Montana Viewpoint is carried by 20 Montana weekly newspapers, including those in Helena and Billings, with a combined circulation of over 60,000.

Jim Elliott is a former state senator from Trout Creek. He served in the Montana House 1989 to 1996 and the Montana Senate from 2001 to 2008. Elliott has distributed his opinion column statewide since 1992. There is no charge for publication.

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[Montana Viewpoint has been distributed to weekly newspapers throughout Montana since 1992, and may be reprinted free of charge.

Montana Viewpoint© is carried by 20 Montana weekly newspapers, including those in Helena and Billings, with a combined circulation of over 60,000. There is no charge for publication.

Jim Elliott is Chairman of the Montana Democratic Party and a former state senator from Trout Creek.

The opinions expressed in this column are his, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Montana Democratic Party.



November 9, 2009

After about seventeen years and some 500 articles, I’ve decided to take a break from writing Montana Viewpoint©. I first started to write the column in 1992 because I saw a need for some free filler in the weekly papers that also might give folks food for thought. While I certainly had opinions that were very similar to those of other Montana Democrats, I did my best to keep my columns non-confrontational and semi non-partisan. Sometimes my best wasn’t good enough to accomplish that, but by and large I think I succeeded. Mostly what I wanted to do was to get folks—including myself—to look at familiar things from a different perspective. People who call themselves Democrats or Republicans basically share the same values and have the same hopes for Montana and our nation, but they can have markedly different ways of implementing them. What I tried to do was to present each side of an issue, and let folks make up their own minds about it. Of course, just on the off-chance that they might want a little guidance on how to make it up, I did offer my personal opinions on the subject to hand.

Over those seventeen or so years Montana Viewpoint has been carried by as few as 20 and as many as 40 of Montana’s 75 weekly newspapers. Right now the newspapers it appears in have a combined circulation of 60,000, according to the Montana Newspaper Association’s numbers. It’s always been provided free of charge, which in my view is the real reason for whatever success it’s enjoyed. Once, when folks in Helena were particularly generous in their praise I mentioned my column’s popularity to a newspaper editor and suggested that I might now have good grounds for charging for it. “Oh Jim,” she said, “I think your readership would decline dramatically if you did that.” Which was as nice a way of saying “don’t press your luck” as I have ever encountered.

Sometimes it got people’s attention, and sometimes it just got them mad. I don’t know how many letters columnists or newspaper reporters get, but I knew that I had made a point when I got one or two letters on a column. I’ve saved them, too, and if you are one of the folks who wrote a nice letter, I thank you for it, and I’m sorry if I’m taking some of your reading pleasure away. For those who wrote not so nice letters, I thank you, too, because at least you took the time to read my articles. I hope the latter will accept this hiatus in Montana Viewpoint as a gift, because they will no longer have to read something they disagree with just so they can tell me how much they disagree with it.

It’s been a good ride. I’ve made my time, and I’m taking a break while I’m still ahead. So here’s a tip of the hat and a big thanks to all of you for your readership.

Happy trails!