Fear not! The Beagle won't be run outta town

I have been inundated with news and panic that the Bigfork Chamber of Commerce has lured the Daily Inter Lake is re-opening The Bigfork Eagle, the paper that dumped your community back in 2015.

Readers are concerned about the future of The Beagle and wonder why the Chamber, which is supposedly supportive of local businesses, wants to bring back an interloping competitor.

My response is simple: Fear not, kind readers.

The Beagle isn't going anywhere and, in fact, has added yet another print product further strengthening its long-term financial stability.

For background's sake, Hagadone Publishing is based in Idaho and owns the Daily Inter Lake and 6 or 8 weekly newspapers in Western Montana.

All of them are failing slowly, just as The Eagle did back in 2015 when it abandoned its readers in Bigfork. Not to mention the West Shore News, that once served Lakeside-Somers and the West Shore.

What makes anyone think it will be different this time?

The Eagle is asking for paid subscriptions and will get no more than a few hundred -- if that -- not nearly enough to fund the venture by itself. The Inter Lake will also try to sell ads to businesses that want to reach the East Shore market area.

My prediction is, a few Chamber members who for some reason want to run me and the Beagle out of town, will take a few extremely expensive and ineffective ads that won't nearly cover the cost of re-entering the market. Subscriptions will also fall woefully short, especially when competing against so many free publications such as The Beagle and The Flathead Beacon, which is owned by Maury Povich and Connie Chung.

Let's also be clear, the new Eagle will be a few local stories thrown in with varsity sports you can get from TV, Radio, newspapers and the school's own Twitter feed -- in real time! Plus, a bunch of Kalispell news you can get anywhere.

You might get some insert ads from supermarkets and national chains but you already get those for free in other papers.

The more important questions to me are: 1. Why is the Chamber trying to run The Beagle out of business? 2. Why would the DIL invest 10s of thousands of dollars to run The Beagle out of business?

First, anyone I ever speak to says that when someone messes with the way you make a living, that is the lowest form of revenge.

And, dear readers, revenge is what this is all about.

The Beagle has reached out to the chamber and its various "community" boards countless times only to be told that they are only interested in building the tourism business. The chamber supported a magazine that will soon die of its own weight. Especially when the ads for that publication are three times more expensive than our Day Tripper. Plus, the magazine only circulates 2,000 copies in Flathead County. At $1500 for a full page, how many more meals or T-shirts do you have to sell to make it worth doing?

Meanwhile, The Day Tripper circulated 12,000 copies from Missoula to Whitefish and included paid ads from every tourism community in four counties -- except Bigfork. In effect, those other communities were competing directly against Bigfork. Next summer, we will print and distribute 18,000 copies of the Day Tripper across four counties in Western Montana without raising rates.

Go figure.

When you do something to hurt someone by hurting yourself, that speaks for the mindset of a small group of self-appointed royalty.

As for the Inter Lake, I came to Montana 5 years ago to work for the Polson weekly called The Lake County Leader and despite earning bonuses every single month for subscriptions, website traffic and digital subscriptions, they decided they didn't need my services.

Ironically, they hired former Eagle Editor Dave Reese to fill my prior roll and promptly closed the Eagle and the West Shore News while Dave and his lone reporter were soon gone, like most of Hagadone's employees. (Hagadone is known in the industry as the Revolving Door of journalists or The Place Journalism Careers Go To Die.)

I am not worried. This blatant attempt to take away my income is ugly, hateful and shortsighted and will soon backfire like everything else Hagadone has tried in our fine state.

I mean, really. I started The Beagle four years ago with nothing. The Otter came along about six months later. This fall, knowing the long-term reputation and failures of Hagadone's Lake County Leader, and after learning the Lake County Valley Journal went to paid subscriptions (and promptly lost almost all of its circulation), we launched Polson Live and doubled our circulation with free papers from Arlee to South Kalispell without raising advertising fees.

The most ironic thing is that I have made my skills and resources available to all of these entities and have been treated like Atilla The Hun by these people because they fear the truth when it doesn't align with their closely guarded and narrow beliefs.

So, once again, its ALL OF THEM -- Maury, Hagadone, The Chamber -- against a guy who does much of his work while wearing his Batman pajamas.

So, again, fear not and thanks for your concern. The Beagle, Otter and Polson Live will be around for as long as I am. We have just been approached to launch a community paper in Missoula. Sounds interesting.

I want to also thank my loyal advertisers and readers for supporting our little, friendly, community oriented newspapers. We try to create mutually beneficial relationships and support our communities with cash, volunteerism and donations.

It seems to be a winning formula.

Happy Holidays!

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