At 12:03 pm on Saturday, Gallatin County 911 received reports from multiple callers that a raft had gone over House Rock and dumped the rafters. Callers stated that two of the three occupants were in the river and the third rafter was heading down the Gallatin River without any paddles. Rescuers from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue from Big Sky and Bozeman responded to assist with the rescue. One of the rafters sustained a neck injury and was subsequently transported to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital by the Big Sky Fire Department. The other two rafters were uninjured. All three rafters were experienced raft guides and were wearing appropriate gear. The raft was retrieved with help from Montana Whitewater.
Photo courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff's Office

June 2, 2020

From Bozeman Police Chief Steve Crawford,
With regard to the George Floyd in-custody death in Minneapolis, we are dismayed and deeply troubled by what occurred and what we saw on that video.  There is no justification for the actions of the now former officer, nor for the failure of the other officers at the scene to intervene, that resulted in Mr. Floyd’s tragic death.
Our organization values the sanctity of human life and the importance of treating all persons with dignity and respect and this act was none of that.  Yesterday, Bozeman gathered to voice its commitment to being a safe, welcoming, and inclusive community. As a profession, we are sworn to protect our communities and all of those within. Please know that your police department is committed to keeping Bozeman safe in partnership with our fellow community members.
May 29, 2020

An Amtrak passenger train collided with a John Deer sprayer tractor  in Roosevelt County, the county reports.

The man driving the tractor died. Passengers on the train suffered "multiple injuries" a press release noted.

The accident occurred at mile marker 653 on Highway 2 near Bainville. 

Injured passengers were being taken to Culbertson High School for triage, the release said. 

All  train traffic on the line has been stopped, and Roosevelt County dispatch reccomends avoiding the 6th Avenue Bainville crossing. Motorists are asked to use the underpass.

The Amtrak cars did not deraile, the county noted in an update..



by Eric Dietrich05.28.2020

HELENA — Staff at the Billings Gazette, Montana’s largest newspaper, announced May 28 that they are seeking recognition as the Montana News Guild, marking the first public union push at a daily Montana newspaper as journalists across the region look to labor organizing as a way to shield their jobs from the newspaper industry’s ongoing financial woes.

“For too long we have seen our corporate out-of-state employer, Lee Enterprises, cut our staff and raise our medical costs while providing few, if any, cost of living increases,” members of the Montana News Guild organizing committee said in a release. “We believe that through unionizing, we can create a more stable environment for local news to grow.”

Neither Billings Gazette publisher Dave Worstell nor regional editor David McCumber immediately responded to requests for comment Thursday. 

Lee, based in Davenport, Iowa, is a publicly traded company that owns 75 daily newspapers in 26 states. In Montana, Lee also owns the Missoulian, the Independent Record in Helena, the Montana Standard in Butte and the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton, making it the state’s dominant newspaper chain.

Neither the Lee papers in Montana nor the state’s three other large urban newspapers — the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle and Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell — have unionized newsrooms.

Journalists and business staff at another Lee-owned property, the alt-weekly Missoula Independent, voted to unionize in April 2018 following the paper’s sale to Lee by its local owner. The company ultimately shut the publication down that September.

At the Gazette, management now has the option of voluntarily recognizing the newsroom union or letting staff take a formal vote on organizing in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Following the successful formation of a union, Gazette staff and Lee managers would enter collective bargaining negotiations. 

A letter to Worstell requesting the company voluntarily recognize the union was signed by 19 Gazette staff members: Phoebe Tollefson, Robert Rogers, Victor Flores, Juliana Sukut, Brett French, Tom Lutey, Charity Dewing, Mike Clark, Casey Page, Mike Kordenbrock, Matt Hoffman, Mike Scherting, Anna Paige, Tim Stover, Bill Bighaus, Mari Hall, Rachelle Lacy, James Goossen and Greg Rachac.

A staff directory on the Gazette website lists 24 newsroom, sports and photography staff, including several mid-level editors who could be classified as non-union management positions.

Newspapers including the Gazette and other Montana publications have endured years of newsroom cuts as they lose advertising revenue to internet platforms like Craigslist, Google and Facebook. Those economic struggles have been compounded in recent months by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further decimated advertising revenues and triggered staff furloughs at every large paper in the state.

In their release, the Gazette staff write that the paper’s newsroom staff count has been halved in the past 20 years, and that page design being shifted to “an understaffed out-of-state central” facility. They also cite the elimination of in-house bookkeeping staff and the February layoffs of the paper’s longtime editorial page writer and chief editor, which means the Gazette newsroom now reports to a regional editor based in Butte.

“The Gazette’s large building that dominates the corner of Fourth Avenue and 27th Street now stands more than half empty,” staffers write.

The announcement comes amid a wave of unionization efforts at newspapers in states surrounding Montana. Staff at the Lee-owned Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming, for example, unionized in early 2018. The resulting Casper News Guild has said it’s been able to negotiate a contract with modest raises and negotiate the terms of furloughs made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elsewhere in the region, staff at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in Cheyenne voted to unionize in March, and staff at the Idaho Statesman in Boise voted to unionize in April. The Tribune is owned by Adams Publishing Group, which also owns the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Gazette staffers said Thursday that they don’t see unionizing as a silver bullet for the paper’s economic woes, but do hope that legal protections for organized labor will give them a chance to be involved as their managers weigh tough business decisions.

“We’re not expecting to eliminate every bad thing that’s coming down the pike,” said Victor Flores, a sports reporter. “We know that’s the reality of the business.”

In his year and a half with the Gazette, Flores said, he’s already sat through three staff meetings announcing layoffs. 

“We really just want a bit more protection,” he said.

Photo by Diane Larson

View from the Boulder River Bridge near Boulder, Mont. on May Day