By McHugh Pierre
For eight years Missoula politicos closely followed city Councilman Bob Jaffe’s much anticipated weekly digest of council and committee meetings. But 2014 heralds the citizen-journalist’s retirement, and whoever takes over his Listserv will have big shoes to fill.
The Missoulian’s city beat reporter, Keila Szpaller, says the general newspaper audience just isn’t interested in the sausage making of local politics. That’s where Jaffe came in.
“He provides depth and detail,” Szpaller said. “It really fills a niche in the community.”
The Monday night meetings that Szpaller covers are really just a formality, Jaffe said. “The meat of the discussion happens at the Wednesday meeting, and that is what people really need to know.”
About 1,000 people subscribed to the Listserv in which Jaffe says he gave a candid opinion of what takes place in the meetings without being offensive. But his passive-aggressive sense of humor bled through the politics.
“Next thing you know, we have folks chanting the mantra that the city is ‘business unfriendly,’” Jaffe wrote in a committee update from October 2, 2013, during which the council modified sign regulations to include an entrepreneur’s desire to install little TVs for ads on top of gas pumps. “How dare we consider making rules that could impact someone who has created a job? Never mind that the rule we are considering completely takes into account his needs.”
It’s the way Jaffe wrote the articles that made the Listserv so popular, fellow city council member Caitlin Copple said.
With a background in journalism, Copple might do just as much justice to the issues, and she’s willing to take over as long as Jaffe will let the Listserv out of Ward 3’s hands.
But Copple said the meeting summaries can be time consuming, and writing about every little detail can quickly become more work than it’s worth. Luckily, she’s not the only interested candidate.
Fellow council member Jason Wiener said he isn’t willing to let the Listserv die either. “If there is a void, I’d be hard pressed not to fill it.”
Jaffe said he’s okay with either Copple or Wiener taking over, as long as someone grows into the role and keeps the Listserv alive.
McHugh Pierre is a former television news anchor and reporter. He has a passion for journalism and how communities share critical information.