By Gail Jokerst
Photo By Jonathan Rimmel
If you typically read the Montana Senior News from cover to cover, you may have noticed that the logo on the front page has changed, along with the masthead publication information listed inside. Those changes reflect not just an updated logo but new ownership and a new era for the newspaper.
After 33 years of publishing and editing Montana Senior News, the paper’s founder Jack Love has retired. This past spring, he sold the Montana Senior News along with its sister publication, the Idaho Senior Independent, to Robert and Janet Hunt of Kalispell. Although the Hunts live in the Flathead, the newspaper’s headquarters for advertising sales and production remains in Great Falls, where Jack has lived since 1981.
From the start, Jack wanted the newspaper to focus on opening the door of possibilities of what readers could accomplish. That has never changed.
“Many people are influenced by things they see and hear but aren’t aware of. Reading about older stock car drivers, parachutists and scuba divers can vicariously make readers feel younger by realizing someone their age could do this, too,” explains Jack. “It’s about getting up off the couch and the doing—extending yourself out of your comfort zone. It seems a more interesting way to live.”
Now that he has retired, Jack is looking forward to opening his own doors of possibility and various ways he can enjoy and educate himself. With his newly acquired free hours, he and his wife, Joan, are spending more time outdoors, hiking along the Rocky Mountain Front, bicycling River’s Edge Trail, and canoeing the Missouri. They’re traveling the nation to see their kids and grandchildren living in five different states. Additionally, Jack plans to do some volunteering and take online classes, “to become more tech-savvy.”
A U.S. Navy veteran with a degree in law as well as English, Jack never intended to start a newspaper. However, he had a vision of how to serve Montana’s mature readership and acquired the skills on the job to bring the newspaper to birth.
“The paper’s purpose has always been to provide interesting and entertaining information for an active 50-plus aged audience,” notes Jack. “It has always been about profiles of people who were worthy of the ink. I also felt it was important to cover a broad range of topics, including travel, finance and recreation. You need a bit of something for everybody.”
Although initially a quarterly publication, Montana Senior News went to a bimonthly format after the first year. (Continued on pg 55)Eventually, two popular departments—“Contest Corner” and “Cupid’s Corner,” the personal ads section—were added. Jack believes the publication has touched the lives of many Montanans. And considering he has heard reports of several marriages resulting from “Cupid’s Corner” ads, he knows it certainly has changed some lives.
The Hunts plan to carry on the Montana Senior News legacy with a mission to “educate, entertain and empower readers.” As Bob says, “Nothing is stopping. It will just be more enhanced, like a fresh coat of paint. We’ll still focus on stories of interest to mature readers. But we’re also excited about empowering this audience with information they need, and that gives advertisers a large benefit to reach this audience in print and online.”
One enhancement readers can expect to see in the future is a more developed Montana Senior News website with a library of original content and an optimized search engine. Expanding the service side of the newspaper is a prime goal. In particular, the Hunts want to include articles enabling readers to confidently navigate topics such as the sometimes dizzying world of smartphone apps and social media.
“We want to embrace those subjects in a non-threatening way, so readers can adapt to the new technology through life. It’s exciting to have a platform to help people,” says Bob, who has a legitimate reason to claim, “Newspapers are in my blood.”
Aside from a brief stint as a real estate agent, Bob’s entire career has been based in the newspaper industry. Starting when he was a kid in Illinois delivering newspapers to people’s doors, it has culminated in taking over the helm of these two Northwest publications.
“I’ve worked as a janitor, reporter and photographer in the press room, in circulation and in advertising. I have a real belief in this business,” says Bob, whose father rose through the ranks to become president of the Chicago Tribune.
An accomplished seamstress and gardener, Janet describes herself as “more of a numbers person.” She handles the accounting for the financial side of the enterprise, along with whatever else requires immediate attention.
“We have a team approach to everything and take over from one another when necessary,” explains Janet. During the couple’s 25-year marriage, they hand-built their home together in a place where they can hear bird songs and see starry nights. Not surprisingly, Janet is as actively engaged behind the scenes as Bob is with the more visible editorial, sales and distribution end of things. And in true family fashion, even their daughter Ruth is involved with the new venture, despite living in the East.
“She’ll take over our social media. She can do that from a distance,” says Janet, who regards being a mom as one of her greatest accomplishments.
For his part, Bob isn’t ready just yet to name his greatest accomplishment.
“I don’t think it’s ever over. I’m always striving to do better and move forward,” he says. “However, we are both proud of this benchmark with Montana Senior News and Idaho Senior Independent. For us, these newspapers are about the first amendment—freedom of speech and freedom of the press. That’s a big responsibility, and we take it very seriously.”
For more info about author Gail Jokerst, visit www.gailjokerst.com MSN