James V. Strauss, former publisher and editor of the Great Falls Tribune, has been named the new publisher of the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic.
“Jim is an exceptional leader with a history of exemplary service in Montana,” said Nathan Bekke, vice president of consumer sales and marketing and Lee group publisher. “His experience leading one of the state’s major daily newspapers and his background of award-winning journalism make him uniquely qualified for the role.”
Strauss was president and publisher of Great Falls Media, which is owned by Gannett, for the last 15 years. He was executive editor of the company, which includes the Great Falls Tribune, from 1995 to 2003.
The Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2000 under Strauss's leadership for its year-long series on the impacts of alcoholism in Montana.
Strauss was assistant managing editor for The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Indiana, from 1989 to 1995.
Strauss succeeds Mike Gulledge, who announced in September that he was leaving Lee Enterprises, parent company of the Missoulian. Gulledge has been serving as the interim publisher while a search was underway for a replacement in Missoula and Hamilton.
Strauss said he was "excited to be back in Montana and to be a part of a vibrant Missoula community. The talented staff of the Missoulian has built impressive print and digital audiences through quality journalism and outstanding service. I look forward to working with them to further grow our reach and help businesses in our community be successful.”
While in Great Falls, Strauss served on 10 different state and local boards, including the C.M. Russell Museum, the Montana Chamber of Commerce and the Montana Newspaper Association.
Strauss said he believes in the importance of local journalism and the crucial role it plays in public discourse.
“What I love about this industry is we make a difference in the community every day through our journalism, shining a light on problems and also rallying the community around causes," he said. "We also make a difference through our advertising department. We deliver the audience that local businesses need to drive business success. As a team, we all need to be unified and focused and move forward.”
Strauss said he understands the importance of separating the business and news functions of a newspaper.
“It’s always important to keep our news report free of conflicts of interest,” he said. “Where conflicts of interest arise, I’ll recuse myself of any decisions. That being said, it’s also important as a news media outlet, we can’t be aloof. We can’t be separate from our community. I believe strongly in giving back and I plan to be active in business groups, arts groups and nonprofits, but I’ll recuse myself if there’s any conflicts of interest.”
Amid declining revenue, an industry-wide problem, the Great Falls Tribune saw layoffs over the past decade under Gannett ownership, as did the Missoulian under Lee ownership. Strauss said it’s “much preferable” to increase revenue rather than cut costs.
“What we have to do is do a better job of getting our story out,” he explained. “We need the public to understand the resources we devote to putting out an objective news report, how we seek to be balanced and thorough in our coverage.
"On the advertising side, we need to get the message out that we’re far more than print. We not only have a digital audience, but we have the largest digital audience for advertisers, and we need to do a better job of telling our story.”
Strauss holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and economics from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and a masters of business administration from the University of Notre Dame. His wife, Dee Strauss, was recently named executive director of The Village Health & Rehabilitation center in Missoula.
He and his wife have five grown children, including two sets of twins born 21 months apart. He said he likes to fish, hike and read in his free time.