Missoula has been named on top 10 lists for its quality of life and ability to draw venture capital dollars.
Now, "Missoula" is the title of a book about rape by prominent author and bestselling journalist Jon Krakauer.
"It is a powerful vehicle," said Mario Schulzke, a marketing professional at the University of Montana. "I don't think the perception that people have of Missoula is going to change overnight into something very negative, but I do think it will have a negative impact."
This week, Krakauer announced the book "about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana" will be released April 21. Doubleday will produce 500,000 copies for the release, a significant first run.
On its cover, the book features the name "Missoula" in large white letters against a blue background above the iconic Main Hall clock tower.
Montanans, native Missoulians, and longtime residents immediately aired grievances that the book's name will cement the association between the city of Missoula, UM and rape.
"As a Missoulian, I really wish you had named your book differently," said Kyra Jedrykowski Treible on Krakauer's Facebook page. "There is so much more to Missoula than this story."
"I have read almost everything you've written, and I've always considered myself a fan, BUT I am so disappointed in the title of your book," said Julia Howlett on the same page. "I hate to see a lovely town's reputation get destroyed."
The announcement posted on Krakauer's website is clear the story about university and local authorities mishandling rape in Missoula is typical in college communities. The summary describes campus rape as a "national plague."
Nonetheless, Schulzke, assistant vice president of marketing at UM, said Missoula will take a hit. He agreed a book by a famous author will have a greater impact on the community's reputation than being named on various top 10 lists for positive attributes.
But Schulzke said a rebuttal is not in order. Rather, he said, the community of Missoula needs to come together to share its own stories.
"When people and readers across the world see that book and the cover, there's a good chance they'll go and ... Google Missoula," Schulzke said. "And I think that we as a community need to rally, and we need to try and tell many of the wonderful things Missoula has to offer."
As an example, he pointed to a video Liquid Planet produced for its 10-year anniversary called, "Missoula ... One Question." The coffee shop and downtown retail store features people talking about their favorite thing in Missoula, and it had roughly 23,000 views this week.
Barb Neilan, executive director of Destination Missoula, said she hopes the book also talks about the way the city and university have "taken a hold of the issue" and worked to change the culture. Destination Missoula promotes tourism to the Garden City.
"Krakauer is a very well-known author, and respected, and so it obviously is going to be something we're going to have to contend with," Neilan said.
In recent years, Missoula has been named a top river town, technology hub, and good city for families and young people. The city has been host to a national kayaking competition, and this summer, Missoula will be the seat of professional cycling races and a related bike festival.
Neilan said she did not foresee any groups wanting to break contracts with Missoula because of the book. The book is new, she said, but stories about the problem aren't.
And the other side of the story is strong, she said. Missoula has a reputation for "being a pretty amazing community" with people who are generous and kind, she said, and Destination Missoula will continue to present that side of the city.
"We kind of weathered the storm through the press the first time, and we'll just do the same thing this time, and just really show what Missoula really is about," Neilan said.
The rapes in Missoula led to investigations, including one by the U.S. Department of Justice for gender bias and the mishandling of sexual assault reports. UM, the city of Missoula and the Missoula County Attorney's Office signed agreements to improve practices as a result.
In a statement from the city communications director, Mayor John Engen said he hopes the book leads to "the kind of reforms we've embraced as a community." Engen is a native of Missoula.
"The book could name most cities in America with a university and likely be accurate," Engen said in an email. "We'll own our chapter in the continuing effort to end sexual assault, improve policing and prosecution, and ensuring all Missoulians are safe.
"But Missoula has many other chapters and continues to be a place that most folks consider a great place to live, work and play."