2022 Year in Review header
Credit: Illustration by Melissa McFarlin

Montana Free Press is taking an out-of-office holiday break Dec. 26-30. Instead of new stories, we’ll be publishing MTFP editors’ and reporters’ look back at their most impactful, interesting, challenging, and just plain favorite stories of the past year. Today is Brad Tyer’s turn.


Every day this week we’ll be publishing a reporter, contributor or editor’s recon of their beat in 2022. There’s an awful lot of work worth revisiting in those upcoming posts, and they don’t leave me a ton to work with here at the front of the line without being pre-redundant. 

So to avoid repeating ourselves, and instead of trying to recap the year’s incomprehensibly varied news around some prefab topic or theme, I’d like to start us off by highlighting a few (for brevity) of our best longish (to counterbalance the brevity) articles of the past year. These are stories you can stretch out in. Stories to take a minute with. Stories that transcend the news they contain. 

Lame Deer High School Principal Byron Woods: “I’m principal, vice principal, secretary, and attendance clerk right now.” Credit: Jill Van Alstyne / MTFP

The first arrived right off the 2022 bat, almost a full year ago. Contributing reporter Jill Van Alstyne delivered a story of struggle and resilience at Lame Deer High School that overflowed with lived experience. I’ve personally never had much urge to revisit my high school days, but maybe that’s because I never found nearly as much good going on in my high school as Jill found in Lame Deer. 

A water main in Gardiner was damaged, resulting in health officials placing a boil order on the town’s drinking water supply. Bottled water was available at the local Forest Service ranger station. Credit: John S. Adams/MTFP

The second was John Adams’ spot-on, on-the-spot report from the edge of Yellowstone in mid-June, days after the Yellowstone River jumped its banks and wiped out roads and bridges, stranding the town of Gardiner from the national park that provides its economic lifeblood. John spent two days in town, talking to everyone he could find, and saw a lot of Montanans’ character in action. Read his story and you can too. 

The third arrived in September, and came barreling out of the keyboard of Arren Kimbel-Sannit, the newest member of our staff: a profile of (now former) Sidney pastor, would-be GOP kingmaker and online impresario J.D. Hall, who happened, at the time, to be suffering a fall from grace of quasi-biblical proportions. I caught some online flack for describing Hall as a “fascinating character” when we first published the story, but I dare you to read it and disagree.

Credit: Photo-illustration by Melissa McFarlin / MTFP

And for a heart-enlarging audio bonus, I refer you to Mara Silvers’ Episode 8 of the second season of our Shared State podcast: “The politics of death and dying.” Surely I’m not recommending a long-listen about death and dying here in the meat of holiday season? Yes, I surely am. 

After starting professional life covering music for the Houston (Texas) Press in his hometown, Brad has worked as an editor at the Texas Observer in Austin and the Missoula (Montana) Independent. Along the way he's freelanced for publications including High Country News and the Los Angeles Review of Books.