standard Editorial: Task Force to Address Equal Pay

Bozeman Daily Chronicle Editorial: City should take lead with Equal Pay Resolution

Great Falls Tribune Editorial Board: Equal Pay Issue Deserves Debate

Perhaps the major newspapers of the state could take a bit of their own advice and look outside the male gender for their leadership roles.