Montana Free Press editor Brad Tyer has watched the news business evolve throughout his three-decade career in commercial and nonprofit journalism.

“Support for news-gathering organizations — the model has changed,” Tyer tells Lowdown podcast host John S. Adams, his new boss. “But ultimately, a news-gathering organization has got to be supported by people who value the news-gathering.”

A longtime editor of the weekly Missoula Independent, Tyer had a hand in hiring and mentoring several up-and-coming Montana reporters, including Adams, who joined the Independent staff in 2005. Tyer edited the Indy from 2002 to 2007, and again from 2016 through 2018, having written a book about environmental justice in Montana and worked as an editor at the Texas Observer in the interim. He found himself “underemployed” when the Independent was closed in 2018.

The timing turned out to be fortuitous. After a brief stint editing MTFP stories on contract from Missoula, he moved to Helena in August to join the growing MTFP staff full time, assigning and editing stories from staff and freelance reporters and developing editorial strategies for the future. He’s also taken on the role of coordinating a statewide reporting collaboration among Montana newsrooms in partnership with the Montana Newspaper Association and the Solutions Journalism Network. The project, titled Graying Pains: Challenges and Opportunities in the West’s Oldest State, will debut in early 2020. 

Tyer’s pivot from editor to guest on the Lowdown podcast lets listeners eavesdrop on a conversation between longtime friends and colleagues about the importance of building mutually supportive relationships between readers and newsrooms and the daily rewards of finding new ways to thrive in a business being forced to reinvent itself.

Alex McKenzie has worked with a diverse array of start-ups and nonprofit organizations. He is a former record producer and music journalist, has additional experience working in agriculture and food security, and previously operated his own dairy business. He lives in southwest Montana. Follow him on Twitter.