Missoulian general manager Matt Gibson is leaving to take a position as the executive director of the Montana Newspaper Association.
"The Montana Newspaper Association is the strongest advocate for free speech, open government, and professional news standards in the state, and its work is vital to the industry," Gibson said. "I’m excited by the opportunity to serve the MNA’s members by promoting the great work they’re doing each and every day."
Gibson's last day with Lee Enterprises, which owns the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic, will be Dec. 21, said Missoulian publisher Jim Strauss.
“While I am sorry to see Matt leaving the Missoulian, I am excited about the experience and passion he will bring to the Montana Newspaper Association," Strauss said in an email. "Matt will be a strong voice for our industry and help lead Montana newspapers forward as we find innovative ways to serve readers and advertisers in print and digital.”
The MNA has a membership of 85 different newspapers in Montana, including the Missoulian. The MNA is an advocacy organization that defends the First Amendment and the value of a free press to democracy. Its mission also includes journalism education and records preservation.
“I’ve known Matt for more than 15 years and served with him on the MNA board," Strauss said. "I look forward to working with him in his new role. I am analyzing how to best fill Matt’s position here and will begin recruiting soon.”
Scott Squillace, the president of the MNA and the search committee chairman, said Gibson will assume his new role by the end of the year.
"The search committee spent many hours establishing hiring criteria, researching candidates and interviewing finalists," he said. "We were quite fortunate with the volume of quality candidates that were interested in the position. Ultimately, the committee was unanimous in its decision to offer the position to Mr. Gibson."
Squillace said Gibson has a unique perspective as a former MNA board member and past MNA president.
"You take a person who got his start in newspapers working at a small Montana daily (Livingston Enterprise), a person who took on the many challenges that face an owner of a successful, alternative newspaper in Montana, who also finished his last post working for a large daily newspaper, and you end up with a person who is uniquely qualified to affect real change on day one."
Gibson was the long-time owner of the Missoula Independent alternative weekly. He was hired by Lee Enterprises, the company that owns the Missoulian, in August 2017 after selling the Independent to Lee Enterprises.
Lee shuttered the Indy earlier this year because it was losing money.
"The committee looks forward to working with Mr. Gibson, as we are confident he possesses the requisite experience and skill set needed to lead MNA into a future of continued growth and success," Squillace said.