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Montana Senior News Forty Years Ago

Jack Love with the first issue of MSN

By Suzanne Waring

The art of being a successful entrepreneur is a curious study. First, inspiration for developing a business has to come from being receptive to a good idea. Sometimes the good idea arrives distinctively, and at other times it is so indiscriminate that it has to be reshaped for a new purpose. Jack Love, who developed the Montana Senior News (MSN) into an ongoing business, knows exactly the origin of his inspirations and the way he reshaped some good ideas.

Love had an acquaintance who often talked about starting a newspaper for seniors. Listening to a distinctive idea, Love said he would take on such a venture. The two worked together, putting out the first issue of Montana Senior Citizens News in the fall of 1984. By the time Jack was mentally invested in this newspaper enterprise and the second issue was partially finished, the other party’s inspiration led him in another direction.

Continuing this newspaper wasn’t easy forty years ago. With only the most elementary publishing experience—the copy was pasted type from an old Underwood typewriter—but with sustainability, Love was able to put into place the facets of a periodical including: advertising, employees, writers, layout, printing, transportation, and accounting.

Initially, the paper was published quarterly. Later it became a bimonthly newspaper, as it is today. Subscribers’ fees mainly paid the postage; otherwise, it has always been an advertiser-supported, complimentary paper that readers pick up at various locations.

In addition to the 11” x 17” size, a feature that remains today is a photograph on the cover of a person whose story the newspaper wants to tell. “The idea of having a large portrait on the cover came from intimate photographs I had seen at the Murphy Bar in Great Falls. A good photographer had captured faces reflecting a lot of living—much of it hard—such as leathery skin, deep wrinkles, and twinkling eyes, or unique facial features of some of the bar’s regular customers,” Love said. Hung on the walls of the bar, the framed black and white photographs (something of a rogue’s gallery) of not just cowboys, but men and women from all walks of life were of such distinctive quality that they were eye-catching. Inspired by the photographs, Jack “reshaped” this idea for the cover of every MSN issue. A quality photograph of a person whose story is told in the centerfold article remains a distinctive feature of the newspaper.

The masthead of the newspaper was “Montana Senior Citizens News” for several years before the word, “Citizens,” was dropped.

The first office for MSN was on the third floor of the old and dilapidated Davenport Hotel building at 518 Central Avenue in Great Falls. This office and the custodial tenants’ apartment were the only occupants of the second and third floors, making the place seem hollow and barren except for the Lobby Bar located at street level. With tongue-in-cheek, Love and his employees would direct people to the newspaper office “high atop the Lobby Bar in the Davenport Towers.”

In the beginning, Montana Senior News was distributed only in Great Falls. As advertising expanded to surrounding communities, distribution followed until circulation covered the entire state.

Thinking of the days when he was getting the newspaper out to readers, Love said, “I have always been highly supportive of the U.S. Postal Service. The post office was a reliable partner in handling all of our mailings and distribution.” MSN still relies on the U.S. Post Office for numerous mailings.

Having loyal employees who worked for the newspaper for decades and flowed with the publishing cycle made running a newspaper possible. “Everyone could pitch in and pinch-hit in different areas of the business,” Love said in appreciation of the dedicated MSN employees.

“The Montana Senior News was a fulfilling career, and I enjoyed the people I met and those we featured over the years—Montana is so full of interesting people with engaging stories to share,” Love said. “Owning a small business is rewarding and a good way to earn a living. I had the freedom to decide how I budgeted my time, and publishing every other month provided a bit of downtime at the beginning of each new issue that my employees and I appreciated.”

The art of being a successful entrepreneur is also realizing when inspiration has taken a new direction, so after thirty-three years, Love sold the newspaper to the Hunts in 2017. They will continue to reveal their own entrepreneurial ideas as they fashion the Montana Senior News to fit the times well into the twenty-first century. MSN

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