Montana Editors on Foreign Reporting

If you’ve opened up a Montana newspaper lately, you probably haven’t noticed a foreign news section. That’s because, in most papers, there isn’t much of one, and what is covered relates, by and large, directly back to the community or is generated by a community member who happens to be in a foreign country. Most foreign news is wire copy, with very occasional staff-written pieces.

“What we try to do with international news is to find a local angle to that and make it more relevant to our readers,” said Gerry O’Brien, editor of the Montana Standard in Butte.

During the uprisings in Egypt earlier this year, the Montana Standard published a series of articles about photojournalist Holly Pickett because she is a Butte native. The Missoula Independent also published an interview with Pickett in late April.

Newspapers credit their lack of foreign news to their readers not wanting the papers to cover it. They’re interested, instead, in local news, and newspapers believe that their strong point is covering it. “They can’t get school board news anywhere else,” says Greg Lemon, editor of the Madison Valley and Ruby Valley weekly paper, the Madisonian. He’s surprised that daily newspapers in Montana are even choosing to print as much foreign news as they do.

Newspapers don’t want to waste their space reprinting AP stories that readers can find elsewhere. Editors at The Daily Interlake in Kalispell. says that, often times, they choose what foreign news they’re going to cover based on conflict. Sometimes, they only have space for one or two foreign stories, and the bigger story gets the space.

The Internet, however, has unlimited space, and most daily, along with some weekly newspapers, in Montana have live updates on world and national news from the Associated Press in special sections on their sites.

It seems that Montana newspapers are getting farther from foreign news coverage as technology increases. The 24-hour news cycle allows people to access world news instantly from their TV or computer, and they are less interested in whether or not their local paper covers that same news the next day. Readers are picking up newspapers to get their hyperlocal news, and editors around the state have recognized and catered to that interest.