Story by Courtney Anderson
About 1,500 readers visit the Last Best News website daily. Thanks to a campaign to encourage Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges to run for U.S. Senate, that number spiked to 8,000 in August 2014.
Ed Kemmick, who started the independent news site after quitting his job of 25 years at the Billings Gazette, broke the story. And it went viral.
The Washington Post blog, Politico, MSNBC, and Fox News reported on the push to make “The Dude” a U.S. Senate candidate.
“I think people are just so depressed and fed up with politics as usual that even if it’s just kind of a joke, it’s more fun to get involved in something like this,” Kemmick said.
“I saw what was going on and thought, ‘Well, this is way too much fun.’”
Robert Saldin, an associate professor of political science at the University of Montana, said three things made this 72-hour story gain momentum – name recognition, Bridges’ potential to fund the campaign, and the excitement and intrigue it created.
Kemmick’s source was Lizbeth Pratt, who created the Facebook page to urge Bridges to campaign after a plagiarism scandal forced Sen. John Walsh to end his re-election campaign.
“He’s a great candidate, and if anyone can get him to run for something, he’s going to win,” said Pratt, who spent much of her life in Montana.
The push to persuade Bridges failed, but Kemmick’s site didn’t. He says he has enough business with advertisers to replace his income at the Gazette.