By Don Cogger
During his tenure at the helm of the Montana Standard, Dan Killoy once made the controversial decision to run a story about a local priest who'd been arrested and charged with inappropriate conduct. The next day, 1,400 readers in the predominantly Catholic community of Butte canceled their subscriptions.
One of those readers was Killoy's own mother.
"I thought the circulation director was going to have a stroke," said Killoy, laughing at the memory. "But that's what separates the newspaper business from any other. There's no other business on Earth that if you do what your customers ask you to do, and deliver the product they demand at the price they demand it, you can put your revenue stream in jeopardy. But they always come back."
Celebrating his 50th year in the newspaper business, Killoy, publisher of the Miles City Star since 2000, has now been recognized by his peers for his colorful career. At last weekend's annual convention of the Montana Newspaper Association, he was honored with the MNA Master Editor/Publisher Award, given each year to an individual for lifetime contributions to the newspaper industry.
Not bad for a blue-collar Irishman from Butte who was once fired three times during the same shift.
"To think about where I came from, to get this award is very rewarding," he said. "I'm grateful that at one time, a man named Lloyd Schermer (former CEO of Lee Enterprises) had enough integrity to forget about who I was and what side of the negotiating table I was on to give me a chance. Without him, I don't get here, and I sure don't become Master Publisher."
Killoy began his career in the industry as an inserter in the mailroom of the Montana Standard in 1963. After graduating high school in 1965, he began an apprenticeship in the Standard's composing department as a printer, where he became heavily involved in union politics. He was elected president of ITU (International Typographical Union) local #126 in 1970, and then as president of the Montana State Typo Union in 1971, serving in that capacity until 1979. During this time he negotiated labor contracts with the newspapers and job shops in Montana.
"I got addicted to the back-and-forth arbitration of negotiations," Killoy said. "I enjoyed the give-and-take and working with the different personalities. There were some great minds on both sides of the table. My people skills were all developed right there."
The newspaper industry in Butte during the 1960s and ’70s was often fueled by alcohol, a vice Killoy had no problem embracing. Now sober for over 30 years, he's thankful that trend finally changed.
"Alcohol was just off the charts back then," Killoy explained. "Everybody at work was drunk. I would think to myself, 'What a deal: I can go to work sober, go home drunk and get a paycheck for it.' I thought it was the greatest thing on Earth. That naturally created adversarial relationships between union workers and management. That's when the negotiation skills came in handy."
Killoy made the transition from printer to ad salesman in 1979, eventually becoming Advertising Director in 1982.
"I was looking for a new challenge, so I went in to see Tom Williams, who was the general manager at the time," Killoy said. "He offered me a job as an ad salesman when a position opened up, and three or four months later a spot opened up. Williams took me down to a department store and bought me a sports coat and a pair of pants and two ties. I didn't have any of that stuff - I'd been an ink slinger all my life. He gave me a call list and sent me on my way."
Killoy was named publisher of the Standard in 1990, a position he held until leaving the paper in 1995.
"From 1963 to 1990, I worked my way through the gauntlet," he said. "I saw a lot of technological changes in the industry during that time, and all of a sudden, I'm the head guy. I had a lot of good people looking out for me, helping me to continue to move forward. When I finally got the publishing position, Lloyd Schermer, who was the CEO of Lee Enterprises and responsible for me getting the job, sent me a letter that said, 'I've finally lived long enough to see the inmates running the prison.'"
After leaving the Standard and working as Director of Commercial Printing for Lee Enterprises, he returned to the publishing business, taking the reins of the Miles City Star in 2000.
"It was a humbling experience for me to come to Miles City, what everyone likes to think of as a hick town, and find it had a real newspaper," he said. "I didn't just come here to retire, I came here to go to work. It was a great opportunity to come down and establish a relationship with a community that has been nothing but fabulous to me. For a Butte kid to ever say he's from somewhere other than Butte is a big deal. I tell people I'm from Miles City. I'm proud of this community and very proud of this newspaper."
Killoy has nothing but praise for the editors that have worked for him presently and in the past, as well as the publishing company he now calls home.
"The Yellowstone Newspaper Group is a great small newspaper company," he said. "It probably represents community journalism better than any other group in Montana. And newspapers will always be a viable part of those communities.
"It's been 50 years, and I still get a thrill listening to the press run."
NOTE: Killoy is publisher of the Terry Tribune and Forsyth Independent newspapers.
Published June 26, 2013